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Light Rail Projects Cost Nine Times More Per Rider than Alternatives

For the past fifty years light rail projects have been the popular fad pushed by the green movement and urban planners. Anything to get people out of cars – which the left hates.

But tens of billions of taxpayer dollars later, in almost all cases these trains and trolleys costs are multiple times the social benefits. A study by economists Yadi Wang and David Levinson from the University of Sydney (Australia), examined the funds spent and ridership of the major mass transit projects from 1991 to 2018. It finds in almost all cases a systematic overstating the ridership and underestimating the construction and operating costs.

The study employs a cost-per-rider ratio to evaluate cost-effectiveness, and finds that alternatives like buses are nine times more efficient – and that’s a very low bar because buses aren’t very cost-efficient either. In some cases, leasing cars for free to the rail passengers would have been cheaper than building expensive rail systems in big cities.

So who keeps pushing these boondoggles? Construction firms, leftist big city mayors (who crave the “free” federal dollars), and labor unions are the biggest proponents of mass transit. Californians may be voting on a higher sales tax to pay for all the high costs of their transit systems. That should be an easy “ no” vote.

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