For $2 billion, the West 7th streetcar will serve fewer people and run 1 minute slower than the bus

Recently, I asked why the Met Council is debating wasting up to $2 billion on a pointless streetcar. Its a question I’ve asked before about the Ramsey County Board. After all, the 54 bus already runs that route exactly.

The streetcar isn’t expected to help many people

One of the answers I received was that “People need a fast and efficient way to get from the airport to St Paul and vice versa.”

I have asked how many people there are in a day or a year who travel from the airport to downtown Saint Paul or vice versa. After all, these are the people, according to my correspondent, who this line will benefit. I have not yet had an answer. This is concerning. There are actually people proposing a spend of $2 billion on a project with no idea how many people will be benefited.

The streetcar will serve fewer people than the 54 bus currently does

What about people along the route? Well, it seems as though they will be short changed by the streetcar too.

According to the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, after leaving Downtown St Paul, the streetcar will have stops at Grand, St. Clair, Randolph, Otto, Montreal, Homer, Maynard, Davern, and Historic Fort Snelling before linking up with the Blue Line to run into MSP and on the MOA. Nine stops in all.

How does this coverage compare with the 54 bus, wich currently runs this route?

According to Metro Transit, the 54 bus also stops at Grand. It then goes on to stop at St. Clair, Randolph, Tuscarora, Otto, Albion, Mickeys Diner (Montreal), Rankin, St Paul Ave (Homer), Maynard, and then MSP and on to MOA. Stops in bold are served by bus but not by streetcar. In other words, the streetcar will actually have fewer stops. People living by Tuscarora, Albion, and, Rankin, will have to walk further to the nearest stop if the 54 bus is replaced by the streetcar.

But the 54 won’t be replaced. Instead, the streetcar will simply duplicate the 54 bus route but with fewer stops. And that for $2 billion.

The streetcar will actually be slower than the bus

But what about “fast”? Well…

According to Metro Transit, the 54 bus leaving Union Depot at 7:57 am will get you to the Mall of America – the proposed streetcar route – at 8:40 am: a journey time of 43 minutes. By contrast, the streetcar will, according to the Star Tribune, do the exact same journey – with fewer stops -in 44 minutes.

So, no, it isn’t “fast”.

Are there any good reasons for it? 

So, the cons are that streetcar will be expensive, disrupt the neighborhood for three years while it is built, serve fewer people, lengthen the journey, and be utterly inflexible. Can anyone list the ‘pros’?

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