What Could Be Bought for the Money

Rail transit is so phenomenally expensive compared to highways that the only way anyone could conceivably support it who did not directly profit from it is if they were innumerate. Unfortunately, most people aren’t used to dealing with hundreds of millions, much less billions, of dollars, so they tend to think of a billion as a little more than million and a million as a little more than a thousand, which is a quantity most people can understand.

One way to overcome this is to point out all of the things that could be purchased for the cost of one rail line. The Cascade Policy Institute did the above video for a light-rail line that, unfortunately, is being built in Portland. The video points out that the cost of the rail line is enough to pay for a doubling of bus service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using luxury, double-decker buses, for 150 years. This would leave enough left over to buy every Portland high-school freshman a new iPad and a new Macbook Air for the next 150 years. “What would you do with the $1.5 billion?” the video asks.