Sunday, December 27, 2009

Old Ways Are Sometimes The Best Ways

I am not so simple as to think that the City of Lexington could fund a demonstration scale streetcar line, along the lines of Cincinnati or Charlotte, as a public project. In these uncertain economic times, I am not sure how any city can initiate these kinds of projects.

I have read the history of the streetcar system of the early 20th Century where the mule cars and eventually the electric powered cars operated by franchise within the street rights of way. This is the same method employed by the local utility companies today. They(the utilities) own the transmission facilities, the poles, the wires, the pipes and all, and pay for the privilege to use the public street space. Lexington's first streetcars were owned by a corporation which traded shares either publicly or privately, just like the utilities of today. Can someone tell me why this scenario would not work in this day and time?

In a day when a billionaire like Warren Buffet will buy a railroad, European rail companies are expanding into the U.S. and the President of the United States is pushing rail transportation services of all kinds, why cannot someone form a corporation to build streetcar systems for cities?

1 comment:

D Morse said...

Because driving is heavily subsidized by all taxpayers, so much so that building for-profit transit is impossible with current technology. You just can't make a profit selling fares at $2, for a service that runs at the same speed as a city bus, and notably slower than a car.And if you price the fares at $5, then you still won't make a profit, because you'll lose 80% of your ridership.

A first step to getting a streetcar is properly pricing parking. That gives you two advantages:
1) revenue stream to fund the streetcar
2) makes driving less attractive, giving you room to compete on total travel time and total travel price.