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Monday, November 2, 2009

Empty Cars on Commuter Rail

Imagine is you will that a state wanted to build a massive commuter rail project connecting its largest city to the state capitol. In addition to hundreds of millions of dollars to build the rail line, the project would also lose millions of dollars annually, requiring taxpayer subsidies to operate. And what if the result were empty rail cars.

That's what happened in New Mexico, where reporter Jim Scarantino found empty railroad cars on the Rail Runner from Santa Fe to Albuquerque. The commuter rail line cost $400 to build, and is losing more than $13 million a year. Scarantino calculates that taxpayers are subsidizing each rider more than $10,000 per year.

In New Hampshire, the commuter rail project being pushed by the Department of Transportation would only cost $300 million to build, but we don't know how much it would lose each year.

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