Reason Mag: Detroit’s Train to Nowhere

Reason Magazine has an interesting story on Detroit’s plan to move forward with a light rail system, even though “one quarter of the city’s 140 square miles are deserted.” A very good question to ask might be, “Who would use a light rail system running from Downtown to the city’s edge?” The majority of people who live in the suburbs and work in the city own automobiles. This is, after all, the “motor” city. Will a light rail system change the nature of Detroit area commuters who happen to like driving to work alone?

In a town lacking essential services, what do local leaders and federal politicians have in mind for helping the city? What’s needed to hoist Detroit back to its 1950 heyday, when it was America’s fourth largest city, with more than double its current population?

Why, light rail, of course!

The Motor City is moving ahead with a plan to build a 9.3-mile light rail line that will run from downtown Detroit to the edge of the suburbs. It’ll cost an estimated $500 million. Three-quarters of the bill will be paid by federal taxpayers, with the rest picked up by a consortium of foundations and businesses.

If built, the project will end up on the Mackinac Center’s list of government-subsidized white elephants touted as “crucial to Detroit’s comeback,” its “rebirth,” and pivotal to “turning things around.” In reality, it’ll just be another train to nowhere, much like Detroit’s existing light rail line, the unfortunately named “People Mover,” which operates at 2.5% of capacity.

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