Rail rort

May 30, 2000

Rail rort

Originally published in issue 49 of Tollroads Newsletter, which came out in May 2000.


Subjects:light rail LRT LR railphilia

Facilities:Hudson Bergen Light Rail HBLR

Agencies:New Jersey transit


A major problem in the region is the fanatical devotion of many opinion-makers to rail as the transport panacea. Another scandalously wasteful federally-funded rail project to the Hudson River waterfront here recently opened called the Hudson-Bergen light rail (HBLR.) In the planning stage the promoters of this trolley said 25k passengers/day would be carried. By time for opening this had been reduced to 7k to 9k. In actual fact it is carrying 4k/day. Capital cost is $1.1b. That’s an investment of $275,000/ride/day! Or if you count most riders as taking the trolley home again it’s over $500k per rider.

You could give each one of the HBLR riders a condo overlooking the Hudson River, a Hudson River luxury yacht, for this kind of money. Is this really the way people want public money spent?

The profligacy and ineffectuality of these rail projects must at some point sap public support, and get people looking to the sensible mode – the road. The Bergen Arches roadway extension from the NJ Turnpike would cost less than half the cost of the HBLR and 4k people/day would occupy less than 10% of its capacity. And instead of needing continuing subsidies it would generate toll revenues. If transit here, why not a vanway? Or taxilanes? Minibuses?

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