Friday, September 23, 2011

Trolleys as urban vanity projects

Patrick Ishmael has an excellent post today on two proposals to run trolley lines in place of buses in Kansas City and St. Louis.  The proposal for St. Louis, which would run a roughly 2-mile trolley line down the streets between the Missouri History Museum and the University City Lions' Gate, would cost between $45 and $50 million to construct.  In addition, a subsidy would be required to pay operational costs, which its supporters place at $2.2 million per year.

Supporters do not estimate the number of riders, but calculate that up to 1 million riders could use the trolley if it ran at full capacity throughout the time that it is in service.  Obviously, such a number is outrageously unattainable, so let's assume that the number of riders is one-third of capacity, which is still extremely optimistic as far as these things go.  That would make it $6.60 in subsidy per ride, which would cover the operating costs only and none of the millions to construct this white elephant.

I can think of many much better and productive ways to spend these millions.  Can you?