March 16, 2005

Railing against light rail.

P.J. O'Rourke in the WSJ:
Then there is the cost, which is--obviously--$52 billion. Less obviously, there's all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, "There isn't a single light rail transit system in America in which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides." Heritage cites the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.

1 comment:

Matt said...

There's a lot of other things you should consider if you want a legitimate comparison of transportation options. First of all, there is economic impact to externalities. Light-rail causes fewer of these externalities, saving us money down the road. Secondly, no transportation option pays for itself. Reconstruction of an interchange and Mississippi River bridge on I-494 south of St. Paul costs nearly half as much as the entire Hiawatha line: Isn't that a subsidy, too? There's no escaping government subsidy of transportation - even Libertarians see it as an inevitable role of governmnet. Finally, these subsidies support one type of development or another. When more roads are built to suburbia, that's a form of government subsidy to support sprawl. No developer will build a SuperTarget on a gravel road unless improvements are guaranteed. Well, light-rail supports urban development. People buy it, too! I guess you haven't noticed Bloomington's new downtown sprouting up around its light-rail stops. It tops a billion dollars in private development, and they can't build condos fast enough. People want to have these choices. Finally, buses aren't comparable. I never rode a bus, but I was comfortable commuting for a summer via the Hiawatha line. There's something to be said for its consistency, ease of use, and reliability that buses cannot match. So, considering all of this, you might want to look at opinions other than the WSJ editorial page.