May 8, 2012

Busway to cost $100M for first decade alone

The legislature's Office of Fiscal Analysis included a mention in its brief write up this week about the proposed $567 million that the finished project would require an $8 million subsidy for Fiscal Year 2015 and that the subsidy would go up 3 to 3.5 percent annually.
Do the math on that and you'll find that in its first decade of operations alone, the busway between Hartford and New Britain will require $100 million in taxpayer subsidies. Take it out another decade, and we're looking at a cost of about $250 million for its first 20 years of operation.
That's for an anticipated increase of about 2,000 round trip commuters per day, on weekdays anyway.
It's not hard to understand why state Rep. Whit Betts and state Sen. Joe Markley were able to draw some Democratic votes for their amendments seeking to block the busway, including the votes of every Democrat from Bristol and most of them from West Hartford, where the project is also unpopular.
Those amendments failed, though, and it doesn't appear there's anything left for opponents to do to stop the project.
And, hey, maybe that's a good thing. One commuting expert who loves trains had a piece today hailing the busway.

Update at 9 a.m.: Mike Sanders, the transportation department manager who oversees the Busway project, points out that the dollar figures I'm using are in 2015 dollars. That means that in real terms, the dollars down the road are not worth what a dollar is today. They, too, are inflating. The subsidy, in other words, is constant -- about the equivalent of $7 million a year in today's money. Still a lot, yes, but the equivalent of something more like $70-80 million in 2012 dollars over the course of a decade or $150 million in 2012 dollars over 20 years. It all depends on how you look at it, but what Mike is pointing out is as true as what I wrote above. It just explains the figures a bit more deeply.

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