Monday, January 25, 2010

Voters Don't Want Rail, Politicians Don't Care

A new Cincinnati Enquirer/Ohio Newspaper Poll shows a majority of Ohio voters don't support spending state dollars to run the 3C rail line.

These latest results are a significant change from earlier polling that showed Ohioans were either ambivalent or slightly favored the plan. Lately the realities of the state's budget situation are hitting home, and the plan's promised benefits were wildly overblown, so voters are awakening to the fact that the 3C would be worse than what we have now, which is no trains at all.

Early accounts painted an idealized vision of Ohioans being whisked between their three principal cities the way the Europeans or Japanese are on quiet high speed electric bullet trains. Reality is the 3C will use the usual loud, stinky, deisel trains that Americans love to loathe, and the trips will take more than twice as long as driving.

Initial cost projections were that the system could be built for $250 million. Now the estimates are over $560 million. The project couldn't get past the paperwork stage without more than doubling the cost, and no reasonable person thinks it's going to get any lower.

Even with overly rosy ridership projections, the trains still wouldn't even come close to covering their costs of operation, let alone their capital costs. This latest poll shows voters have no appetite for a new money pit when we're still struggling to pay for the old ones.

Last year Governor Strickland requested and received legislative approval to apply for part of President Obama's $8 billion high speed rail stimulus. But that was back when it was a $250 million plan, and back when Strickland was promising to cover operating costs through fares. The Republican controlled Senate grudgingly approved it on the condition that Federal dollars cover 100% of the capital cost. The Feds have received over $50 billion in applications for the $8 billion available, so that condition isn't likely to be met. The Senate also included other provisions which would allow them to easily kill the 3C later if proved to be a boondoggle.

State Auditor Candidate David Pepper said he believed there was more public support for passenger rail in Ohio than the Ohio Newspaper Poll indicated. The Strickland administration intends to continue vigorously pursuing the 3C plan, despite public opposition.


  1. Here is the actual text of the question that was asked of the survey respondents:

    "Do you favor or oppose investing money in the 3C Transportation Corridor Plan?"

    If you google "3C Transportation Corridor Plan" there are no results found.

    I would have to imagine that calling the project by a name that it had never been called before and not mentioning what kind of transportation it was probably skewed the poll.

  2. Typical reaction from Brad Thomas and other local trolley cheerleaders. When you don't get the result you like, question the study methodology. If anything, the use of the term "investing" is improper and might skew the poll. But only if one were inclined to believe people are too stupid to understand plain english. "Investment" implies that a return of some sort is paid. Never in the history of planet Earth has any passenger rail system even remotely come close to covering its costs, much less paid a return. The 3C is nothing but budget-busting expense as far as the eye can see. Some see it as somebody else's cost and don't care. The rest are tired of paying far too much for government programs that provide far too little in return. $560 million for a rail system that takes more than twice as long as driving is worse than no rails at all.

  3. "But only if one were inclined to believe people are too stupid to understand plain english."

    Kind of like when you thought people were too stupid to see through the special interest nonsense of your Issue 9 ballot initiative? Oh yeah, how'd that work out for you, you got your asses handed to you.

    " The rest are tired of paying far too much for government programs that provide far too little in return."

    So when is COAST actually gonna do what they claim they do. Why don't you go out an oppose some additional taxes and spending that are seriously hurting the citizens and the economy right now instead of being just a bunch of special interest cave men who only fight rail and red light cameras from their suburban arm chairs. When you will guys actually get some motivation to do something significant for the community? Probably never.

  4. COAST,

    Do you think that calling the project by an unfamiliar name had an effect on the results of the survey?

    The wording of a question affects the response. For example do you think the following questions would have the same responses:

    1. Should we invest in expanding the Donald K. Rolf Freeway?
    2. Should we invest in expanding I.275?

    1. Should we invest in expanding State Route 562?
    2. Should we invest in expanding the Norwood Lateral?

    1. Should we spend $100 million for a bridge from Camp Washington to South Cummingsville?
    2. Should we spend $100 million to repair the Western Hills Viaduct?

    Or to use another example of how the wording can affect the results:

    1. Should the United States enact the Fair Tax?
    2. Should the United States impose a new 23% federal sales tax accompanied by other tax reductions?

    The wording of a question absolutely affects the response. That's why, despite the fact it is inaccurate and misleading, you call it a trolley instead of a streetcar.

  5. Brad,

    No. People are generally smart enough to figure out that they were talking about the 3C project. Anyone who didn't know what that was likely responded with "no opinion."

