Streetcars and urban renewal: Rolling blunder | The Economist
If streetcars are so slow and costly, why are there suddenly so many?
Because federal subsidies have encouraged them. Under Barack Obama the
Department of Transportation has made grants of up to $75m available to
“small” projects that promise to revitalise urban areas and cut
greenhouse-gas emissions. They need not be cost-effective in the
conventional sense if they make a place more liveable or offer other
America’s streetcar revival is gobbling up funds that might otherwise
go towards cheaper, nimbler forms of public transport, such as buses.
This is not only wasteful, but tends to favour better-off riders, such
as tourists and shoppers. Poorer residents are mainly served by buses,
if at all, says Daniel Chatman of the University of California,
Berkeley, who studies regional planning. “The economics of many
light-rail and streetcar projects is abysmal,” he adds.