Red Star vs. Northstar

Is it just me or is the Strib being a little hard on the Northstar line?  The paper’s second article in two months on the commuter rail line again screams the low ridership numbers from the headline.  What is doesn’t mention is how cheap the train was to build, a fact that gives it time to build the ridership that will pay for it.

Using the Transport Politic’s sortable chart of major transit projects in the last decade, Northstar comes out fifth cheapest per mile to build, at $7 million per mile.  This isn’t just cheap compared with other “boondoggle” transit projects – consider that I-394 cost $46 million per mile in 1984-1993 unadjusted dollars ($67m per mile adjusted for inflation using 1993 as start year).  Not surprisingly, when you look at the numbers, transit comes out to be very conservative.

Of course, the operating cost per rider is the number that matters, and that is still tough to measure, considering all the free rides that have been given for the first year to drum up interest.  I would love to know the cost per trip for various roads – a project for another day.


One comment on “Red Star vs. Northstar

  1. This is the tricky thing about infrastructure projects: it’s easy to pick a statistic that supports your point of view. If you’re a transit opponent, you can simply cite something like “It costs X million dollars per mile!”; your argument will hold because no one has any frame of reference for what transit infrastructure *should* cost.

    If you’re a transit advocate, you know that it will take decades before you can really see the payoff. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make that argument in the political sphere.

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