    Whether you call something a cost or an investment, people still envision dollars leaving their wallets. The word "invest" is a subtle lie because people also picture themselves getting some of it back again. All of the road projects you mention are expenses, pure and simple.

    Would you suddenly approve of the Brence Spence rebuild if we called it an "investment" instead of a "cost?" Neither would anyone else. They either like it, or they don't. No amount of trick wording is going to cause someone to reverse their opinion.

    The best reason to choose words carefully is not to manipulate public opinion, but to create a clearer picture in their heads. Then they can answer quickly without having to unravel your question. The relatively low number of "no opinion" responses to this poll indicates that most responders understood what they were answering.

    Oh, and we call it a "trolley" mostly for a good laugh, but also because that's the word that creates a clear picture in people's minds. Most folks don't quite know what a streetcar is, but they've all seen Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Early in the campaign we called it the "trolley boondoggle," and streetcar people excoriated us for page after page about the word "trolley." But nobody objected to the word "boondoggle." Hilarious how much effort you all waste on stuff that doesn't matter.

    If you want to get technical, anything that employs a troller is a trolley, so our usage is literally accurate. It's emotionally accurate too. Folks generally have pleasant feelings about trolleys, but most old-timers know the pre-1952 system by the term "streetcars" and don't have a high opinion of it. We should probably switch back to that lingo in the next campaign.

  6. "I would have to imagine that calling the project by a name that it had never been called before and not mentioning what kind of transportation it was probably skewed the poll."

    People knew exactly what project the poll referred to. If they didn't, the undecided vote would have been much higher. Here are the actual results of this 3C question:

    41% Favor
    52% Oppose
    6% Don't Know/Not Sure

    The people seem to know a lot more about this project than Brad Thomas thinks they do.

  7. "Hilarious how much effort you all waste on stuff that doesn't matter."

    Seem like they spend their time effectively. In case you forgot, I'll remind you again: You lost.

  8. Modern Streetcars have a pantograph not a troller.

  9. COAST,

    I do agree that 'invest' also has the potential to skew the response. A better question would have been "Do you favor or oppose passenger rail connecting Ohio's major cities?" (or instead of Ohio's major cities you could actually say them by name)

  10. All studied and polls showing that people aren;t in favor of public investment in rail are faulty.

    We can only trust the Holy Grail of UC Economic Development Department studies backed up by a study done by people wo stand to financially gain from building a streetcar.

  11. COAST has repeatedly cited the UC study lauding the benefits of a Brent Spence Bridge replacement, but dismisses any UC study lauding the benefits of any rail plan, be it intercity or streetcar.

  12. Provost,
    Repeatedly?!? We did one here highlighting the hipocrasy of placing trolley studies on an alter while simultaneously poo-pooing road studies. We don't believe any of them, and if you didn't get the from the article, it should have been very clear from the comments.

    Humorous sidebar: In the runup to the last election the Issue 3 people addressed the COAST Board trying to win our support for the casino. The presenter said, in a climactic sort of way, that they had "a UC economic impact study" showing casinos were better than sliced bread. After 2 seconds of dead silence, the whole room erupted in laughter. We have yet to see a UC ecomonic study that wasn't simply a rubber stamp for the sponsor's position.

    And for what it's worth, we're not aware of UC ever studying the Brent Spence project. It's not here, and we've never seen it anywhere else. Do you have some of your magical microfilm to backup your claim, or should we just let it go?

  13. I believe it was the TTI that did the Brent Spence Bridge Study.

  14. Provost just got owned.

  15. Silver Spoon Davey PepperJanuary 27, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    I don't care if the people don't want to "invest" in rail. I know better. I'm rich and grew up in Wyoming and went to the best schools. My Daddy ran P&G. Whether you want it our not you're getting rail and you're going to pay for it.

  16. Love how you short sighted idiots will cut down a UC study on anything your special interest group opposes, but when it's convenient for you, you'll gleefully drink from the goblet of UC studies, like this poll for example.

    "The poll, conducted by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, interviewed 808 likely voters from around Ohio between Jan. 13-19. "

    This poll can't be trusted, for if we use COAST's logic, any study UC does is thoroughly wrong and they stand to financially gain from it.

  17. No Stefawn,
    Any study done by the oft disproven UC economic Development Department, which is an entirely different entity, should be looked at with a skeptical eye.

    The public bought the stadium study they did hook-line-and sinker. Where did that get us?

    For what it's worth, I received my indergrad degree from UC. I don't hate the University, but the idea that their Econ. Development Department is infallible is silly. It has been proven to make mistakes that have misled the taxpayers.


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