As a whopping 555 Kansas City residents get to decide the fate of a very expensive and questionable new streetcar line, the CATO Institute has taken notice of a growing trend of other cities hoping to cash in on Obama administration transportation funds.
[N]umerous cities are preparing to apply for federal funds to build streetcar lines.
The real push for streetcars comes from engineering firms that stand to earn millions of dollars planning, designing, and building streetcar lines.CATO found that two primary arguments are used by street car advocates to justify the projects The first argument touts supposed $3.5 billion economic development was spurred by the creation of a 4 mile, $103 million dollar streetcar line Portland, OR.
What streetcar advocates rarely if ever mention is that the city also gave developers hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives to build in the streetcar corridor. Almost no new development took place on portions of the streetcar route where developers received no additional subsidies.The second argument claims that streetcars have several benefits over buses. The claim they have higher capacity, lower operating costs, and are better for the environment. Once again, the CATO Institute reveals the truth:
[A] typical bus has more seats than a streetcar, and a bus route can move up to five times as many people per hour, in greater comfort, than a streetcar line. Numerous private bus operators provide successful upscale bus service in both urban and intercity settings.
Streetcars cost roughly twice as much to operate, per vehicle mile, as buses. They also cost far more to build and maintain. Streetcars are no more energy efficient than buses and, at least in regions that get most electricity from burning fossil fuels, the electricity powering streetcars produces as much or more greenhouse gases and other air emissions as buses.
We told you before how the proposed streetcar connecting Crown Center and the Power and Light district made little sense due to their close proximity. This new report from CATO only furthers the argument against what is likely to be another tax payer funded boondoggle.