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


Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $16.95 a month
DVD Cover of The Story of Sprawl

The Story of Sprawl

See how America changed shape in this collection of historic films that visually document how sprawl evolved.
$29.99 for 2-DVD SET

A Short History of America

From comic book artist Robert Crumb, poster shows how the built environment has changed throughout the decades.