Pencilling Out the Twin Cities' Transportation Subsidies

Curious about a legislator's offhand remark that light rail is "a total waste of money," Marlys Harris investigates the extent to which motorized transportation modes in the Twin Cities are subsidized. It turns out light rail is a heavy bargain.

Comparing the subsidy per passenger per trip for urban buses, suburban buses, express buses and light rail, Marlys learns that light rail is the least subsidized of the four. According to Marlys, "Another report, this one from the Office of the Legislative Auditor, compared the efficiency of the Twin Cities LRT to systems in other cities. And, you'll be happy to know that we ranked fourth on subsidy per passenger. That is to say, only three other cities, Denver (98 cents), Portland ($1.35) and San Diego (82 cents) spent less than our $1.44. Pittsburgh paid the highest subsidy, $5.22. Fares provided 38 percent of the cost in the Twin Cities. Only Denver and San Diego did better, and fares in Seattle covered only 5 percent of outlays."

What about compared to driving you ask? After some pained calculations, Marlys estimates that $2.56 in tax money goes to subsidize the average car trip.

"With all that, you have to come to the conclusion that light rail isn't such a bad deal after all."

Full Story: When it comes to public subsidies, Twin Cities light rail seems a bargain


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