Saturday, December 24, 2011

Most expensive rail in the world?

"And building the 3.4 miles of light rail would cost nearly $300 million."
--  Jeff Gerritt (Detroit Free Press)

The Light-Rail project was canceled recently in Detroit.  Officially, it was canceled due to Detroit's crashing finances and for lack of a regional transit authority.

After reading a Free Press editorial, the real reason is math.

The plan was to spend $300 million dollars on 3.4 miles of track.  That's $88 million-per-mile, or $16,711-per-foot.  Apparently, the tracks are made of precious metal that must be guarded to keep thieves from scrapping it.

Troy's recent decision to cancel its $8 million, 2500 square-feet transit station brought out a lot of comparisons between the Detroit and Shanghai metropolitan areas, mostly about how backward-thinking Troy's city council and other regional leaders are (I'm being euphemistic--the actual statements were much more insulting).

Construction costs for the the mag-lev in China are approximately $28 million-per-mile ($18mm/Km), and could get passengers from Downtown Detroit to Pontiac in less than 10 minutes.  

And according to other estimates--it will be self-funding.

We could go on-and-on about the comparisons, like relative distance between end-points in China and Detroit, the number of people in China and Detroit, the population trends between China and Detroit, the daily ridership, the population density between China and Detroit, and the minimum wage between China and Detroit, but only the minimum-wage is in Detroit's favor.


  1. Great post, Tom.

    I wonder though (grin), is the minimum wage _really_ in Detroit's favor?


  2. Depends on whether your a Keynesian or not.