Transit Agency Head Feels Sorry for Taxpayers

The head of St. Louis Metro, Larry Salci (previously) says he feels “disappointment for the taxpayers” because he lost a multi-million-dollar lawsuit over cost overruns against the company that built his latest light-rail line. I’ll bet he does.

If he cares so much about taxpayers, why is he asking them to pay an additional half-cent sales tax so that he can build more light-rail lines (which will no doubt have their own cost overruns)? It is not as if the recent line is all that successful. As the chart below shows, the opening of the line in 2001 was followed by a decline in bus ridership but virtually no increase in rail ridership.

Click for a larger view. The thin red line represents route miles of light rail. The black line is miles of driving.

If Salci really cared about the taxpayers, he wouldn’t accept the $25,000 bonus he gets each year for — what? Building overpriced light-rail lines? Of course, I am sure he would never consider accepting any less than the $225,000 salary they pay him (not counting bonuses and perqs).

Since Salci took the job in 2002, he reduced bus service (measured in vehicle revenue miles) by 8 percent and light-rail service by 15 percent. This didn’t save taxpayers any money, however, since the total cost of operating buses grew by 7 percent and light rail costs grew by 20 percent. Salci doesn’t seem to very good at cost containment.

Of course, one reason why Salci needs the half-cent sales-tax increase is to pay for “on-going operations.” In other words, rail transit has once again proven far more expensive to both build and operate and the transit agency needs a bail out in the form of a tax increase.

So, thanks to Salci, St. Louis taxpayers are getting less service, paying more money, and can look forward to more cost overruns. And for that, he gets paid the big bucks.


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