Shocker: Pork boondoggle costlier, less useful than first presumed

posted at 3:05 pm on December 15, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The Mercury News reports on one of Barack Obama’s big transportation priorities, the high-speed rail projects that Obama and Congress inserted into Porkulus as part of their vision for a new America.  When Obama announced his push for trains, he offered a vision where people could step onto a train in one city and get whisked to another  without “racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes.”  Another thing we can go without?  Any savings on cost:

Those hoping to ride the state’s high-speed train next decade will have to dig much deeper into their wallets than officials originally thought, a harsh reality that will chase away millions of passengers, according to an updated business plan released Monday.

The average ticket on the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles is now estimated to cost about $105, or 83 percent of comparable airfare. Last year, the state said prices would be set at 50 percent of comparable airfare and predicted a ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost $55.

As a result of the higher fares, state officials now think the service will attract 41 million annual riders by 2035, down from last year’s prediction of 55 million passengers by 2030.

Finally, the cost of the project — recently pegged at $33.6 billion in 2008 dollars — is now estimated at $42.6 billion in time-of-construction dollars.

Unfortunately for California voters, the state only offered the most optimistic projections when asking for approval on $10 billion in bond issues to pay for the project.  Now that the more realistic numbers — for now — are known, Californians can be forgiven for their buyers’ remorse.

Of course, they should be asking themselves why they bought the idea in the first place.  Air travel between the two destinations is both plentiful and inexpensive, and gets people to their destination much more quickly.  Furthermore, if demand increases, airlines can expand their existing services or new airlines could form to service it.  Neither of these would require the billions in infrastructure spending that high-speed rail requires.

As for the promise of no-hassle travel, only a person who has never experienced rail or bus travel for themselves would have refrained from laughing at that selling point.  The security issues that face airports will still have to be addressed by rail stations; after all, al-Qaeda has bombed more rail stations than they have hijacked airplanes, such as in London, Madrid, and other countries, and plotted to do the same to New York City’s subways in at least one plot.  Even apart from that, a terminal is a terminal no matter how one travels.

At least travelers won’t have to worry about overcrowded trains, according to this analysis.  However, taxpayers will have yet another form of public transportation to subsidize for decades.


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Let me put on my surprised look! :0

DuctTapeMyBrain on December 15, 2009 at 3:07 PM

We’re all thinking it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEZjzsnPhnw

pifactorial on December 15, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Whenever dealing with estimates given by politicians, take their figures and then add another 40-70%. That way, you will at least be in the ballpark as to how much said project is actually going to cost. How do these people tie their shoes, much less get elected to office?

search4truth on December 15, 2009 at 3:08 PM

EEH GADS! Really?

jbh45 on December 15, 2009 at 3:09 PM

Trains, soon to be covered by a worthless healthcare system, active jihadis living amongst us courtesy of the Ogabe administration; wow, I feel so European.

Bishop on December 15, 2009 at 3:10 PM

Trains, Planes and Automobiles!

Where is John Candy when we need him to act as the President?

upinak on December 15, 2009 at 3:10 PM

I voted no, jes’ sayin’.

Bob's Kid on December 15, 2009 at 3:11 PM

We are going to need that high speed train from O’Hare to the new Gitmo prison. And how about high speed air boats for the Mississippi? Or better yet, how about a nice new canal off the Mississippi right to the prison?

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:11 PM

As much as I like public transportation, trains don’t make a tremendous amount of sense anywhere beyond the East Coast, where urban areas are close together, densely packed and served by extensive public transport networks once you arrive. A high speed line running from DC to Boston would make a lot of sense (though the expense probably wouldn’t allow for it). A line from San Francisco to LA seems a bit absurd.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:11 PM

Oh man don’t give them ideas!

upinak on December 15, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Actualy, the security concerns for trains are LARGER than for Aircraft.

For Aircraft you pretty much either have to have a Ground to Air Missle, or attack it at the airport…

Train? attack can be against the TRACK, and done with standard or improvised explosives.

Or, heck… just drive a dump truck into a High speed train at any train crossing…

Romeo13 on December 15, 2009 at 3:14 PM

Just remember, according to Statists like crr6, it’s much more important that the government waste money on pork than letting taxpayers – you know, the people who produced and earned this money – buy unimportant things like food and clothes.

