Institute fellow: Oklahoma City should scrap plans for streetcar system

BY RANDAL O'TOOLE Published: June 15, 2013
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Along one segment of the line, however, the city offered no subsidies. Here, there was almost no new development. Developers were following the subsidies, not the streetcar line. After the streetcar line opened, Portland officials gave tours to planners and elected officials from other cities around the country, bragging that the streetcar stimulated all the new development — and never mentioning the subsidies or the neighborhood that got no new development.

Instead of generating economic development, streetcars merely give cities an excuse to subsidize development after they've subsidized the streetcar. No subsidies, no development. The real goal of streetcar projects is to get money out of the federal government: The Obama administration has offered up to $75 million to cities that agree to build one. But local taxpayers must put up matching funds for construction and then cover the operating and maintenance costs for years.

For the good of the city and its taxpayers, Oklahoma City should immediately stop planning for this obsolete form of travel.

O'Toole (rot@cato.org) is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and author of “Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It.” A streetcar system is under development in Oklahoma City after voters approved the project as part of the MAPS 3 initiative.