NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Throwing Taxpayers Under the Bus

July 24, 2015

Soon, Albuquerque will request federal funding to cover 80 percent of the costs for the first phase of Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART), a planned system that will combine "many features of rail transit with the flexibility of buses."

D. Dowd Muska of the Rio Grande Foundation writes that there are reasons to doubt the rosy claims of ART's proponents, many of which rely on arguments about the success of the city bus system:

  • Ridership gains in the city bus system are driven mainly by economic hardship, so when robust employment returns there is a strong possibility demand for public transit will fall.
  • ART will not reach the main employment and shopping centers until after the first phase.
  • ART will increase congestion by cordoning off one lane on each side of the road specifically for buses.
  • ART will generate bicycle and pedestrian safety problems, with accident risks increasing. 
  • Air quality is supposed to increase as a result of more public transit, however Albuquerque air quality has already improved. Carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide have fallen by 92 percent, 78 percent and 40 percent respectively over the course of the last 30 years.

Further, the author concludes the following about costs and benefits:

  • The cost estimate for ART is $100 million.
  • The cost will likely exceed the estimate due to a lack of fierce competition and profit motive.
  • Young adults want to live in suburban neighborhoods, not cities. Thus economic development estimates are overblown.

Given this analysis, Muska recommends a privatization option that could reduce costs and avoid using federal funding.

Source: D. Dowd Muska, "Throwing Taxpayers Under the Bus," Rio Grande Foundation, July 2015.

 

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