I don't really understand the various issues in this article on the next phase of Phoenix light rail expansion, but this certainly caught my eye:
It will add another $9 million to the $297 million project. But by
acting quickly to make these changes, there aren't expected to be
delays in rail construction. Work is scheduled to start in early 2009
and be completed by 2012.
Opposition to the rail plan arose last fall in the last half mile of
the 3.2-mile light rail line that extends from just south of Bethany
Home Road to Dunlap Ave.
Let's see -- $306 million divided by 3.2 miles is very close to $100 million a mile, and that is even before the inevitable cost overruns cut in (as a rule of thumb, I tend to double estimates of light rail construction costs to estimate the actual final total, and even then I am often low). It also does not include inevitable operating losses.
Nearly a third of a billion dollars to run a rail line a distance most people could walk in 45 minutes. For three freaking miles. As a comparison, three buses could provide service on this same route running at 5 minute intervals for perhaps 1% of this capital cost and a substantially lower operating cost. And better service, since the frequency would be 3 times higher. Absolutely absurd.
Postscript: Some of you may be familiar with my light rail bet. I often bet that a light rail line will cost more to build than it would have cost to buy every regular daily rider a Prius, and more to operate in a year than it would require to gas up all of these Prius's for a year. For reference, with a $22,500 cost for a Prius and $306 million (and counting) capital cost, that is enough to buy 13,600 Prius's. Anyone want to bet that the number of incremental users attracted to the line by this 3 mile extension don't exceed 13,600?
Update: TJIC does the math -- $1500 per inch! Fixed link, thanks to commenters.