Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Conservatives versus Libertarians on Streetcars

KPMG projected net operating costs of the Cincinnati Streetcar, after fares and advertising revenues, to range from $1.88 million to $2.44 million--about $1 million less than a "trolley on rubber tires."  

During the recent saga of the Cincinnati Streetcar, commentators often pointed to Portland as evidence that streetcars encourage economic development.  In response, some anti-rail commentators pointed to a report by the libertarian Cato Institute critical of the Portland Streetcar.

William Lind of The American Conservative co-authored a study refuting much of Cato's report.  You can find a link to Lind's report HERE.  Lind establishes that, on a per passenger basis, streetcars are more economical to operate than buses.  In Cincinnati, Mayor Cranley's proposed "trolley on rubber tires" would have cost at least $4.4 million annually to run, while a City-funded KPMG audit established that the streetcar's annual operating expenses would be at least $1 million less and, after fares and advertising revenue, range as low as $1.88-2.44 million.  Streetcars have an operating cost advantage because they attract and carry more passengers than buses.