NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Off the Tracks in Phoenix

March 4, 2004

Arizona's Maricopa County is proposing to use a one-half cent sales tax to finance transportation measures beginning in 2005. Fourteen percent of the revenue would be spent on light rail and another 16 percent on bus transportation.

However, such use for tax revenues is inefficient, according to the Goldwater Institute:

  • Light rail costs about $1.50 per passenger-mile, which is double the cost of bus transportation and five times the cost of auto transportation.
  • Light rail transit in Phoenix is expected to increase congestion since it must be built on existing city streets; it is expected to account for only two-tenths of one percent of travel in Maricopa County.
  • Light rail would reduce pollution by only 0.2 percent.

Additionally, persons using the light rail system would likely be former bus passengers, hence providing little reduction in auto traffic. Moreover, light rail is the most heavily subsidized form of transportation, with 90 percent of its cost paid by taxpayers, says the Institute.

John Semmens of the Laissez Faire Institute suggests that taxpayer dollars would be better spent on expanding freeways or bus transit.

Source: John Semmens (Laissez Faire Institute), "Buses, Trains and Automobiles: Finding the Right Transportation Mix for the Phoenix Metro Region," Goldwater Institute, January 8, 2004.


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