What $15 Billion Dollars Can Buy – Public Transportation

by James & Miel on December 10, 2008 · 0 comments

Bailouts. There is a ton of discussion in the news about DC’s bailout of the big three automakers. Unfortunately, $15 Billion dollars is a lot of money. So, let’s think about our options for building public transportation systems rather than only bailing out the auto industry. Read below to see my plan for using those funds to build public transportation systems in over a 100 cities throughout the country.

We seem to have forgotten what money can buy during our recent wave of bailouts. Are we really being duped into thinking that we are getting a deal because the auto bailout is a mere $15 Billion rather than $700 Billion or some other large number that is thrown out there without a great deal of knowledge about whether or not such figures will even keep our sinking boat afloat?

I know that none of us want to see further job loss in America. All of us would love to see fabulous alternatives to gas guzzling cars on the road. All this may be true, but we need to consider that there may be other options than simply throwing money at the auto industry.

Let’s think back here. A hundred years ago we had public transportation sprouting up in a number of cities across the United States. We had street cars in not only the obvious places like New York, Boston and Chicago, but also in smaller municipalities such as Bismark, ND, Monroe, LA, and Hollywood, CA.

Portland, Oregon was also at the forefront of public transportation. While it also ripped up it’s public transportation system in a movement towards the auto industry, it has come back to have an incredible public transportation system. With the expanded Max light rail, downtown street car, new tram up to the Oregon Health Science University, and prolific bus system, it is hard to find a city in the US with a better system.

Let’s look at the cost of this system.

The Max light rail covers 44.3 miles of track, was built out in four sections, and totals $1.6 Billion over the 18 years it was built.

http://www.heritagetrolley.org/IMAGES/portland19.JPG

The Streetcar was established in 2001, costs $57 Million and has 10,000 passengers boardings daily.

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Lastly, the Portland Tram, which has a fabulous view with a three minute ride up 3,300 feet, allows access to a prominent medical resource of Oregon Health Science University. This project was criticized for cost, but still cost only $57 Million.

http://www.aan.org/binary/030f/attractions.jpg

Thus, in tally, Portland’s transportation system costs more or less $1.7 Billion to construct.

If you look at building systems akin to that of the Max light rail and the street car system you could equivalent systems in most of US major cities. Most cities already have some level of public transportation, therefore improving existing systems should keep costs down. My point is rather than throwing $15 Billion at the failing auto industry how about we look at the option of building stellar public transportation systems in urban and semi-urban areas throughout the US.

This would not only help to create jobs, but it would also give us the public transportation infrastructure we need to go beyond car use.

Readers: As you can see, this is an area that I’m passionate about. Please leave your comments and spread the word as an alternative to the bailout.

Best,

Miel

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