Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why rail transit?

the following is from an exchange on River District News re: transit funding vs. baseball parks:

Paul: "Transit is important, but also a notorious money losers, even in big metro markets like DC and SF, riders pay about 1/3 of the cost of their trip. There are ancillary benefits like less traffic, less parking and less pollution. I would even argue quality of life, but Americans are addicted to their automobiles and a century’s worth of infrastructure, lifestyle and poor planning are going to make transit a tough see to most people. They are the one’s paying the bill."

"I was hoping someone would comment on the paradox of mass transit funding, the more you build, the more you have to subsidize."

Me: "That’s actually not a paradox, just a fact common to all infrastructure- it costs money. Drivers on Richmond’s streets currently pay $0 of the cost of a particular street each time they drive on it. We don’t think of a particular street as being a money-loser, but it’s not like you can say of any Richmond street that it was a revenue generator in FY08.

The economic effects of rail transit in other cities is not revenue generated from the system itself but the value it adds to the areas in which it operates. In Portland they measure a return on a $60 million transit investment in the billions. That’s money that comes from taxes on the increasingly valuable land adjacent to the system, and it means more economic activity in general. It’s the same principle Highwoods is betting will work for their baseball park."

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