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Transit Subsidy
Busways Require Greater Subsidy Than Rail

Yes, it’s just that simple! Light rail will be cheaper to operate and maintain. It will attract a greater number of commuters to public transit than busways.

A busway or light rail transit line can be constructed in 3 or 4 years, once funding is available and plans have been finalized. Depending on what is contained in the final plans, a busway might be somewhat cheaper to build. Federal funding will likely pay a major part of the construction costs. However, what is the benefit of saving a little money on construction costs if operating costs far exceed that savings?

We will be paying to operate and maintain whatever we build for the life of the system, which could easily be 50 to 100 years. These costs will not be shared by the federal government. They will be paid for largely by local government--that means the taxpayers of Charlotte/Mecklenburg.

Therefore, doesn’t it make more sense to choose the less labor intensive, more economical mode of transit to operate and maintain?

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Doesn’t it make more sense to choose the one that is likely to attract the greatest number of riders, thereby reducing the amount of subsidy the system will need to operate, while maximizing the return on our large investment in mass transit?

Notice we say light rail will reduce the amount of subsidy needed to operate the system. We did not say eliminate the need for subsidies. Few, if any, transit systems can operate solely from the farebox revenue they take in. Every public transit system in this country has needed some form of subsidies in order to operate. Light rail will need less, and will attract a greater number of drivers, thus lessening the traffic burden on our highways. Light rail is just common sense, and that is why so many other cities around this country and Canada have adopted it, and why so few are building busways. It’s as simple as that!

Posted October 30, 1998