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  • The Left's High-Speed Rail Fantasy

    The USA Today hypes the left’s dreams for high-speed rail today with a story headed “$8 Billion Could Help Revive Travel by Train.” From the article:

    The Department of Transportation is to distribute the money to embryonic high-speed rail projects around the country and to Amtrak, the national passenger rail service, to develop high-speed technology.

    The government isn’t wasting time. By next month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is required to issue a strategic plan detailing how DOT will use the $8 billion. By June, his department is required to tell states how to apply for grants.

    Eleven proposed high-speed rail corridors on the West Coast, Texas, the Great Lakes states, the Southeast, Florida and the Northeast will be vying for a piece of the stimulus money.

    As large as it sounds, $8 billion wouldn’t begin to design and construct a true high-speed system in which rails are dedicated to high-speed trains. The California system alone would cost about $50 billion to complete.

    That “and to Amtrak” line is key. Heritage fellow Ron Utt explains:

    In 1991 legislation was enacted to permit the Federal Railroad Administration to designate 10 high speed rail corridors. Because of the exceptionally high costs and limited benefits of HSR, nothing has ever been done to get anything underway on any of these corridors–until now, that is.

    The definition of HSR, as applied to those in European and Asian countries, is passenger rail service that averages more than 150 miles per hour, which can only be achieved on very expensive, dedicated lines that serve only HSR. Since no such lines exist in the U.S., any HSR would have to first acquire a right of way, buy the land in it, lay the very costly track, and buy the new equipment.

    Under the circumstances, the $8 billion is woefully short of what is needed to complete a single system, and the President and Congress know it, which is why the $8 billion should be viewed as little more than an amuse-bouche to keep the nation’s influential rail hobbyists happy and content. Indeed, the law recognizes the folly of the aspiration by allowing the money also to be spent on intercity passenger rail service (Amtrak) and “congestion” grants. And the act includes no time limits on when these projects are to be completed; it states only that the money will remain available for three and one-half years.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to The Left's High-Speed Rail Fantasy

    1. Franklin's Lock says:

      Uh…one question? Does this make any fiscal sense?

      No one rides Amtrak, well, except VP Joe Biden. So, why dump money into something no one rides. Amtrak is a money pit along with any rail service in America. We are dumping money into something Americans don’t and won’t use. Worse, it won’t make money and just be something else the government will have to own or subsidize.


    2. AJ Cabal says:

      The "Left" does not have a monopoly on your so-called "High Speed Rail Fantasy".

      Just look at the writings of the late Paul Weyrich (who was insturmental in founding the Moral Majority). He (and many other conservatives) have been pro-high speed rail and pro-rail transit. (I had the pleasure to hear Mr. Weyrich speak at a meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers in 2000 at Pittsfield, Massachusetts.)

      And why did Republican Senators Snowe, Collins & Specter vote with the Democrats on the Stimulus? The provision for the inclusion of the development of our railroad system from a 19th century anacronim to a 21st century model.

      High speed rail is not a liberal issue, it's an American issue.

    3. Tim Johnson says:

      Phoenix just completed a intercity railway pushed thru by our old Democratic Governor, even though they knew that not a single (new) train system in any City has made a profit in the last twenty years. The city stopped much of its bus routes so as to not compete with the rail. Most riders now have to walk long distances and wait longer to get to the train stops. I hear that the city now needs more money to keep the rail operating.

    4. Barry Bebart, Chicago says:

      How on earth is high speed rail a “left issue”? Just because the French thought of it first? Is that your problem with it? The French Nuclear Power program also happens to be a model for national nuclear policy and are you going to lambaste nuclear energy because the Frogs did it far better that we did?

      Look at it another way: What if an American president came up with some crazy idea to build a national transportation network and it would require that the federal government spend TRILLIONS of taxpayer dollars on it. And what if this idea originated from a European idea. Even worse a European socialist idea. Heck a National Socialist idea. It was still a good idea mind you, but dang those socialists and their ideas. But what if we called this system a military highway system? What if we called it the Eisenhower Highway System? Would you be OK with it then? (You’ve got to admit, those National Socialists, despite their flaws, sure knew how to run an Army.)

