Politicians love spending your money on rail. They claim it cleans the air and reduces traffic jams. Joe Biden said last year: "if you're going to create jobs with a long-lasting platform for the future, it's rail, rail, rail, and rail."Rail is a proven loser. If the ticket from Tampa to Orlando is priced high enough to cover the costs nobody will be able to afford a ticket. If, to entice people to purchase tickets the price is subsidized, the taxpayers are on the hook forever. Further, if Florida believes that light rail is such a great deal then Florida should find a way to pay for it with burdening the taxpayers in the other forty-nine states.
But it turns out that, in most places, rail is terribly inefficient.
Amtrak loses $32 for every ticket it sells. So few people ride the line from New Orleans to Los Angeles that it manages to lose $462 per passenger.
The average subsidy per ride on all LA rails is $10.53, according to data from transportation consultant Tom Rubin. For someone who uses the rail to go back and forth to work every day, that adds up to a subsidy of $5,369 per year -- enough to lease that person a Toyota Prius for the year.
Biden claims that rail will "protect the environment." But actually, says Randall O'Toole of the CATO Institute, who will be a guest on my show (Stossel, 8pm EST) light rail uses more energy per passenger mile than the average car – twice as much as a Toyota Prius.
Even some of the nation's most lauded rail systems have been a disappointment.
Long after any temporary jobs created by the building of a light rail system are gone and the politicians who pushed for it are gone, the taxpayers will still be footing the bill.