September 27, 2012
THE DESIRE NAMED STREETCAR: “It’s time to rethink America’s retrograde love affair with trolley technology,” Samuel L. Scheib writes at Reason, in an a new article titled, “The Streetcar Swindle.”
“The [contemporary] streetcar is like a bus on rails, but it has no advantages over a bus,” says Gregory Thompson, professor of transportation planning at Florida State University and chairman of the Transportation Research Board’s Light Rail Committee, in Scheib’s article.
But light rail in general has one advantage over a bus — at least for the cities who commission such projects, a 2006 study by the CATO Institute noted:
A transit agency that expands its bus fleet gets the support of the transit operators union. But an agency that builds a rail line gets the support of construction companies, construction unions, banks and bond dealers, railcar manufacturers, electric power companies (if the railcars are electric powered), downtown property owners, and other real estate interests. Rail may be a negative-sum game for the region as a whole, but those concentrated interests stand to gain a lot at a relatively small expense to everyone else.
And spreading the wealth around is the operative phrase of the decade, isn’t it?