For the White House to declare someone a “champion of change,” they apparently have to be a champion of pork. The first person listed helped plan the California high-speed rail system, whose projected costs have more than doubled in since voters approved it in 2008. The original cost projections, made in the late 1990s, were only $15 billion, but the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority has managed to push those costs up to more than $100 billion.
The second champion of change is the CEO of a company that is making electric buses. Each bus is supposed to save transit agencies $100,000 a year in fuel costs (though they don’t say how much the electricity costs). Sounds good, except that three buses and two charging stations cost $5.6 million, which is more than $1.8 million a bus. Since an ordinary bus costs about $300,000, that means it will take more than 15 years to recover the extra cost. Guess the expected lifespan of a bus (hint: it is three years less than 15).
Not only that, “without government funding for research and development, Proterra wouldnâ€™t be in its current position” to make these buses, according to the champion of change. So the buses required subsidies to develop, they require subsidies to buy, and the Antiplanner won’t be surprised if they require subsidies to operate.
Another so-called champion of change is the general manager of Denver’s transit agency, RTD. Apparently, he is being recognized for putting together a public-private partnership to deal with the fact that the projected costs of some of RTD’s rail projects have more than doubled. Although voters gave RTD a virtual blank check to spend money on rail, they limited RTD’s ability to borrow money. The public-private partnership overcomes this: the private partner borrows the money, and RTD digs into taxpayer pockets to repay it.
These people aren’t champions of change. They are champions of getting other people to pay for their ideologies (not to mention their no-doubt very high salaries). A real champion would be someone who figured out how to improve mobility through new technologies that are so much better than what we have today that users themselves will pay for them.