Juno77 on December 15, 2009 at 3:15 PM

It seems like every day, when I turn on the news, or fire up the ol computer, to get myself informed, I feel like I’m standing in front of that train, getting mowed over on a daily basis, by a government that’s better suited to run the old USSR than the United States of America.

capejasmine on December 15, 2009 at 3:17 PM

Before we hit 500 comments, I want to point out that private railways work and turn a profit. Much of the problem with passenger railways in the US is that Amtrak’s existence makes the passenger railway market the most socialized in the US.

Get rid of Amtrak and allow real competition and railways will be profitable again.

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:18 PM

Whenever dealing with estimates given by politicians, take their figures and then add another 140-270%.

search4truth on December 15, 2009 at 3:08 PM

FIFY. Don’t go light on politicians and thier lack of knowledge of economic realities.

Phil-351 on December 15, 2009 at 3:18 PM

As much as I like public transportation, trains don’t make a tremendous amount of sense anywhere beyond the East Coast, where urban areas are close together, densely packed and served by extensive public transport networks once you arrive. A high speed line running from DC to Boston would make a lot of sense (though the expense probably wouldn’t allow for it). A line from San Francisco to LA seems a bit absurd.
Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:12 PM

If it made economic sense, private industry would have already done it. Instead we have National Socialists wasting money on these boondoggles.

What gives them the superior knowledge to know where this money should be spent?

Juno77 on December 15, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Shut up and sit down everyone. Barry is back on the boob tube lying about healthcare again.

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:20 PM

I did appreciate the ease of rail travel in Europe. It’s too bad we can’t have something like that for the airlines. I understand the need for security, it’s just unfortunate.

Of course, even rail travel in America is not as easy as rail travel in Europe. It’s more formal, and the trains are less likely to be on time. But I don’t think trains need the pre-boarding security of planes. Trains travel through miles of easily accessible countryside – there would be no need for an individual who wanted to cause harm to ever board the train.

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

High Speed illegal alien railways, since San Fran and LA are both a sanctuary cities. Now you can evade US law even faster.

Oil Can on December 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

BTW, we have now been surpassed in passenger railway technology by the Italians. The same people who throw mini-Duomos at their prime minister.

Fares on Italy’s newly completed HSR are comparable or slightly less then typical airfares over here. Let’s see how the transportation market looks in a couple of years.

Of course, the train is competing against Alitalia, which may be an unfair advantage.

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Shut up and sit down everyone. Barry is back on the boob tube lying about healthcare again.

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:20 PM

I turned on my radio to listen to Rush and the first thing I heard was “let me be clear”. I immediately turned off the radio and doused my ears with cleanser.

txag92 on December 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Once again public transportation could be cheaper per rider if we just bought them all Ferraris to drive.

jukin on December 15, 2009 at 3:23 PM

Don’t worry, if the high speed rail is not built, there will still an individual mandate to take the train.

pedestrian on December 15, 2009 at 3:24 PM

Trains travel through miles of easily accessible countryside – there would be no need for an individual who wanted to cause harm to ever board the train.

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

The Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan is situated either on viaducts or behind barbed wire fences (I don’t know what sensors these fences may or may not have). That doesn’t mean they’re completely safe from determined terrorists, but it does make for a more difficult target.

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:25 PM

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Have you traveled by rail in Italy? If so, I’m going there this summer. How long to get from Rome to Venice on the train? I know it’s about 40 Euro’s.

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

If it made economic sense, private industry would have already done it. Instead we have National Socialists wasting money on these boondoggles.

What gives them the superior knowledge to know where this money should be spent?

Juno77 on December 15, 2009 at 3:20 PM

To some extent I agree. Amtrak loses money because politics makes it impossible to end rail service to uneconomic cities — no one in their right mind would take a train from Washington to Chicago. But, were it even conceivable to run an economically viable Washington-Boston line the congestion on the East Coast and the need to acquire rights-of-way might demand federal involvement.

The French high speed lines, btw, are government run and profitable. And a pleasure to ride.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Don’t worry, the California Air Resources Board will make cars illegal and then everyone will be riding the trains. Problem solved.

