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Why is the Met Council going to waste up to $2 billion on a pointless streetcar?

MPR News has a story today titled ‘Met Council weighs St. Paul to MOA streetcar project‘. All I can do is repeat this

Why do we need to spend up to $2 billion on a streetcar from Union Depot to the airport and the Mall of America when the 54 bus already runs along exactly the proposed route? You can see the route the 54 runs on the map below. Check it against Janet Moore’s tweet. It is exactly the same!

MPR News quotes a local resident in support of the scheme, saying “I regularly take the 54 bus to work and I frequent many of the businesses along West Seventh”. So why do they need the streetcar? As I wrote last June,

If we need more capacity between Union Depot and the airport/Mall of America, add more buses to the route. It will be a sight cheaper than spending $2 billion on a streetcar. It will also have the benefit that it won’t involve shutting down West 7th for three years while it is done. It also has the benefit that, if demand changes at some point in the future, bus capacity can be added or subtracted as needed. With buses, the route can also be modified as needed. Once you’ve built tracks, you’re stuck with them.

Why is this zombie of an idea lumbering ever onwards?

“I feel like I’m taking crazy pills” – Jacobim Mugatu

Kids like playing with train sets. Most people grow out of that. If you didn’t, get yourself on the [Met Council]. Like my old Thomas the Tank Engine toys, the West 7th streetcar is nothing more than a train set for the overgrown kids at the [Met Council] to play with. The difference is that my Island of Sodor didn’t cost $2 billion and shut down a major road for three years.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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