"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Taxpayers Railroaded

Yesterday’s post about New Jersey truck traffic got us to wondering about the taxpayer investment in NJ Transit’s River LINE light railway that debuted in March of this year. The 34-mile River LINE serves 13 communities with 20 stations from Trenton to Camden and cost $1.1 billion to build. A one-way fare is $1.10 for adults and 55 cents for senior citizens and children.

Has the River LINE been a good investment? When the line was first conceived 10 years ago, studies predicted the passenger rail would cost $314 million to build and carry 11,200 fares a day. The reality – the River LINE cost taxpayers $1.1 billion to build and averaged only 5,506 fares per day during its peak month of July. The River LINE now can claim the distinction of being the least cost effective passenger rail line in the country.

This year the line is expected to cost taxpayers $70 million dollars ($50 million in debt repayment and $20 million in operating expenses).but generate at most just $2 million in revenue. Assuming the line attains its best average number of fares per day of 5,506 for an entire year, the cost per trip to taxpayers will be $35.

That’s right, a round trip on the River LINE will cost taxpayers $70 and the rider will pay at most $2.20. Should average ridership double and achieve the original planned estimate of 11,200 fares per day, the taxpayers will still be out $65 million every year and that’s if every rider pays $1.10 per trip.

The River LINE was a losing proposition for taxpayers based on the state’s original projections and has now grown into scandalous financial mismanagement. Just think of the ways the state could spend $70 million more effectively every year - on schools to reduce property taxes; on our crumbling roads and bridges; on existing mass transit; or perhaps a cost effective project to deal with the truck traffic problem.

Read more on the River LINE:
Courier Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, UTU, NJT River LINE.



6 Comments:

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So how is a $70 million investment in rail considered a subsidy for transit users but a $70 million investment in roads and bridges not a subsidy for automorphs?

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger Enlighten said...

Millions use the roads, hardly anyone uses the light rail. Not a very cost effetive use of taxpayer if you ask us.

 
At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in the transit industry in PA, am very pro-rail, and usually support the argument that a subsidy is a subsidy, whether for trains or highways. The RiverLine is in a class by itself, however. It is so ill-conceived and idiotically expensive per passenger that it gives ammo to the anti-transit zealots. Its ridership is so low that it could be described as trivial, and its "goals" are being approached only because they've been downgraded so drastically from the originals. Can anyone explain why this line could not have been built as standard commuter rail, compatible with freight, with direct service from Camden to NYC?

 
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