Detroit may be on the verge of financial ruin, but that hasn’t stopped the city from moving full-speed ahead on a 3.3-mile streetcar line with a price tag of $140 million. If you’re wondering where the cash is coming from, $25 million of it is coming out of the pockets of federal taxpayers. MLive writes:
The federal government signed off on the $140 million M1 Rail project in April. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in January announced $25 million in federal funding for the transit project, which will have 11 stops and cost $1.50 per ride. Fifteen private donors led by Penske Chairman Roger Penske, Quicken Chairman Dan Gilbert and M-1 CEO Matt Cullen contributed $100 million to the project.
David Freddoso notes that by April, the city Detroit “was already well on its way to bankruptcy.” Acknowledging that the project is mostly privately funded, he submits that going forward with it at this point is a fool’s errand:
Detroit is emptying out. Its entire population is less than 700,000. I’m not a transportation expert, but I know a little bit of math. At $1.50 per ride, you’ll need about 100 million rides on this thing before it’s paid for itself. It would take a century if every person in the city rides it (on average) each year, and that assumes no maintenance costs.
Then there’s this:
In Detroit, they have a pretty serious crisis of urban abandonment — about 60,000 abandoned buildings, 38,000 of which are unsafe. The estimated cost to tear each one down is about $8,000, so $25 million would take care of about 3,100 of those. Or the money could go to shore up pensions for the city workers about to get screwed in bankruptcy.
Arguing that federal taxpayers shouldn’t have to fork over a single dime, Freddoso emphasizes that the Department of Transportation is endorsing the project, adding:
This is the same federal Department of Transportation that tried to make the sequester as painful as possible by furloughing air traffic controllers at the nation’s busiest airports [and is now] determined to spend your money on expensive toys and on the same kind of ‘revitalization’ schemes that Detroit’s city government went bankrupt paying for.
Because hey, we have so much extra money just sitting there doing nothing.