Train-Bashing Carter Wrenn Ignores Facts, Comments

I have been reading Carter Wrenn at Talking About Politics complaining about the TTA's Regional Rail proposal for the last few days. His posts always are composed of mere rants that contain information or even links to places to find information on what he is talking about, and in fact, it seems as if all the information that he does include is either off base or misleading. I have been choosing not to post about this bashing to keep from giving it any credence, but I have finally taken the bait. Why? Because I feel that Triangle Regional Rail proves who is truly progressive. To me, any progressive (or person of any political stripe that cares about our area) would support the project to improve density of development, improved public transportation, and decrease the road buildup in the area.

So what does Carter Wrenn have to say about the TTA? Post 1 talks about this editorial that cogently argues that planning of Triangle growth has pushed projects away from the rail corridor for years, thus making the creation of the rail line more difficult:

According to the Professor about all the growth in Raleigh should have been along (or forced into) the Lite Rail Corridor – and if we’d just put all these parks, centers, malls, buildings and towers in the right place Lite-Rail would be sailing instead of sinking. Well, if our goal is to save the TTA, why not just move the Louvre Museum and the Pyramids to Raleigh too and put them in the Lite-Rail Corridor?

The point is: does it really make sense for government to force growth into the Lite-Rail Corridor – just to save the TTA?

First, the editorial never argues that development should be forced anywhere. The author, a public policy professor at Duke, argues that some incentives should be given to encourage development in the corridor. Second, the author never stated that projects should be created to put on the rail-line, but if the projects that went up were along the rail-line, rail would be able to move many more people effectively. Third, rail is not important to "save the TTA" but to help with our area's transportaion and pollution problems.

Okay, post 2 lamenting our system of representative government. After noting places, including the proposed regional rail, where the local government was spending money on things other than schools (does he think that the only thing local governments can spend money on are schools?), he says:

Does that seem backwards? Why don’t they take all (or at least part) of this money and spend it on schools? And then hold a bond vote to see if voters want to borrow to pay for these other projects.

The answer is simple: Because they suspect – probably correctly – voters are going to turn down bonds for paying for things like $215 million Convention Centers. So they are not going to let them vote on that. They’re going to make them vote on school bonds instead.

Other than the fact that he does not seem to comprehend that certain issues are subject to bond referendum and others are not, Carter seems to think that projects that are going to help the area progress to a major city and produce more revenue than they spend (e.g. the convention center, which will draw many visitors and their tax money to the area) are not appropriate expenditures. Not to mention the fact that all of the projects combined do not come to $800 million being spent by local governments combined (the bulk of the rail funding would come from the federal government) and the bonds for schools would be for more than $5 billion.

Not to mention that Carter completely ignores this correction by a commenter:

The money for a new airport terminal comes from parking and facility fees. The Convention Center and Hotel are being paid for by hotel taxes.

How many times do we have to go over this on this website? The taxpayers are not footing the bill for these developments.

I suspect you know this, but want to mislead the public to promote your agenda. It’s a shame.

Now the granddaddy post:

The TTA (Triangle Transit Authority) has been told no over and over by government officials when it comes to spending $800 million of taxpayers’ money to build ‘Lite-Rail’ in the Triangle – but they’re still determined to get their hands on that $800 million and they just won’t stop. Now, they’ve gotten themselves another chance to sell their ‘Lite-Rail’ boondoggle to the federal government by September 20.

What I want to know is who is paying for all these endless applications and reapplications, plans and replans, by the TTA as it continues its never ending drive to get its hands on that $800 million? And how much is it costing taxpayers?

My answer to this lies in my unresponded to (at least intelligently or by Carter) is here:

Where to start?
First, a regional rail is a must if the Triangle is going to grow in any sensible way. We have built all the roads that we can, and traffic is already horrible. We need to start building effective regional transit.

Second, the $800 million, which is the total cost of construction for the rail, is only a fraction of the billions needed for the schools.

Third, TTA has never officially been turned down. Senators Burr and Dole have given up on the project (but who would expect them to support this area anyway). A preliminary ruling by the Feds, but they are in the process of refiling and getting a new hearing.

Fourth, the proposed rail line is not even “lite-rail”; it is a deisel based train.

Fifth, why shouldn’t they get 60% funding of the rail from the Federal Government? Roads get 80% funding without the rigorous requirement that rail has and creates many more environmental and growth concerns.

Carter. If you cannot give accurate information on the subject you are ranting about, maybe you should just stop talking. Or if you believe what you say, you should respond to commenters that point out your inaccuracies.


Stop talking?

That would be like asking John Hood to stop carrying the Puppetmaster's water on all things reactionary. Never happen.

This is an excellent and very informative diary -- thank you -- and you needn't spend one second worrying about taking the bait. If we let lies infiltrate public policy discussions, we'll never make headway on progressive positions that matter most.

Mass transit is already a central component of traffic management in much of the Triangle and any future I can imagine will require even more investments in well-planned transit. And of course land use planners should be directing more density toward transit corridors. For Wrenn to argue otherwise is to simply spew more free-market bullshit -- which is all you can expect from wingers who care not a whit about the environment or the common good. They have their cars and their inside the beltline houses, why should they worry about poor schmucks who actually have to commute for hours each day to get to their shitty jobs just to make ends meet.

So thanks for calling him out . . . but don't expect him to be cleaning up his inaccuracies. These guys make a living misrepresenting facts to further their ideological commitments. And it's perfectly okay to call Carter Wrenn what he really is: a liar.

I actually did not know who he really was...

Until after the post. But I found a bio here. Basically a conservative hack. I guees it is better that I did not know because I wanted to make the post be about the facts (or lies) rather than him.


Thanks, I enjoyed this post, and I learned a lot more about the regional rail plan than I knew before.

I like to think of Wrenn's job (and the jobs of others like him) as keeping us on our toes.