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The Club for Growth

Phillip Rodokanakis


 

 

Feelings vs. Facts

 

The case for extending Metro rail to Dulles plays upon the emotions. The case against it is based upon facts and logic.


 

When a man begins to reason, he ceases to feel –French Proverb Quotes

 

It is often said that the politics of those on the left are based on “feelings” while the politics of those of the right are based on “thinking.” A recent Letter to the Editors published in the Washington Times by James E. Davenport, of McLean, “Metro to Dulles Makes Sense,” is a prime example of feelings ruling over reasoning.

 

This letter responded to an op-ed piece by Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Centreville, “Railroading Dulles,” also published in the Washington Times. Cuccinelli raised several reasoned arguments to conclude that extending Metro, the Washington subway system, to Dulles airport makes little economic sense—other than to line up the pockets of the donors of the politicians promoting this boondoggle.

 

The estimated price tag for extending Metro to Wiehle Avenue in Reston has jumped 20 percent to $1.8 billion (that’s billion with a “B”), even before one shovel has hit the ground. An earlier estimate was much, much larger; when the higher cost proved politically unpalatable, project designers scurried back to their drawing boards to come up with a more acceptable estimate. Given the typical cost overruns associated with massive construction projects of this nature, we can expect final project costs to creep even higher.

 

As pointed out by Sen. Cuccinelli, while congestion in our region will not improve by extending Metro to Dulles, the value of real estate owned by big political donors and the employer (SAIC) of the Chairman of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Gerry Connolly will skyrocket between $2 and $3 billion. It goes without saying that Connolly is a big supporter of extending Metro to Dulles.

 

All this has been discussed in earlier columns published on Bacon’s Rebellion as far back as 2003, like “The Rail-to-Dulles Scam,” “Bad Company,” and “Railroaded Again.” Nonetheless, extending Metro to Dulles has gained steam because corrupt politicians have duped the public into believing that subway systems—irrespective of costs—are a superior form of mass transit.

 

Mr. Davenport’s letter is a first-rate example of beliefs based on feelings. It is indeed ironic that well-meaning folks like Mr. Davenport consider themselves to be educated on the subject. Unfortunately, the “facts” used in their rationalizations are based on misinformation, propaganda or simply wishful thinking.

 

For example, Mr. Davenport says that one large passenger train could replace about 500 vehicles on the road. He bases his estimate on trains carrying 15-passenger cars. That could work in Utopia, but in the real Metro world Mr. Davenport’s “facts” are not possible. Metro cannot accommodate trains carrying 15-passenger cars; its platforms are designed for a maximum of eight-passenger cars, while currently, Metro trains only carry six cars.

 

And then there is the Rosslyn tunnel where Metro can squeeze through a maximum of 40 passenger trains per hour. Existing lines already use most of this tunnel capacity during rush hour traffic. No one has calculated the costs of building another tunnel or a bridge to convey the trains across the Potomac River.

 

In the end, we may build an extended Metro line that can do little to carry passengers to Washington, D.C. None of the proponents of this project have mentioned that we may end up with a subway system that could only accommodate traffic between Tysons and Dulles—but this is exactly what can happen if we cannot get the added trains across the Potomac.

 

Mr. Davenport tells us that trains operate in ice, snow, and rain. Never mind the fact that Metro's record in heavy snowfalls is dismal - and that there was a fatal train crash during a snowstorm at Shady Grove in 1996.

 

He says that train stations centralize and focus surrounding communities, reducing sprawl. Metro has been in operation for about 30 years now. And given the enormous sprawl we have experienced during the same years, we can safely conclude that Metro has contributed very little toward reducing sprawl.

 

Mr. Davenport closes by maintaining that extending Metro to Dulles would reduce air pollution. Not even the most ardent promoters of this project make this claim. The Dulles Rail environmental impact statement states that extending Metro to Dulles does nothing to improve air quality.

 

Even if we could afford the costs of extending Metro to Dulles—which we cannot without irreparably draining all funding for other significant transportation projects in the region—this project makes little economic sense. Metro’s own studies show that this project will have no impact on relieving the traffic congestion along the Dulles corridor.

 

But why let facts like these get in the way of arguments that “feel” so good? In today’s touchy-feely society, we have come to accept feelings over reasoning. Therefore, we are bound to get people believing in “facts” that make them feel good—irrespective of the fact that they bear no relation to reality.

 

-- September 5, 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phillip Rodokanakis, a Certified Fraud Examiner, lives in Oak Hill. He is the managing partner of U.S. Data Forensics, LLC, a company specializing in Computer Forensics, Fraud Investigations, and Litigation Support. He is also the President of the Virginia Club for Growth.

 

He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

 

Read his profile here.

 


 

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