June 30, 2012

According to the June 26 Metro article “Streetcar plan remains a dividing line in N.Va.,” Virginia is joining the dash for federal funds for public transportation. Fairfax and Arlington counties, as did Portland, Ore., believe that such an initiative will make them more desirable to businesses and bring in revenue. And in some ways, this analysis could make sense.

Build a streetcar line, and businesses will want to be near it to gain the consumers using the rail. The problem is, this hasn’t worked in the real world — at least, not in Portland.

The government subsidized Portland’s streetcar rail, and business around it did indeed begin to grow, but as a result of further government subsidies, not market demand. It did not come close to creating the expected revenue.

Streetcar lines are expensive and inefficient. The article pointed out that one of the major funding sources for the line would be a tax on local businesses. If Arlington and Fairfax want to promote business, why would they hinder profits with a pointless tax for an inefficient product?

Julia Morriss, Washington