Of all the ideas for public transportation, one of the nuttiest to take hold in recent years is to revive streetcars. They have all the disadvantages of light rail, on a small scale. These include inflexibility and large capital costs. They carry a few more people than buses, but no faster, and are more expensive to build and maintain. They offer virtually unlimited opportunities for graft in the form of routing and station location. They offer the additional benefit of being anti-car while not replacing enough bus service to reduce traffic. In short, they’re a bureaucrat’s dream, a union’s gravy train, a taxpayer’s nightmare, and a commuter’s inconvenience. No wonder the Left loves them. (See the numbers here, pages 19 & 20.)
The Federal government has awarded Denver $2 million to continue to study such a boondoggle from the State Capitol out to the Fitzsimmons campus. Of course, for the Feds this is chump change, seeing as they’ve already funded over $300 million of your money for other cities to build these things (p. 48 & 51). That same presentation has several different proposals for lines east of Civic Center, costing between $100 million and $175 million.
For that, we won’t replace buses, but will allow politicians and political appointees to collect their share in graft. We won’t make traffic and better, and will likely make it worse. When neighborhoods change, we’ll have to lay more track instead of just re-routing bus lines. All in all, the $2,000,000 alone would pave a lot of roads, but the $175,000,000 of the largest project would pave a lot more, and repair a fair number of bridges as well.
If after all that, for some reason, you’re still nostalgic for streetcars, you shouldn’t go away empty-handed: