A Hidden Cost of Failing to Fund Mass Transit

Funding for mass transit is always recognized as a cost, as in ‘building that new subway line will cost $X million.’ But what’s typically neglected is the cost if you don’t build mass transit (boldface mine):

If [Maryland Republican] Governor-elect Larry Hogan chooses not to build the Purple Line, he will sock Maryland taxpayers, commuters, and businesses with a huge bill they don’t expect. Building parking garages for drivers who would otherwise take the train would likely cost over $600 million, much of it public money.

Parking is expensive, and in the built-up areas where the Purple Line would run, there’s no empty land; new spaces would have to go in garages above or below ground…

Montgomery County is now paying $64,000 per space for an underground garage and $53,000 per new space for a parking structure. At these prices, the cost of this destination parking will be $447 million. This does not include parking for people who travel to D.C. or Virginia, or the value of land used for parking lots in outer Maryland suburbs…

A rough estimate is that two thirds of the 2,479 new transit riders who live in Bethesda and Silver Spring will live in downtown apartments, and of them, half won’t own cars if they don’t drive to work. If the Purple Line doesn’t go in, new apartment buildings will need more underground spaces, at a cost of $48 million….

University of Maryland administrators expect the Purple Line to greatly improve transit access, and they need to use space currently occupied by parking lots to expand the school itself. As such, they have decided to ban on-campus parking by resident students. The ban will eliminate the need for 2,889 parking spaces, but it’s unlikely to go into effect without the Purple Line. If the Purple Line goes, Maryland will need a new parking garage—an expenditure we can estimate at $153 million.

The total parking costs will be around $650 million, while the remaining cost of the Metro’s Purple line is $1.3 billion. This is penny wise, pound foolish. The Purple would greatly improve the quality of life for Montgomery County residents–including improving car traffic through taking thousands of drivers off the road.

The next time someone tells you that there aren’t differences between Democrats and Republicans, well, guess which party’s gubernatorial candidate favored the Purple Line and guess which one opposed it?

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1 Response to A Hidden Cost of Failing to Fund Mass Transit

  1. innocent_bikestander says:

    Further to the costs mentioned that related to transport itself, there are further negative externalities that should be considered such as health and environmental costs. They may be harder to quantify by no means impossible. Also, as I’m in Australia, there is a further cost that is the import of oil that is required for private car usage.

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