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Urban Rail Transit: On the Wrong Track

By Randal O'Toole -- April 21, 2010

In 2006, Nashville began operating the Music City Star, a commuter train between Lebanon and Nashville. Transit officials brag that this is “the most cost-effective commuter train in the country” because they spent only $41 million to begin service.

To be cost-effective, however, you need more than just a train: that train needs to produce something. The Music City Star carries only about 250 commuters on round trips each day, riders who could easily have been accommodated in a few buses costing less than $3 million. In fact, it would have been less expensive to give each of those commuters a new Toyota Prius every year for the next 30 years than to operate the train.

Since 1970, American cities have spent about $100 billion building new rail transit lines, and virtually all of it has been wasted.…