Fast-tracking a slow ride
Plans to revive a failed Twin Cities-to-Duluth train service ignore history.
Ramsey County board approved the "modern streetcar" as the locally preferred alternative to run along W. Seventh in STP from Union Depot to Ft. Snelling Blue Line stop (then to MSP Airport and MOA). Three years of construction begins 2028, with price tag of $1.4B to $2B.
— Janet Moore (@ByJanetMoore) June 19, 2018
This tweet from the Star Tribune’s transportation correspondent is pretty incredible. Why? Because it shows that so much of the current mania for ‘mass’ rail transit is about building for the sake of it, not about solving any notable problem.
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!
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.
“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 Ramsey County board. 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 Ramsey County Board Office 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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