Skip to Content
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

The Potential for Private Investment in Transit

5th_street_bridge_420x291.jpgAn old streetcar line built by a private developer in Richmond, Virginia, around the turn of the last century. (Photo via North Richmond News)

Could private developers be the key to developing the nation’s transit infrastructure?

That’s the question that has engaged many members of the Streetsblog Network over the weekend.

The catalyst for what has become a very lively discussion was an article by Christopher Leinberger on the Atlantic’s website, part of their month-long "The Future of the City" special report.

Leinberger suggests that we might look to an earlier model of
financing for mass transit — one in which real estate developers pay to
build not only housing, but also rail lines to serve those new
neighborhoods.

It worked in pre-World War II America, Leinberger notes, creating
the "streetcar suburbs" that later were rolled over by federally funded
highways and the sprawl they enabled.

But Human Transit’s
Jarrett Walker warns against looking to the past for solutions. He
argues that current labor and environmental regulations, concerns about
sufficient competition, and integration into existing transit systems
are potential pitfalls of privatization. He does think that there are
funding mechanisms involving private enterprise that could be effective:

I am not arguing against value capture or tax-increment financing,
which Leinberger also endorses.  These are methods of financing a rail
line partly through debt that will be repaid based on higher land
values — and thus higher land taxes — that the line will generate.
There is no reason we can’t continue to expand on these principles as a
revenue source. I’m criticizing only the more simplified nostalgia on
which Leinberger builds his argument.

Also weighing in with posts on the topic are City Block and Discovering Urbanism. Both are rich with links and resources, so jump on in. And check out Washington, D.C.’s plans to have commercial landowners pony up for its new streetcar line.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Los Angeles

Don’t Believe the Hydrogen Train Hype

Calling hydrogen-powered trains "zero emission" is misleading at best - and even if they were, they lost the race to be "first" a long time ago

July 16, 2024

Upcoming CicLAvia Maps: August in the Hollywoods, September in Lincoln Heights, and More

Mark your calendars: August 18 in West Hollywood through East Hollywood, September 15 in Lincoln Heights, October 13 in the Heart of L.A., and December 8 in the Valley

July 15, 2024

This Week In Livable Streets

Metro board committees, Metro and Caltrans 605/5/10/60/105 freeway expansion, Arroyo Seco ride, C Line delays, 105 Freeway corridor equity, and more

July 15, 2024
See all posts