Stop the light-rail obsession. (We'll save money if we get off.)

  • Article by: DAVID OSMEK
  • Updated: February 1, 2012 - 6:32 PM
  • 263
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drposterFeb. 1, 12 6:33 PM

David should have also added that the entire state is paying for this. These projects have zero impact on outstate MN. The middle, working class in Duluth will be paying for the hipster in Uptown who could have just taken a bus.

mgmckeFeb. 1, 12 6:34 PM

Same old Republican babble about transit costs. They never compare apples to apples. Let's assume that all of his numbers are correct (a huge assumption). Where are the numbers estimating the costs of driving around the cities on all the public built and maintained roads? What did the cost per ride look like in the early years of building the 494/694 loop, or 35E and 35W? Last, what will our lives be like in the Twin Cities when the population has doubled in the future if we had only roads? Crawl back under your rock sir!

uptownlogicFeb. 1, 12 6:41 PM

Can you provide similar financial analysis on highway ? I believe no one is paying for highway and needs more frequent maintenance..That is all tax $ as well. Regardeless any political parties, we need object facts for voters so they can make an educated decision. I am sure that this article is fair in that sense.

elmore1Feb. 1, 12 6:41 PM

Interesting. Run your scenerio assuming that the population and price of gas keep growing. Look at an investment in this infrastructure now vs 25 years from now. Throw a few assumptions in there and you may find different outcomes. We americans assume that we have unlimited cheap gas forever and that isn't sustainable.I love taking trains in europe and NYC. They are lucky to have had the foresight to build theirs. Of all of the subsidized govt programs this is one I actually support.

cpunksFeb. 1, 12 6:42 PM

Mr Osmek - would you please inform me what percentage roads are subsidized by the public? oh, right. ALL of it, because we don't charge tolls or user fees. portions of the gasoline tax go to pay for roads, but not a significant amount. the rest is...ding ding ding...publicly subsidized!

cpunksFeb. 1, 12 6:46 PM

one more thing, Mr. Osmek. you talk about the "true cost" of light rail. would you be willing to tell me what the "true cost" of the gasoline is that we pump into our cars? because the "true cost" of a gallon of gas is not $3.50 or whatever the market says it is today. the true cost is anywhere from $8-$12/gallon when you take into account how we have to get that gas, costs for transporting it and refining it, costs that go towards our military who protect our foreign oil interests, etc. so what is the TRUE COST of gasoline? the "waste" you see with mass transit is a drop. in. the. bucket. compared to how much our government (read: our taxes) subsidize every gallon of gas we pump into our cars.

jameslmillerFeb. 1, 12 7:09 PM

I appreciate Mr. Osmek's analysis, but find it to be woefully one-sided. Please factor in the concomitant costs for an equivalent number of gasoline/diesel/hybrid vehicles. Roadbed maintenance, quantifiable driver frustration, average repair costs, and pollution costs must be included. Then let's talk.

normafigonFeb. 1, 12 7:15 PM

Osmek made some comparisons between rail transit and highway transit, but I'd like to see more detail about the cost per trip made using interstate highways, factoring maintenance costs, of course. I also want to know the accident rates, maybe expressed in accidents per mile travelled, for rail vs Hwy, and an estimate of the cost of accidents (including medical treatment, repairs, loss of work time). Comparing pollution amounts and costs would be also be helpful.

es16esFeb. 1, 12 7:19 PM

I think you're being a bit loose with the exact costs of transportation, to fit your agenda... Almost every traffic expert will tell you we cannot build our way out of the gridlock on Twin Cities' roadways by building more and wider freeways... Public transportation has to be a part of the solution... If you had ever taken a ride on light rail, you would know it is a much more attractive form of public transportation than buses - not to mention faster, in my experience... The ridership on the Hiawatha line has far exceeded expectations and has become way more popular than busing... Although your math is a bit fuzzy... Let's take your numbers and you tell me how much freeway we could build for $58 million a year and get the same benefit as light rail... Just another short-sighted Republican, who can't or won't consider long-term planning...

swmnguyFeb. 1, 12 7:21 PM

Very weak reasoning. Of course this assumes that gasoline prices will stay the same forever, and that gasoline will remain readily available for the lifetime of the rail system. It also requires that we not consider any of the direct and indirect costs of automobile travel and petroleum usage, and that those costs will never be considered. It further assumes that current financial conditions will never change, and that all public policy decisions should be measured first and foremost against current financial conditions.

"Most road and bridge projects have ratios of three or four, meaning that $3 or $4 of calculated value is returned for every dollar of costs" is only a true statement if one ignores costs like pollution, fuel, the military spending required to ensure petroleum supplies, danger costs cars and gasoline, etc. If all the costs are considered, petroleum-fueled transportation and infrastructure is far more costly than typically claimed.

Anybody who starts out making all of those assumptions is asking for trouble. This is the sort of thinking that led people to pay top dollar for very large houses in the far exurbs in 2007, for example, or to refuse to spend the money to follow engineers' recommendations to inspect the 35W bridge prior to its collapse.


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