Mark1971 on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

I guess they’ll be needing to build rail into D.C. now…the city council just passed same-sex marriage…

DCJeff on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

I like high speed rail! I think high speed rail is a good idea.

ThackerAgency on December 15, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Why is it that California always seems to (as they say in Indian Jones) “choose badly” ?

It more than the “land of fruits and nuts” it includes a trainload of idiots as well.

J_Crater on December 15, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Don’t worry, the California Air Resources Board will make cars illegal and then everyone will be riding their trainsbikes. Problem solved.

Mark1971 on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

ftfy

upinak on December 15, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Have you traveled by rail in Italy? If so, I’m going there this summer. How long to get from Rome to Venice on the train? I know it’s about 40 Euro’s.

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM


Trenitalia

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

no one in their right mind would take a train from Washington to Chicago.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

I’ve been officially declared out of my right mind. Alas.

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Have you traveled by rail in Italy? If so, I’m going there this summer. How long to get from Rome to Venice on the train? I know it’s about 40 Euro’s.

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

That depends on how fast you want to get there.

The HSR “Eurostar AVI” trains are very quick now that the entire HSR corridor is complete from Naples to Turin, but they’re pricey: 73 Euros for a 3.5 hour trip.

The slower Intercity (IC) trains take about 6 hours and will set you back 40 Euros. The seats are actually more comfortable on these trains (six-passenger compartments, usually), though they tend to get really crowded on weekends.

More info here:

http://www.ferroviedellostato.it/homepage_en.html

Hope this helps!

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:33 PM

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:25 PM

But we could not do that here in America… as I’m sure it would stop some bunny rabbits mating range or somthing…

Romeo13 on December 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

The French high speed lines, btw, are government run and profitable. And a pleasure to ride.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

American government employees are nowhere near as competent as French government employees, so it’s a moot point.

venividivici on December 15, 2009 at 3:35 PM

But liberals don’t care. About how costly it is or its lack of usefulness. They love their money holes.

lorien1973 on December 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

A few years ago I had folks on a project coming in on the Acela from NY and they timed the travel time for train vs air from NY to DC. Total travel time, which includes ground transport in the DC metro area. Almost dead even on time… they liked the train for comfort but that was about it, and if you didn’t pay the premium for the Acela you got the run of the mill stops. That took longer.

There are limited markets for passenger service where trains make sense, like Boston to Philly. DC to Chicago is a horror by train and even with an Acela level of capability you wouldn’t get there any faster by train… unless you laid special track for a really high speed train and those cost like you wouldn’t believe. President Obama has dreams of fast and efficient rail service, just like the 1920′s. Too bad the economy shifted from that basis for a reason…

ajacksonian on December 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

I also voted against this. I vote against anything that costs money.

Rose on December 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Passenger rail outside of the northeast corridor is nonviable not just because of the distances, but because passenger trains have to abide by the same rules as the freight trains, which means on single-track lines they have to stop at sidings periodically to allow freight trains to pass in the other direction. Not a big deal when one freight is passing another; incredibly annoying if you’re a passenger stuck on the train with no idea when it’s going to start moving again.

BNSF’s double-tracking of its main line to/from Los Angeles might help that problem going east-west, but the high-speed rail backers want their own dedicated north-south passenger line trackage. Given California’s budget situation and its real estate prices to buy the land for the tracks, that’s prohibitively expensive.

jon1979 on December 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

But, were it even conceivable to run an economically viable Washington-Boston line the congestion on the East Coast and the need to acquire rights-of-way might demand federal involvement.
The French high speed lines, btw, are government run and profitable. And a pleasure to ride.
Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Of course, that type of endeavor would require Federal involvement to acquire the right-of-way, but that should be the extend of that.

It should be private industry that builds and runs this type of project – for OMG, a Profit!

My point is that private individuals are better suited to decide such things instead of bureaucrats that are motivated by political payback and other such matters than whether a project is economically feasible.

Juno77 on December 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

The French high speed lines, btw, are government run and profitable. And a pleasure to ride.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

And powered by French nuke plants! :P

I don’t have a problem with this, BTW.