      Have you been to Europe and ridden on the High Speed Rail system? It is incredible and cost effective and efficient and shameful that the US does not have an equivalent system and it is all of things that any clear headed right wing thinker should have been railing about for the past 20 years. If you believe in America you want America to be the most advanced nation on the planet and an America lacking a high speed rail system is like America being without electricity.

      How about a little example: I have rode the French TGV from Paris to Marseille many times. Google says it is 480 miles and driving will take exactly 7 hours. The TGV takes 3 hours. Center city to center city. Imagine traveling from Chicago to Pittsburgh (463 miles, 7 hours 33 minutes, Google says) in that same 3 hours; from the Loop to the PPG Building. Can you imagine that? The evil Chinese are imagining it. The same people that were crappping in the field next to their mud hut a few years ago are building a system to allow them to crap in a city 500 miles away within a few hours.

      Economists define transportation as a fixed cost that adds no value to a transaction. The lower the transportation cost the lower the overall cost of any associated transaction. In order for America to compete in the global market and to beat the Evil Chinese we need to improve our basic transportation system. High Speed rail is one way to do that.

      So instead of skewering it as a “left wing issue” you should be asking how can we make it an even better system than the government subsidized European and Chinese systems. One way, and you are partially on the right track, so to speak, in picking on Amtrak is to say that the American High Speed Rail System should be a Federally built road bed with private industry running the trains. The rail system and it’s operation should be eventually paid for by the private industry train operators and the US taxpayers will eventually recover their initial costs. That is exactly how the US interstate highway system works and currently how the FAA subsidized air transportation industry works.

      Just because Obama and his democrat cronies are pushing the idea doesn’t make it a bad idea. Like any right minded republican I despise Lyndon Johnson but in 1966, when Charles de Gaulle informed him that the French were leaving NATO and that all American troops should be removed from French soil Johnson replied, “Does that include those buried in it?”.

      In this instance, I have to applaud the democrat as much as it pans me to do so. And with US High Speed Rail you should be agreeing with the democrats and pushing that be as cost effective and as efficiently run as America deserves instead of throwing it in the trash as another dunderheaded socialist democrat idea.

    5. Pat Lynch says:

      There is one aspect of this that is true. $8 billion is not much money and America is a long way from having true European HSR. Nonetheless, improving conventional rail to 115 mph standards will connect many cities with modern efficient transportation. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has professional studies. This is Eisenhower style infrastructure improvement. Conservatives should approve – as many do.

      You can read more on the Trains for America blog.


    6. Jeffrey Kampfert Oa says:

      Liberal Democrats love trains because Europe loves trains. Liberals have been trying to separate Americans from their cars for over 50 years. Cars mean a small form of freedom, if a taxpayer doesn't like it in a specific state, he can move to another state. Without those cars, we're stuck.

    7. Mike Wilson says:

      America is so corrupted. Crooked politician doesn't do anything good for the American people. They are there to protect the interest of big corporation.

      With the high speed train system, a lot of people in California will leave their cars at home and that will cut the profit of big oil and car corporation. In the 60s we pulled out the train track so big oil corporation can increase their profit.

      Now greedy corporation is trying to prevent a high speed rail system that could help improve the lives of millions of American.

      Have any of those opposing to high speed rail system ever get out of the U.S and see how others people travel in Europe or Japan?

    8. Steve S. California says:

      Anyone who has spent time in Europe with his eyes open would know that the flagship intercity express (IC Zug) is NOT what really adds value to their transportation system. It's the ability to support the commuters needs regardless of origin or destination points is what makes the european rail system which is really everything in between high speed rail and buses and street cars (light rail). reduced rates for weekly and monthly tickets increase ridership, and it's just damn convenient. This is the flaw with our high speed rail obsession, lack of understanding that it is a multilayer efficient system which we need. It doesn't matter what party it comes from, it won't be worth a tinker's damn until we have people with proper motivation who can think steering the boat, so to speak. One may not have to be a daily user of the euro system for six years to do that, but one needs to look beyond the glitzy showboat. BTW, passing Porsches on the Autobahn without a ripple in your glass of wine IS a hoot!

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