Is the $485M St. Paul-to-Woodbury Gold Line bus worth it?

Bob Shaw at the Pioneer Press asks: Is the $485M St. Paul-to-Woodbury Gold Line bus worth it? I talked with him for a long time, and had some choicer quotes than what he actually wound up using, which is below:


The roughly 50 local members of Gold Line boards and committees have studied the issue for years and produced the project’s plan.

“This is what they said they want, so you have to build it,” said David Levinson, a University of Minnesota civil engineering professor and expert on transportation systems.

Putting bus lines through sparsely inhabited areas is risky, said Levinson, the U professor. After all, he said, it could be years — if ever — before the area grows enough to fill up the continual stream of buses.

“The question is what else could you do with $500 million, either in transportation or not?” Levinson said. “I could give you a list. Or you could give that money back to taxpayers.”

He said governments don’t always make decisions based on efficiency.

“This is where politicians get their leverage,” Levinson said. “They can call on fairness, justice or civic pride to justify projects that otherwise look wasteful. They can say that some non-monetizable benefits outweigh the costs.

“And often, that’s what the public wants.”