Nearly $1 Million for Streetcar Storage?
Washington Post reports today that the long-awaited streetcar line in Anacostia is going to be delayed from late 2009 to sometime in 2012. Councilmember Jim Graham has raised what appear to be legitimate concerns about the line's crazy routing, as the Post recaps:
District officials had planned a 1.3-mile segment between Bolling Air Force Base and the Anacostia Metro station. But D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and several community representatives argued that it made little sense to run a city-funded line on a route flanked by a freeway on one side and a military installation on the other.
So far, so slow, but whatever–transpo projects are always getting delayed. Because of the route change and the resulting delay, however, three streetcars that the city'd bought from a Czech manufacturer, Skoda-Inekon, are going to have to sit on ice till January 2010.
No big deal, right? No, big deal: We taxpayers are going to be paying on the order of $860,000 for storage of those cars and "related equipment," as Post reporter Lena Sun puts it. Just what "related equipment" are we talking about here? A few wrenches and a vacuum cleaner, perhaps? One of the things that the company does to perhaps justify the cost is that each month, it powers them up and takes them for a 200-yard jaunt on the tracks. Given what I know about Czech electricity and labor prices, I estimate that the total cost of each monthly streetcar outing is about $100 USD.
But let's break down this expenditure a bit more. The streetcars are going to be in storage till January 2010. Now, the period of storage that's triggering the $860,000 bill is a bit ambiguous, considering that the city bought the streetcars two years ago. But the Post story says that the money will go toward "additional" storage costs—presumably those costs stemming from this latest delay.
That means that we're talking about $860,000 for a year or so of storage. Or $71,666 a month. Or $2,356 per day.
There are a couple of ways out of this insane waste of taxpayer money. One is to transport the trains to New York, and put them up in the Mandarin Oriental for the year. With long-term discounts and other considerations thrown in, I'm sure we could block off two or three rooms in this luxury spot for $1,500 a night.
Otherwise, I'd volunteer to be a contractor for the storage and handling of these three streetcars. Just let me take care of them. I'd promise to power them up twice a month and take them for 400-yard walks. For this service, I'd charge a mere $350,000, with a performance bonus of $100,000, of course.