Is a luxurious bus stop worth $1 million? Commuters boarding buses at the newly constructed stop in Arlington County, Virginia, don’t seem to think so, as CNN reported.
According to one rider, “This is cute, but cute ain’t warm. Cute ain’t dry.” While $1 million can buy the stainless steel and heated pavement and seating that adorn this “Super Stop,” in this case it didn’t even buy a bus stop that protects people from the elements while they wait.
A chorus of public disapproval erupted following the bus stop’s debut, leading Arlington County to announce Friday that it was suspending any work on the other 23 planned Super Stops while it reviews this one’s design and cost. Steven Del Giudice, Arlington’s Transit Bureau chief, told CNN, “We’ll look at ways that we might be able to save money on future stops” (emphasis added). How reassuring a statement for federal taxpayers, who funded $800,000 of the project cost through federal transportation grants.
States and localities across the country are still in economic doldrums, with unemployment levels high, budgets tight, and legitimate transportation needs left unmet. Like the federal government, states are searching for ways to pay for transportation projects that will give commuters increased mobility and enable their economies to thrive. Such wasteful use of resources on transit boondoggles explains in part why there isn’t enough money to go around.
As Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Wendell Cox writes, despite receiving billions of dollars in federal subsidies over three decades, mass transit projects—including light rail and trolley cars—have failed to give taxpayers much bang for their buck. Transit hasn’t reduced traffic congestion or demonstrably reduced automobile emissions, and it’s failed to give low-income citizens a practical transportation alternative they can use to access jobs.
Lawmakers would better serve taxpayers by introducing competition to transit and shifting the emphasis from expensive rail to cost-effective bus systems—rather than building bus stops that do not even shield people from rough weather.
Motorists and citizens alike understandably expect government at all levels to spend transportation funding on projects that actually reduce traffic congestion and improve mobility. Arlington’s Super Stop clearly fails this test.