Keep in mind that SNCF is allowed to invest in other companies, which the hamstrung Amtrak is unable to do. Japanese railways make huge profits by owning businesses and attractions to which their railways operate (such as department stores, convenience stores, restaurants, and even baseball teams). Once Amtrak is either done away with or forced to compete, maybe we can have real passenger rail progress in the US.

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:41 PM

I’m listening in on a Michele Bachman phone-townhall and there is a lot of anger and pessimism out there. People are convinced that the HC debacle will pass and that we are about to get effed.

Bishop on December 15, 2009 at 3:44 PM

no one in their right mind would take a train from Washington to Chicago.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

I’ve been officially declared out of my right mind. Alas.

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Are you a train buff? Just for fun I played on line for a second and found a round trip on Amtrak for $262 (cheaper than I thought, given the cost of going to New York) that takes 17 hours each way, versus $180 on United, which takes about an hour-and-a-half each way.

American government employees are nowhere near as competent as French government employees, so it’s a moot point.

venividivici on December 15, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Indeed, for many of France’s best and brightest, a career in civil service is a first choice.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:45 PM

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Hope this helps!

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:33 PM

Thanks to both of you! And yes it does help. All I need to do is leave Rome and get to Venice by 2:00 pm to board my ship to the Greek Islands.

Knucklehead on December 15, 2009 at 3:45 PM

President Obama has dreams of fast and efficient rail service, just like the 1920’s. Too bad the economy shifted from that basis for a reason…

ajacksonian on December 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

If you think about it, all of Leftism is like that. When human society first arose, “government”, in the form of kings and nobles, controlled everything. Eventually, the “common man” rose up and said that enough was enough (the invention of cheap weaponry helped) and freedom from government was attained. Now, the Left wants to revert back to the primitive state of society. Yet they call it “progress”. “Building a Bridge to 10,000 BC” should be their motto.

venividivici on December 15, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Why is any of this a shocker. We should just assume that everything we here is at least 10 times worse than we are initially told. I’m not shocked by anything…except that by the fact that anyone is still believing in this Congress and this President.

MainelyRight on December 15, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Air travel between the two destinations is both plentiful and inexpensive, and gets people to their destination much more quickly

While this is true, it does not note that travel by train is vastly better than air.. they run on time, they do not lose your luggage, the seats are large, there is almost always food, one can walk about, no one is strip searched before getting on, the hell that is TSA does not destroy the trip.

There is no choice between flying and train…only flying treats the passengers like cattle and only flying is worse today than it was 20 years ago.

JIMV on December 15, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Passenger rail outside of the northeast corridor is nonviable not just because of the distances, but because passenger trains have to abide by the same rules as the freight trains, which means on single-track lines they have to stop at sidings periodically to allow freight trains to pass in the other direction. Not a big deal when one freight is passing another; incredibly annoying if you’re a passenger stuck on the train with no idea when it’s going to start moving again.

BNSF’s double-tracking of its main line to/from Los Angeles might help that problem going east-west, but the high-speed rail backers want their own dedicated north-south passenger line trackage. Given California’s budget situation and its real estate prices to buy the land for the tracks, that’s prohibitively expensive.

jon1979 on December 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

HSR needs to succeed in connecting two major cities before people will see its value. Nobody wants a transcontinental HSR when a 767 will do the trip in 5 hours, but Seattle-Portland, DC-NYC, LA – SF? These make sense.

But then, I don’t have to handle the lawsuits.

Speaking of lawyering, when Japan was building extensions to the bullet train lines, people would intentionally build houses on the planned route so they’d get paid off to move. You could expect that here – hell, you could expect a reality show about it.

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 3:47 PM

My point is that private individuals are better suited to decide such things instead of bureaucrats that are motivated by political payback and other such matters than whether a project is economically feasible.

Juno77 on December 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Even worse, this is economics by ballot initiative.

