Let’s be honest, shall we? No commuter rail system has ever made any money. That’s just a fact. Sure, some lines might be “profitable”, but light rail as a whole is not.
Georgia is considering light rail as an alternative to road expansion. Just as there is no direct profit generated by roads — except for the GA400 Toll Booth — there will be none from light rail. So, the legislature must decide if it wants to subsidize a system that, because it is government backed, is guaranteed to be inefficient. Right now, the DOT is considering the issue.
The future of commuter trains in Georgia will come to a critical fork in the tracks this week as state officials weigh whether to press forward with the concept of passenger rail as an alternative to continued road widenings and beefed-up bus service.
The immediate issue before the state Department of Transportation centers on efforts to develop the state’s inaugural commuter train route between Atlanta and Lovejoy, a suburb on the city’s south side in Clayton County.
It is, perhaps, an experiment worth undertaking, but let’s look at just one absurdity. For years there has been talk about extending the Lovejoy line down to Macon. But, there would be so many stops along the way, it would actually be faster to drive from Macon to the Atlanta Airport than to take the train.
If we’re going to have light rail, we should at least build it in a way that will make people want to ride it. Making it slower than Christmas and more crowded than a whore house during Fleet Week is not the way to do it. And, if we are going to do it, DOT board members and elected officials should not lie — the train system will be unprofitable and exist on taxpayer subsidies. Will a Republican led government really go for that?
It seems to me the wisest action might be to pass the buck to private industry and let them have a go at it. If a private business is willing, let it be a shareholder risk and not a taxpayer risk. The government can make reasonable accomodations for business. Heck, we have lots of land down the middle of the interstate. Why not use that!