High Hopes Come with High Cost

Posted on February 14, 2005
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Street construction starts tomorrow on Valley Metro's $1.3 billion light-rail system. Supporters of light rail claim that the project will help ease congestion on the Valley's roads, citing the alleged success of light rail in other cities.

Proponents of light rail assert that similar systems have benefited cities such as Portland and San Diego. But careful analysis indicates that light rail systems have failed to yield even marginal returns on those cities' investments.

Despite supporters' high hopes and light rail's high cost, light rail systems have rarely removed more than one car out of 1,000 from area roads, doing little to ease area traffic congestion.

Although it bears a futuristic name, light rail is based on 19th-century systems that don't reflect the realities of modern life in Phoenix. And light rail comes with a heavy price tag: it'll take $1.50 to move one passenger just one mile, making light rail far more expensive than many other forms of transportation, as a Goldwater Institute study shows.

Officials would do well to increase the availability of other public transportation options, including buses, which are more flexible and cost-effective approaches to easing gridlock on the roads.

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