An interesting phenom here in DC is the proliferation of bus service up and down the East Coast (I have a son who was in college near Boston and is now in Philly, so I’m learning a lot about this). When I was young and broke, bus travel wasn’t particularly cheap or particularly pleasant. The came the “Chinatown Bus,” a barely legal transport that ran at odd hours suited to restaurant workers; and then the “Jew bus” that did a lot of business around the Sabbath and hit different neighborhoods. Now there are six or eight services offering wi-fi, movies, non-smelly coaches and reasonable schedules, for a third or less of a train ride.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:50 PM

Are you a train buff? Just for fun I played on line for a second and found a round trip on Amtrak for $262 (cheaper than I thought, given the cost of going to New York) that takes 17 hours each way, versus $180 on United, which takes about an hour-and-a-half each way.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 3:45 PM

I can’t remember what we paid, but I remember that train and plane were about the same price when we booked. (We actually did DC to St. Louis, via Chicago.) We were in no hurry, and figured we would see more interesting things by train.

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:52 PM

I also voted against this. I vote against anything that costs money.

Rose on December 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Me too, but as I recall, the ballot description did a good job of hiding the costs associated with issuing the bonds. Most California voters apparently don’t understand that money borrowed for these ridiculous projects must be paid back, with interest.

LASue on December 15, 2009 at 4:07 PM

I can’t remember what we paid, but I remember that train and plane were about the same price when we booked. (We actually did DC to St. Louis, via Chicago.) We were in no hurry, and figured we would see more interesting things by train.

kc8ukw on December 15, 2009 at 3:52 PM

All right, I was hasty in my characterization. People in their right mind do indeed take the train from Wahington to Chicago.

I had a friend who took the train from Washington to California with his aging father. All I could think of was that long stretch from Chicago to Denver…a hundred thousand cornfields going by.

Bleeds Blue on December 15, 2009 at 4:07 PM

Furthermore, if demand increases, airlines can expand their existing services or new airlines could form to service it. Neither of these would require the billions in infrastructure spending that high-speed rail requires.

Sorry, Ed. Airports in Cali are maxed out due to a.) NIMBYS b.) No money. All of CAs airports are smack in the middle of dense urban areas. Any increase in airline flights have to go through the gauntlet of public hearings and environmental reviews in California. Airlines also have been essentially bankrupt since 9/11. There is no will and money to make flying a better experience much less make it profitable. Californians are faced with two money-losing choices: HSR or Airport expansions. Only one option has a $10 billion public backing. You run with what you got.

Apologetic California on December 15, 2009 at 4:15 PM

The security issues that face airports will still have to be addressed by rail stations

ESPECIALLY the rail stations along this line. For years after it’s opening it will be a high value target for the normal reasons plus because of it’s newness.

Security for this line will have to be just as intense as airline security.

IF it’s not, look out.

Jason Coleman on December 15, 2009 at 4:21 PM

A service only Rex Rexroth could love.

MTF on December 15, 2009 at 4:24 PM

“Airports in Cali are maxed out due”

Plenty of airports in California have empty slots and local flights with empty seats.

A better use of the money would have been to market these existing options instead of continuing to funnel passengers into LAX and SFO.

Trains are not the future, despite high speed rail; we’re not all that far away from another revolution in VSTOL technology which will relegate rails to their rightful place, hauling cargo.

Jason Coleman on December 15, 2009 at 4:26 PM

83 percent of comparable airfare

…for those who’ve never heard of Southwest.

calbear on December 15, 2009 at 4:26 PM

Passenger rail outside of the northeast corridor is nonviable not just because of the distances, but because passenger trains have to abide by the same rules as the freight trains, which means on single-track lines they have to stop at sidings periodically to allow freight trains to pass in the other direction. Not a big deal when one freight is passing another; incredibly annoying if you’re a passenger stuck on the train with no idea when it’s going to start moving again.

jon1979 on December 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Besides the Northeast, California and Texas could benefit from HSR. They will NOT be profitable, which really isn’t a goal. France and Spain are Europe’s largest countries but its least densest. What makes HSR ‘work’ there is because of the perfect distances between its large cities. I’ve ridden HSR in Europe twice, one was Spain’s AVE. It cut the driving distance between Madrid and Barcelona by half. The distance between the two is the same as the distance between SF and LA.

The HSR in California will NOT share R.o.W with freight trains, that’s what makes it very expensive. It’s 800 miles of brand-spanking new rail and stations.

Apologetic California on December 15, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Reminds me of the Austin rapid transit debacle.

Fletch54 on December 15, 2009 at 4:39 PM

And here’s another one from my area. They’ve been flogging this dead horse and throwing money at it for about 25 years.

