American transit activists need to speak up about exorbitant construction costs
But the problem hits transit the hardest because the basic fact of the matter is that political and economic elites don’t rely on mass transit. The clearest case is the growing popularity of mixed-traffic streetcar projects. These are much cheaper than grade-separated light- or heavy-rail, but still far more expensive than a conventional bus without actually moving people any faster. In terms of offering a transportation service, spending money on a streetcar is much worse than spending the same amount of money on multiple new bus routes or upgrades to existing ones. Soon this bus will have a streetcar in its way | Elvert Barnes/Flickr Streetcars appeal, however, because those high costs create construction jobs and because the aura of classiness around them appeals to real estate developers and other would-be drivers of gentrification. So cities across America are opening stub streetcar lines rather than investing in improving the transit experience of bus riders.