I just read the Atlanta Journal Constitution article about the Federal Government sending additional monies (our tax dollars) to Atlanta for the streetcar project ($72 million project before cost overruns). Has anyone put a pencil to the monetary return from such a project? According to the AJC article, 2330 riders are expected to ride the streetcars each day at $2 per ride. I used my trusty calculator to estimate that it will cost $27.7 million per mile for the 2.6 mile project. That seems a little pricey in itself but when you break it down to when the ridership will repay the investment it becomes just a little more significant. With $2 fares it will only take 26 million riders to pay for the project, mind you that does not include daily maintenance and the labor force to man the vehicles. (That will include minimally 8 drivers salary, matching funds, retirement, insurance, sick days, vacations, [two employees those days] supervision, not counting weekends and whatever perks government employees get). Well, all things considered we should be excited the $2 fares will pay the initial $72 million debt off in a mere 59.4 years. That is if projected ridership is realized. I’m sure each of the $4.3 million dollar streetcars will still be operating in 59 years.
As told by AJC reporter, Ernie Suggs, I can leave the car at home. To begin my journey, after leaving my car at home at about 5 AM, I have about a three mile walk to the nearest Gwinnett Transit bus stop. I normally wear slacks and a blazer (sometimes a suit) and head out. The average person at a normal walking pace, in dress shoes, would walk a mile in maybe 15 minutes. Not all the area I walk has sidewalks so my shoes at best are going to look like they need a shine when I get there. My best guestimate is it would take me near 45 minutes to an hour to reach my destination to catch the local GRTA bus. I can only imagine what I would look like on a rainy or for that matter a hot summer day.
Now I wait for the bus’s scheduled time of arrival, pay the roundtrip fare and then it takes me to the closest Georgia Transit Authority express bus for downtown. After many stops before I get to the express bus Park and Ride, I now wait for the express bus’s scheduled time for departure (only 4 times a day each way). I pay for my roundtrip fare and it takes me to one of four locations in downtown. The earliest I can leave is 6:10 AM – 8:10 AM. Depending on which schedule I arrive in downtown anywhere from 6:42 AM – 8:55 AM respectively. I walk to the streetcar, not sure how far that is, wait for it to pick me up, pay my $2 and reach an area hopefully near my destination. I have a one hour appointment at 10 AM and have to get home because the kids will be getting out of school at 3:30 PM. I get back on the streetcar, pay my $2 and go back to the express bus. I find the earliest departure from Atlanta is from 3:38 – 6:38 PM (a mere 4.5 hour wait) and arrives back to the Park and Ride between 4:28 – 7:28 PM respectively. I don’t have a clue how my kids are. Now I must find the next schedule GRTA to get to my original Gwinnett Transit stop and arrive three miles from home. Then I walk the 3 miles home all refreshed, rested and relaxed because I didn’t have to drive in that horrible traffic.
For a one hour appointment I hastily made it in only 12.5 hours. I can only marvel at what wonderful care the government gives me.