Two appropriations totaling $1.97 million for the Northwest New Jersey-Northeast Pennsylvania passenger rail project, aimed at restoring passenger links between Scranton, Monroe County and metropolitan New York.

Jeff on December 15, 2009 at 4:40 PM

Democrats, too dumb to understand that planes don’t need rails, and that all of that track has a cost.

JeffB. on December 15, 2009 at 4:40 PM

However, taxpayers will have yet another form of public transportation to subsidize for decades ever.

BananaSlug on December 15, 2009 at 4:48 PM

Well the REALLY good news is that once enough inefficient, over-priced, inconvenient public transportation is in place, our overseers can yank away our cars.

Cars, you see, give people an incredible amount of freedom and control over their transportation and lives.

And our masters don’t want THAT.

notagool on December 15, 2009 at 4:48 PM

Well the REALLY good news is that once enough inefficient, over-priced, inconvenient public transportation is in place, our overseers can yank away our cars.

Cars, you see, give people an incredible amount of freedom and control over their transportation and lives.

And our masters don’t want THAT.

notagool on December 15, 2009 at 4:48 PM

Who, besides extremist Gaia-worshipers, is talking about taking away your automobile? Can you name a single member of Congress?

Look, I distrust government as much as the next guy, but I’m goddam tired of people whining about statists confiscating their motor vehicle everytime someone talks about building railroad tracks.

Unless you are willing to distiguish between government-run and privately-funded rail transport, you’re really not helping.

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 5:01 PM

…for those who’ve never heard of Southwest.

calbear on December 15, 2009 at 4:26 PM

I can haz ur fuel hedges expirationz?

fiatboomer on December 15, 2009 at 5:03 PM

These debates make me wonder what course the nation would have taken if we’d concentrated on good railroads instead of designing an infrastructure with a reliance on cheap gas and a population of drivers.

Dark-Star on December 15, 2009 at 5:12 PM

Not a liberal troll here, but I strongly disagree with Ed’s assertion that taking a train would be as much a hassle as a plane for security reason. I’m living in Europe presently and take the train by time to time. I have to say, it’s completely hassle-free. There’s simply no reason for a terrorist to strike a train as a suicide bomber. If he happens to choose the route of martyrdom, he could kill more people probably by stepping onto a crowded tram. More easily and at the same time terrifying too. If not, an attack on the tracks would prove more effective. A small explosive anywhere along the route–or, heck, simply a car parked at a crossing point–could derail the train, producing hundreds of casualties, as the recent involving the Nevsky Ekspres demonstrates.

It would simply make no sense for terrorists to challenge access points when security can be concentrated–as in a train station–when there’re literally miles of unmonitored vulnerabilities they could exploit. While our political opponents are stupid, we shouldn’t assume that our enemies who want us dead are likewise. Seriously, think and get real.

year_of_the_dingo on December 15, 2009 at 5:21 PM

There’s simply no reason for a terrorist to strike a train as a suicide bomber.

Um. . . where have you been the last say. . . .um. . . decade?

Jason Coleman on December 15, 2009 at 5:35 PM

Not a liberal troll here, but I strongly disagree with Ed’s assertion that taking a train would be as much a hassle as a plane for security reason.

In Spain, I had to go through HSR security airport-style. However, this was on the Atoche station in Madrid, the site of the 2004 terrorist bombings. The ICE I took between Amsterdam and Paris didn’t have it, and no other station in Spain had it.

Apologetic California on December 15, 2009 at 5:38 PM

These debates make me wonder what course the nation would have taken if we’d concentrated on good railroads instead of designing an infrastructure with a reliance on cheap gas and a population of drivers.

Our standard of living would be less.
Our personal freedom would be less.
Our individual financial opportunities would be less.

We’d probably also have higher infection rates for communicable diseases.

Our entire economy would be slower, literally.

