Tony Dutzik, writing for the progressive Frontier Group, offers a ten ways of recognizing whether a highway project is a boondoggle. A few of his ideas are valid: a highway widening project aimed simply at creating a continuous four-lane road even when there is no demand for four lanes seems silly. But most of his suggestions are wrong: for example, he thinks that, if environmentalists have delayed a project long enough, that proves it shouldn’t be built, when in fact all it proves is that our current planning process allows people to indefinitely delay projects for little or no reason.
In response, I’d like to offer my own list of ten ways to determine whether a transportation project is a boondoggle. His list focused on highways, though some of his suggestions (“It is sold as needed for economic development”) are valid for transit. Although my list starts out with transit projects, it eventually applies to all types of transportation projects.
1. It’s a streetcar. Streetcar technology is 130 years old and has since been replaced by less expensive, more flexible buses. Streetcars being built today are no faster and are far more expensive than the ones built 130 years ago. All new streetcar projects and rehabilitations of existing streetcar lines are boondoggles. Continue reading