NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Detroit's New 3-Mile Light-Rail Line

July 28, 2014

Construction on a $137 million, 3.3-mile light rail line will begin in Detroit next week, reports

One quarter of Detroit households do not own cars, depending instead on the city's bus service. But rather than fund more buses, the city has decided to build a light rail line that makes little financial sense:

  • Despite Detroit's size (139 square miles), the new rail line will not serve travelers beyond a three-mile stretch.
  • Even if the rail cars were packed full with riders, the fare that has been proposed for the travel ($1.50) would not cover operating expenses.

The federal government has given Detroit $41 million in taxpayer subsidies to build light rail, and supporters have asked for another $12 million for the project.

Unlike light rail, buses would be able to move in and out of neighborhoods, and for considerably less in operating and maintenance costs. Despite these realities, cities across the United States are moving to expensive, inefficient light-rail lines.

Source: Jim Epstein, "Is Detroit's New Light Rail Line America's Greatest Boondoggle?", July 24, 2014. 


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