Jason Coleman on December 15, 2009 at 5:38 PM

In Spain, I had to go through HSR security airport-style

Okay, I shouldn’t have just said “Europe.” I travel around the area east of Berlin: Czech Republic, Germany, Poland. There’s absolutely no security at all. It just doesn’t make sense. At best, a bomber would only kill those in one wagon. He could do better at a McDonald or a busy kebab stand–or, as I said, on a tram or a rush-hour commuter train.

year_of_the_dingo on December 15, 2009 at 5:55 PM

Remember this people. Trains are completely unlike airplanes. For example:

- Trains don’t have terminals.
- Trains are never delayed.
- You don’t have to go to meet a train at a port. Trains come to you.
- You don’t have to race to catch a train. They wait and go when you are ready.
- They leave immediately after you board them and never sit on the tracks.
- They are immune from attacks and need no security.
- And your luggage can never get lost on a train.

President Obama says so.

Kohath on December 15, 2009 at 6:12 PM

WOW! Rail travel. You bet. And CHEAP! Yeah. Hey!, Let “SAVE” money and deregulate electricity! Oh, we did that already……….AND TOOK IT IN THE SHORTS.

Will the last sane person leaving Kalifornia please turn out the lights.

GarandFan on December 15, 2009 at 6:15 PM

What is this love of 18th Century technology (the Chattanuga Choo-Choo)?

Skipper50 on December 15, 2009 at 6:19 PM

Our standard of living would be less.
Our personal freedom would be less.
Our individual financial opportunities would be less.

Now, let’s clarify: are you talking about if we suddenly had to change over from the current system we have now? Because if so all of the above would certainly be true.

What I’d envisioned, though, was if we’d intentionally designed for railroads in the first place. I

We’d probably also have higher infection rates for communicable diseases.

Not like anybody could get in their car, drive through a couple states to visit relatives, and unknowingly spread infection…right?

That Pandora’s Box stays open so long as mankind uses a method of travel faster than a horse. We’d have to go back to sailing ships for sea travel and eliminate trains, cars AND airplanes to close it. Not gonna happen

Our entire economy would be slower, literally.

Jason Coleman on December 15, 2009 at 5:38 PM

Would that necessarily be a bad thing? Again,

I bet good old American ingenuity would have been quite able to build an economy that didn’t depend on mass car-based transit. We could even have gone halfway – diesel engines for transporting goods and some long-distance transit, but without a reliance on a car in every garage.

Dark-Star on December 15, 2009 at 6:23 PM

Our standard of living would be less.
Our personal freedom would be less.
Our individual financial opportunities would be less.

We’d probably also have higher infection rates for communicable diseases.

Our entire economy would be slower, literally.

Jason Coleman on December 15, 2009 at 5:38 PM

:groan:

America was a trailblazer in railroads. It built the first transcontinental railroad, the first subways, and first passenger rails. Somehow we didn’t fall apart after that.

We’d probably also have higher infection rates for communicable diseases.

Are you serious? Planes travel at 550 mph, faster than trains.

Apologetic California on December 15, 2009 at 7:17 PM

Dees twains culd be ca-pad wit Bawny Fwanks Big Dig: $2.8bln in 1982 becomes $22bln incwuding intwest in 2008 dawaas.

Good wuck.

Robert17 on December 15, 2009 at 8:44 PM

Yes, we were a trailblazer in railroads. A hundred years ago when there weren’t more effective and efficient options.

Infection rates – I’m referring to the multiple daily packing of people into coaches. (Yes, planes do that too, but most wouldn’t be taking planes multiple times a day.) Cities with subways/light rail already experiences much higher transmission rates of communicable diseases.

Even if we “designed for railroads” we still wouldn’t have the flexibility and on-demand travel that the automobile delivers.

As for the speed of the economy, the faster the economy moves, the more rapid the rate of wealth creation, wealth translates into a higher standard of living, greater health within the population and a faster transition from poverty to non-poverty income levels for the majority of the population.

Passenger rail VERY rarely supports itself.

If you want to slow down the economy, limit your options, expose yourself to more diseases and be subject to someone else’s schedule rather than your own. FINE, go right ahead and utilize public transit, busses, light rail and the like all you want. Personally, I’d rather have the freedom to go where I want, when I want and do what I want.

Again, trains are not the future, and they shouldn’t be.

Heck, let’s go back to horse and buggy if you want to roll back.

I’d rather have flying cars.

One more point, if trains were “the way”, the market would have already taken care of it. The fact that the market abandoned trains for personal travel in most respects means that it’s not what we should be forcing on society.

