This Policy Analysis uses the latest government data on scores of rail transit systems to evaluate the systems’ value and usefulness to the public using six different tests:
- Profitability: Do rail fares cover operating costs?
- Ridership: Do new rail lines significantly increase transit ridership?
- Cost‐Effectiveness: Are new rail lines less expensive to operate than buses providing service at similar frequencies and speeds?
- The “Cable Car” Test: Do rail lines perform as well as or better than cable cars, the oldest and most expensive form of mechanized land‐based transportation?
- The Economic Development Test: Do new rail lines truly stimulate economic development?
- The Transportation Network Test: Do rail lines add to or place stresses upon existing transportation networks?
No system passes all of these tests, and in fact few of them pass any of the tests at all.