in Houston, Texas
All aboard Austin’s Taxpayer Express. Unlimited seating available.
Wednesday, Feb 08, 2012, 03:22PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Austin, where money is no object except for grocery shoppers and taxpayers, is offering weekend rides on its MetroRail train for just $2.2 million a year, according to a story today by the Austin American-Statesman.

For city residents used to this sort of thing and choo-choo aficionados no further explanation is necessary.

For the rest of you, climb aboard our zephyr, the Logic Is Limited, for a luxury excursion to the inscrutable nether reaches of rail transit.

Passing us in the window to your left is the MetroRail, finally up and running two years late and at $1.3 billion, twice the original estimated cost. You don’t see many passengers, as the Statesman has occasionally reported.

No, those sometimes empty cars on the 16.5-mile weekday run don’t come close to breaking even. Disappointing for what was sold to taxpayers as a commuter rail, but for transit advocates, beside the point.

But up ahead, ladies and gentlemen, are hourly runs in both directions Friday night and Saturday through midnight for MetroRail. Weekend test runs last March found the 108-seat trains full.

Full trains are money losers, too, just not as much. So the more runs you make the more you lose, only less than the money you lose on every run during the week. And if the losses are big enough they might justify asking taxpayers to buy more trains for the weekends.

As we pull into the station, let me assure you none of these are concerns of the Logic Is Limited.

Our rail service is founded on sound transit principles and a generous stimulus grant from funds sent back to Washington, D.C. by the states of Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Please be careful stepping off.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of train by flickr user Sunfrog1, used via a Creative Commons license.
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