Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Minneapolis Mass Transit

P.J. O’Rourke writes today on mass transit. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he mentioned the Minneapolis light rail--which runs just a few blocks from where I work and live. I think the whole thing is rather silly, but most of the people I talk to don't agree with me! Talk of the wonders of European trains soon enter the picture. But consider what O'Rouke has to say:

There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell. Only 4% of Americans take public transportation to work. Even in cities they don’t do it. Less than 25% of commuters in the New York metropolitan area use public transportation. Elsewhere it’s far less–9.5% in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, 1.8% in Dallas-Fort Worth. As for total travel in urban parts of America–all the comings and goings for work, school, shopping, etc.–1.7 % of those trips are made on mass transit.

Then there is the cost, which is–obviously–$52 billion. Less obviously, there’s all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, “There isn’t a single light rail transit system in America in which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides.” Heritage cites the Minneapolis “Hiawatha” light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.

We don’t want minimum-wage workers driving BMW X-5s. That’s unfair. They’re already poor, and now they’re enemies of the environment?

(HT: Polipundit)