The Phoenix City Council has approved a $32 Billion 35-year transportation plan that would expand light rail and bus service and make street improvements. The plan includes a tax increase that would have to be approved by voters. Activist Becky Fenger will discuss her opposition to the plan.
Ted Simons: The Phoenix city council has approved a $32.5 billion, 35 year transportation plan that would expand light rail and bus service and also improve city streets. We recently heard from a member of the committee that came up with the plan. Today we hear from an opponent, Local activist Becky Fenger. Good to see you again.
Becky Fenger: Nice to be here.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about this.
Becky Fenger: Yeah, can we talk.
Ted Simons: $32 some odd billion dollars, 35 years, what's the problem?
Becky Fenger: First of all it is such a bad idea on so many levels. I always have to bring up, you know, that it will buy us more pollution and congestion. We can never forget that fact. But it would be laughable if it weren't prepared to hurt so many low-income people. And it is another thing when we are through with all of this, we are going to turn around and now ask the taxpayers for high-speed rail from Phoenix to Tucson. And then a freeway from Phoenix to Las Vegas. In fact, the deputy secretary of transportation flew into Phoenix to say wait a minute, Phoenix, you better take a little easier on $35 billion because we want all of these other goodies down the road and they're fighting over the goodies.
Ted Simons: Let's get to the impact on lower income people. Three-tenths of a percent, how damaging is that?
Becky Fenger: One mistake they make, it is 7-10ths of a cent. It's due to expire in twenty-twenty, making it zero. So you can't say 3/10 of the cent, it 7/10 of the cent. Because it would go away if they weren't doing this. And I -- I absolutely -- tired of seeing these cups of coffee and saying it will cost you like a cup of coffee. What we have to think about, Ted, is the opportunity cost. What we're not spending on. This is not of the people by the people for the people. This is of the fat cats, by the bureaucrats for the unions. And you could be having -- if you want transit, you could do so much more on putting that towards buses. Light rail is a poor way to get around.
Ted Simons: Half of the tax revenue does go to bus service and a third of the tax revenue does go to street improvement, with only 17% to light rail. That sounds like a pretty good investment in bus service.
Becky Fenger: No, they come out with those numbers. But when you talk to them more, just -- it's going to be $2.3 billion dollars goes to street improvements. And this -- you talk -- their numbers are not solid. I can't wait to see what it says for the ballot. Because -- well, they're saying that oh, so much is going to go to street improvements. When you get down to it, what is that $2.3 billion in street improvements. This is what they did last time. It's promises and then you don't get it. From the vote we had in 2000, and the taxes they promised street improvements. We don't have that. The first thing it goes to is light rail.
Ted Simons: You are saying when they say, when they say half of tax revenue will go to bus service, they're lying?
Becky Fenger: Right.
Ted Simons: When they say a third goes to street improvement, they're lying?
Becky Fenger: Yes, because what they have done on this, their plans, they said well, which one is going to be -- which one is going to be light rail? Which one is going to be buses? They said, we haven't decided that yet. That is the big trick. That's what they did last time and, in fact, we almost have -- you could say we could sue them because last time they actually put a map on the ballot of what was going to be done and that was never done. They changed their minds. If this was done to get the poor lower income people to their jobs and to church and that, why wasn't the first line to south Phoenix? It is nothing to do with moving people. Now the big thing is, as Marty Shultz says, transportation drives the economy. And then he said, oh, but freeways don't drive economy. Light rail drives the economy. What you're doing for -- what is that? Again, it's for the fat cats that have the real estate along the lines. It does not do it for the people. Light rail will always suck the money away from buses. They will shut down bus service if people don't get on the rail.
Ted Simons: Are you against the plan in general or the tax hike in general? I mean what --
Becky Fenger: No, you can hike taxes if it makes sense. But light rail is the poorest way to move people from point A to point B. Only one percent of people ride transit, half a percent ride light rail.
Ted Simons: Are you saying that light rail has not helped the development of downtown Phoenix, downtown Tempe, downtown Mesa.
Becky Fenger: What has helped is taking taxpayer money to put the light rail in instead of having the developers pay for themselves. If it is so great -3,5 billion dollars of investment - do the $7 billion of investment by yourselves then. Why should we be supporting developers who could well pay for that themselves?
Ted Simons: Would a developer pay for that themselves if there -- I don't want to do chicken and egg here - if developer not is going to be interested unless there is something there. Pro side says light rail is something there. Hard to deny that downtown Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, have not seen a boom since this light rail --
Becky Fenger: Let me give you an example. Gerry had planned a way to -- and he talked with transit people to get a system of whatever it was to get people down to his sports venues. And then along came the light rail and people talking about well, we can get a light rail and you won't have to pay for it. He had already contracted with them. Yes, they will do it.
Ted Simons: Okay. So, you're saying that development, good things will happen in Arizona.
Becky Fenger: Yes.
Ted Simons: You just don't have to put in light rail. Expand the bus service.
Becky Fenger: Oh, bus rapid transit is very popular. The commuter lines are very popular. Customize, downsize, privatize, get --
Ted Simons: In 30 seconds, or less, explain to me how light rail, mass transit increases pollution? You started off by saying that. Quickly, please.
Becky Fenger: Alright. Because it is built at grade. When you do that, you are taking away three lanes of traffic where cars could be whizzing by, and now traffic is backed up at the stop light and it is spewing carbon monoxide into the air. So, when you take away all of those lanes of traffic that are just zooming by with all of these people, 99% of the people that drive cars for the one percent of the people -- it's ridiculous to take all of that money.
Ted Simons: We had the pro side on. We now have had your side on and I'm sure the debate will continue. Thank you for joining us.
Becky Fenger: Thank you.