Train In Vain

Dave Osmek – the Mound City Council member who’s running for Senate this fall – has gotten an op-ed in the Strib today hitting the same notes about light rail that he hit in this space a few weeks ago (Part One and Part Two):

Using the Met Council’s 2010 report, the cost of a single ride on the Hiawatha light-rail line is $2.46. Riders pay only 99 cents of this cost, leaving almost 60 percent to be subsidized by the public.

But this is not the true cost of a ride, as it does not include the 30-year amortized costs of bonding for the build-out of the line. Adding those costs in, at a 4 percent bond interest rate, a single ride actually costs $6.42, which means each ride is subsidized by 85 percent.

If a family of four rides the Hiawatha Line to a Twins game, the public is paying a total of $43.36, while the riders are contributing $3.96.

Right now, we are paying over $15 million each year to keep the Hiawatha Line operating. Adding in the amortized costs of building the line, it’s more than $56 million in taxpayer dollars each year. Yes, some of the costs were federally funded, and other revenue streams are bearing some of the burden. But with trillions of dollars of deficit spending, do we really want to add to the debt that future generations will pay for decades to come?

The comment-section trolls are claiming Osmek’s got the wrong numbers – which is odd, since all his numbers came from the Met Council website.

11 thoughts on “Train In Vain

  1. “Yes, some of the costs were federally funded,”

    Which means only that the cost is coming from a different part of my pocket. It’s still all our money. Otherwise, a superb piece.

  2. Flagg: I think the author was more trying to blunt the attack of the liberal trolls, who would say he was claiming that all the money came from the State.

  3. The only success I’ve had arguing against LRT with libs has come from emphasizing the opportunity cost. $50 million/year would be enough money to give 200 deserving poor folks a full scholarship at a state university or send 50 people through medical school, that sort of thing.
    It is surprising how many libs think that, because a particular mass transit project is popular in public opinion polls or heavily used, it must be making money.
    As a generality liberals tend not to consider the opportunity costs of government programs because they don’t see government spending as a limited resource.

  4. Mitch….you have covered the voting scandel in….was it Thief River Falls? Where the vulnerable adults were taken in to vote under the direction of a Democrat. I used the example of nursing home absentee ballot fraud in Wisconsin. It has happened again, this time with Governor Walker recall signing. From Sykes’ blog.

    “While going through these petitions, I am appalled that these circulators would go to what appears to be elderly housing, printing all info except their signatures which are barely legible. Talk about exploiting people–these circulators did that!”

  5. But, light rail is so – European. Is the object to be efficient or to be artful? Better to go bankrupt in style, don’t you think?

  6. Those numbers were taken out of context, the “context” being:

    “Light Rail is Good so STFU.”

    It’s all about the context.

  7. Terry, In your college example, maybe use 2,000 which equates to $25,000 annual tuition. So maybe use 4,000. Despite the way government throws them around like penny candy, millions are still big money.

  8. “Flagg: I think the author was more trying to blunt the attack of the liberal trolls, who would say he was claiming that all the money came from the State.”

    MyGov: Point well taken. I’d still liked to have seen that differentiation made. Sure, I’m a pedant, but that’s what the internet is for 🙂 Still, though, it was a fine piece.

  9. Pingback: Rewarding Failure | Shot in the Dark

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