America was a trailblazer in railroads. It built the first transcontinental railroad, the first subways, and first passenger rails. Somehow we didn’t fall apart after that.

You’re right, we didn’t fall apart, we graduated.

Leave rail in it’s proper place, long-hauling cargo.

Jason Coleman on December 15, 2009 at 9:05 PM

America was a trailblazer in railroads. It built the… first subways,

Nope. England did.

RufusW on December 15, 2009 at 9:12 PM

I thought I would never see the amount of misinformation in the commenters from all the railraod haters. I realise all you big city corridor people love to ridicult your local commuter transportation systems. We all do that to the familar. However, the railroad passenger services were profitable until the railroads got saddled woht the pensions of the steam powered retirees. When Amtrack was created, many railroads hapily gave up passenger service, many wanted to keep their passenger service, but couldnt. Amtrack tried to use railroad route brands such as El Capitan, Broadway Limited, etc., but the reailroads that had operated those brands with pride would have none of it.

When Amtrac was formed, they had to tqake all the retiree debits onto their books. There was no way they could make a profit untire the alst reitree was dead. Dopes this sound familar, geniuses? When tis happened, many profitable routes were idscarded because they had to ust the available money to service the big city corridors, which would be better served by aircraft. However, the slow, profitable, trains did serve East Overshoe Kentucky, Bug Tussle, Oklahoma, and all the other towns that only had rail public transportation. They don’t have access to public transportation anymore, but you big city folke do. Of course, the taxes from Bug Tussle have gone to support the Boston-NYC-DC high speed train.

Maybe we should get back to passenger service as a national infrastructure. An airline does not make a profit for 5 years, but a railroad must make a profit every day. We spend millions (billions?) of dollars on servicing the airways. Why can’t we reinstitute and spend a bit on the “milk” runs. People in the small towns will use them. What the hell is important about more trains in the big city corridors in the national infrastructure? Oh, I forgot, congressmen and vice presidents ride them trains.

Old Country Boy on December 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Rail is nothing more than a government giveaway to the unions, for construction, and then for operation. Why do Liberals love rail so much? That’s the reason. Giveaways to their supporters.

Dandapani on December 16, 2009 at 6:16 AM

Hey what happened to that train they were going to put between Las Vegas and LA?… Next Phoenix–LA. Come on people let’s step up the spending here! We aren’t bankrupt quite yet!

I’m being a lib today. I thought it would add a bit of Christmas cheer to my life… feeling goofy I guess!

petunia on December 16, 2009 at 7:23 AM

America was a trailblazer in railroads. It built the… first subways,
Nope. England did.

RufusW on December 15, 2009 at 9:12 PM

Same diff! :) Okay now I’m annoying myself.

petunia on December 16, 2009 at 7:24 AM

The article is correct. Why place your money into something that does not exist yet and historically is subsidized by Government, thus providing a fare that is artificial. Also, is this train only going from point A to B without stops in between?

If so then the cities/regions airports will still prosper, because the aviation system of Air Carriers + Air Traffic Control + Airports = Public Service.

The public may not fully understand the Aviation Industry but the system is mandated by law to be self sustaining and does not take any subsidies. Air Carriers are private companies, and Airports are similar to a Mall with runways, and taxes from tickets pay for the ATC system.

In contrast, the rest of the world try to copy U.S., but they loose $$$ hand over fist because every element is operated and controlled by the government via subsidies.

The railway system could have offered a viable alternative to air travel, but it was left to disrepair when aviation took off, and the inter-state highway system allowed the public the option to drive where they were going to at higher speeds and greater safety. But, rail was not able to connect the same cities the public wanted to go to, so it transformed into a shipper that gave business a means to move large amounts of large equipment quickly and economically.

MSGTAS on December 16, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Will the last sane person leaving Kalifornia please turn out the lights.

GarandFan on December 15, 2009 at 6:15 PM

They’ll be out way before you leave…

Amendment X on December 16, 2009 at 10:57 AM

But liberals don’t care. About how costly it is or its lack of usefulness. They love their money holes.

lorien1973 on December 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Why would they care? It’s not like they’re spending thier own money after all.

runawayyyy on December 16, 2009 at 2:23 PM