Press "Enter" to skip to content

Streetcar Back on the Table

Not that long ago, we were all able to breath a collective sigh of relief as the Mayor’s Streetcar had died a timely death. But, it looks like the Streetcar is back on the table (subscription):

Albuquerque should focus on building a modern streetcar system along Central Avenue between Downtown and San Mateo if it decides to proceed with the project, according to a consultant’s report.

That stretch of the city is the best bet for a successful start to the system, the presentation from Leland Consulting Group said. Demographics and market forces in the area would support the project, the group said.

The presentation was provided Tuesday afternoon to a City Hall task force studying transportation options in Albuquerque. Here’s a look at what was said:

* The streetcar system could draw about 5,000 riders a day on the Downtown-to-San Mateo segment.

* Each streetcar can carry up to 100 people, though the cars can be linked together to serve up to 200 people.

* The capital cost for launching the system is likely to reach about $106 million on the recommended segment, or about $28 million a mile, the presentation said. Annual operating costs would run about $3.9 million.

* Revenue from extending the life of a quarter-cent sales tax, Tax Increment Development Districts, naming rights, advertising and other sources could fund the project. Only a fairly small portion of the revenue generated by the sales tax would be needed for the streetcar system in some scenarios.

Now, there are a couple of points that really ought to jump out at you. First and most obvious is that the only way this can be funded is by extending a tax on everyone that was supposed to expire.

The next eyebrow raising fact requires a little basic math. Keep in mind that the Albuquerque Metro Area population is up to around 800,000, and is expected to reach a million before long. Yet, this Streetcar is only going to be used by about 5,000 people. Put another way… 99.5% of the people are expected to pay hundreds of millions of dollars (these things never come in on budget – think train), so 0.5% of the population can ride a streetcar instead of taking the bus.

Sure, the consultant said 5,000 people per day, but overall, we’re talking about the same people every day. Now, I’ve been to Portland and used their streetcar system. So, it can be honestly argued it will be used by tourists and provide a tremendous economic benefit to those businesses on the route. Great. If they want the benefit, then they should be willing to pay for it, and let the rest of us off the hook.