Coyote blog has more interesting commentary on light rail boondoggles here. The rip-off arithmetic he cites is the same relative magnitude as for our Rail Runner and so-far potential streetcar debacles. For example, about LA:
If the core ridership number is 125,000, the highest possible choice, then the total capital cost of the system per rider is $20,000 per rider. This means I was right, that we could have instead bought ever rider a car for the same money. Since the real ridership is probably less than that number, this means we could have bought ever rider a car and had money left over. Concerned about the environment? Then make every car a Prius, which the money would just about cover even without the volume purchasing discount they would likely get.
But what about gas? Well, they say they have a $252 million per year operating loss. This subsidy, which is above and beyond ticket sales, equates to $2,106 (!) per daily rider, even using the higher 125,000 figure. At $2.50 per gallon, this equates to 15.5 gallons of gas per rider per week.
So you can see with the LA numbers, even using the largest possible interpretation of their ridership numbers, the money used for the train could have instead bought every passenger a new car and filled the tank up with gas once a week for life.
Yes, I know, the argument is that the train reduces congestion. Supposedly. I have two responses:
Rail has never reduced congestion in any city. Go see London and Manhattan. In fact, rail seems to encourage urban density that increases congestion.
In Phoenix, where rail will often replace existing lanes of roads, the train will likely carry fewer people than the lanes of traffic used to, so congestion will increase.