MacIver Study Refutes Economic Development Claims of Milwaukee Streetcar Project

National Transit Expert Authors Report for the MacIver Institute

[MILWAUKEE…] A new study rips the proposed Milwaukee Streetcar project as an expensive and inefficient scam.

If City of Milwaukee officials were truly concerned about providing affordable transportation options to their residents, they could provide expanded bus service for an initial cost of less than $2 million and annual operating costs of less than half a million per year, nearly all of which would be covered by fares, according to the report.

“But buses aren’t good enough for Milwaukee, which didn’t even consider buses as an alternative in its environmental assessment of the streetcar,” writes Randal O’Toole in a new report issued by the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy.

O’Toole is a prominent national expert who works on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues. The MacIver Institute commissioned O’Toole to analyze the Milwaukee Streetcar project. He provided his findings in a 25-page report issued Thursday.

“The plan to build a streetcar line in downtown Milwaukee is a pure and simple scam,” O’Toole concluded. “The only beneficiaries will be the engineering and construction firms who design and build the line.”

The report also busts the myth, advanced by streetcar advocates, that the streetcar will lead to increased development in the economically depressed city.

“Downtown landowners and developers will benefit only if the city decides to throw hundreds of millions of dollars of additional subsidies to development along the line,” according to the MacIver Report.

The study examined the much-touted streetcar project in Portland, Oregon and found that development along the route their only occurred after officials offered nearly a billion dollars in subsidies, something heretofore not mentioned in the Milwaukee Streetcar discussions.

“”In total, then, the city provided close to a billion dollars in subsidies to property developers along the existing streetcar line on top of the $103 million cost of the streetcar itself,” the MacIver Institute found.

The MacIver study also refuted claims that the streetcar would increase the use of mass transit, positively impact the environment and would be a long-term boon to taxpayers. All not true, according to O’Toole.

“Streetcars are a long-obsolete technology,” he concludes. “Milwaukee and other cities that wish to revitalize neighborhoods and business districts would do better to invest in modern transportation, including repairing their streets, installing the latest traffic signal coordination systems, and improving safety for all travelers.”

Read the Report: Milwaukee Streetcar Scam.pdf