A polarizing summary of "facts" about a light rail debate in Waterloo, Ontario has popped up in an Atlantic item by Nicholas Jackson. After an introduction in which Jackson seems to confuse intercity high-speed rail and intra-city light rail, he invites us to admire a graphically rich presentation Waterloo light rail advocates. It's at the bottom of this post.
I cite this not to take a position on light rail transit (LRT) in Waterloo. (I'm certainly open to it, and am following with interest a similar project in similar-sized Victoria, BC.) I mean only to offer a useful illustration of the dangers of almost all "pro vs con" or "this vs that" or "with us or against us" framings of a question, in which all distinctions are reduced or distorted to fit the quarrel at hand.
Commenters are encouraged to nominate their favourite absurdities out of this piece, or to defend them. Mine are mostly (but not all) in the table partway down. Did you know light rail lines seem to cause high-tech companies to sprout decades before the line opens? Did you know that regionwide populations of Ottawa and Waterloo can be compared to city limits populations of other cities, as convenient? And what exactly can we learn from knowing the population of San Francisco in 1904, when they opened their first light rail line? Might the absence of cars in that year make the cases hard to compare?
This is well-intentioned, and perhaps in late stages of debate it's unavoidable. Again, my response to it is not a view about light rail but rather about the style of argument, which assumes (contrary to this) that rail-bus distinctions overwhelm all others, and explain so much of the arc of history.
UPDATE: This post isn't about the Waterloo light rail debate itself, but here are some sources on the subject: