Thursday, August 14, 2008

Streetcar revivals and local transit finance

The NY Times has an article about the revival of streetcars in some downtown areas. What is remarkable about these projects is that they are largely locally financed. In contrast, most light rail and other major transit infrastructure are dependent on federal money.

I suspect that locally financed transit projects will be somewhat more efficient from an economic point of view in that rent seeking behavior will lessened. It is also welcome that these transit systems are designed to serve small areas, which is more in line with how people use transit-mostly for short trips.

The Cato Institute will object to any type of subsidy, but in the case of local transit investment this is a better financing model than waiting for even larger subsidies. In addition, with local finance the economic benefits of the investment are captured where the money is raised. This is part of a larger shift in transportation planning towards quality of life issues, and having a good transit system that allows people to get around their neighborhood without a car can be a justified investment for managing growth.
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