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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Colorado Votes No on Light Rail

Air Date: Week of November 7, 1997

Kelley Griffin reports from Denver on rejection of a sales tax increase for a mass transit plan that included 125 miles of new train tracks. Critics say the vote proves light rail is dead for the region. But supporters insist the vote reflected confusion over the scope and cost of the proposal.

Transcript

CURWOOD: While highways gained ground in Maine, trains lost out in Colorado. It's the latest defeat for light rail. Earlier this year, voters in Phoenix rejected a light rail plan, and voters in Portland, Oregon, turned down a plan to expand its trolley system. On November 4th, Denver voters said "no" to a sales tax increase of less than half a cent for a mass transit plan that included 125 miles of new track. Critics say the vote proves light rail is dead for the region, but supporters insist the vote wasn't against mass transit. They say it reflected confusion over the scope and cost of the proposal. From Denver, Kelley Griffin reports.

GRIFFIN: Guide-The-Ride would have added light rail service, more buses, a train to Denver International Airport, and more carpool lanes. The plan, sponsored by the Regional Transportation District, also would have required further study to determine how to serve some areas. Supporters conceded that made it seem vague. The price tag also was a problem: $16 billion. Supporters say the vote means the regional transportation district needs to refine the plan. They say when pollution worsens and more people get stuck in traffic as the population grows, light rail will get the green light. But opponents say voters want transportation officials to be more innovative. There are other proposals on the table: deploying smaller buses on more flexible routes, and lifting regulations on taxi service to promote competition for door=to=door transportation. Now, the Regional Transportation Board must decide whether to promote those options or continue fighting for light rail expansion. And the board itself is badly fractured over the issue. But with the region's population expected to grow by one third and traffic to increase by 50% in 20 years, both sides agree they have to do something. For Living on Earth, I'm Kelley Griffin in Denver.

 

 

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