I know this letter will come as a surprise to you, but I hope you will read it in detail. My name is Chuck Hails, and I am the executor of the estate of a man who has the same last name as yours. When he passed away recently without any heirs, he left an estate of $2 billion. I am willing to share this estate with you by investing, in your name, in a blighted area of your city.
The late billionaire whose estate I represent was very fond of streetcars, so to make this investment appear legitimate, all you will have to do is buy some streetcars; four or five will do. I happen to know of a factory in the Czech Republic that can sell you these streetcars for less than $2 million each.
While that may sound like a lot of money to you, I assure you it is very cheap compared to the $2 billion investment I am prepared to make in your city. Besides, your federal government is willing to give you a grant to buy streetcars, provided only that the streetcars you buy streetcars made in the USA. In that case, I am prepared to start a factory building such streetcars in your city that will cost you a mere $4 million apiece.
These will be very beautiful, streamlined streetcars with a top speed of 31 miles per hour, although on your city streets the average speed will likely be around 7 mph. These 60-foot-long streetcars have much higher capacities than standard 40-foot buses, which cost all of $300,000 (see how many more zeroes there are in the price of the bus? It looks like a much bigger number!).
While the buses have only 40 seats, the streetcars will have 31 to 35 seats. In case you notice that 40 is more than 31 to 35, let me assure you, dearly beloved, that the streetcars have more standing room than the buses. There is nothing that transit riders like better than to relax on board a streetcar while they are holding a Kindle, iPad, or laptop in one hand while grabbing for the pole or strap with the other as the streetcar lurches to a halt and jerks to a start every block or two.
Once you buy your streetcars, of course, you will need some tracks for them to go on, and those tracks will cost only about $10 million to $20 million per mile. I suggest you start with 2 or 3 miles of track and add more once people in nearby neighborhoods become envious of your wondrous streetcars. You will also need to spend $6 million to $8 million on a streetcar maintenance facility, because you can’t maintain streetcars in a bus garage. You can fund all of these things out of the $75 million in Small Starts grant money that I am sure your federal government will be glad to give to your city.
Once you complete this streetcar line, I am sure I can justify spending $2 billion of my late client’s money in your blighted neighborhood. Of course, it will also help if you spend up to $1 billion removing obsolete structures, installing new infrastructure, building new parking garages for those people who can’t get there by streetcar, and buying land and then reselling it to me below cost.
Do not worry about these costs, as you will be able to fund them using tax-increment financing (not legal in Arizona or California), which allows your city to sell bonds that will be repaid out of the taxes on the increased property values that will result from my new developments. Hardly anyone in your city is likely to know that these increased property values will come at the expense of reduced property values elsewhere in the city, as studies have shown that both rail transit and tax-increment financing are zero-sum games–meaning they don’t stimulate new development; they merely shuffle it around the city.
No one in your city will know this provided no one invites Wendell Cox, Randal O’Toole, or another anti-transit nut to visit your city. Even if they do, you can demonize them for the heartless ogres that they are. I suggest you enlist the help of Mr. Conservative, Bill Lind, who will tell everyone in your city that conservatives love streetcars.
He knows this because studies show that people who ride trains tend to be wealthier than people who ride buses, and everyone knows that wealthy people are conservative and poor people are liberal. Also, wealthy people deserve more subsidies for their transportation than poor people, which is why you will be able to pay the $3 million to $6 million annual operating costs of your new streetcar line by cutting bus service to low-income neighborhoods in your city.
Portland Oregon invested a mere $103 million in streetcars (plus about $1 billion in public funds on urban redevelopment) and got $3 billion in developments. Tampa invested $27 million on a streetcar (plus $700 million in public funds on redevelopment) and got $600 million in private redevelopments.
Tacoma spent $80 million on a streetcar line, but it broke the chain and failed to spend hundreds of millions subsidizing economic development, so it got very little economic development along the streetcar line. Don’t break the chain of subsidies!
If you would like to receive my $2 billion in investments, all you have to do is put $1 million in small, unmarked bills in an envelope, mark the envelope “Streetcar Study for” followed by the name of your city, then mail that envelope to Parsons Brinckerhoff, HDR, or another transportation consulting firm. They will know what to do.
Yours very truly,
Chuck Hails, esquire