Video: Supertrain 2010

posted at 3:35 pm on March 4, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Many readers probably won’t recall one of the unintentionally silliest television series in American history, Supertrain, which only aired in 1979.  Think of it as The Love Boat without the exotic locations, the beautiful sea shots, and bikinis, and with less wit in its writing, and you’ll get an idea of why its run was more limited than the Skunk Railroad in Willits, California.  In an age of airplane and cruise travel, trains on fixed rails don’t exactly excite the imagination any longer, but if the Obama administration gets its way, we’ll be back to Supertrain 2010, as Reason TV explains:

Why are the administration’s plans to throw tens of billions into high-speed rail so unrealistic?  Nick Gillespie explodes the fantasy:

1. The lowball costs. CNN estimates that delivering on the plan could cost well over $500 billion and take decades to build, all while failing to cover much of the country at all. Internationally, only two high-speed rail lines have recouped their capital costs and all depend on huge subsidies to stay in operation.

2. The supposed benefits. “We’re gonna be taking cars off of congested highways and reducing carbon emissions,” says Vice President Joe Biden, an ardent rail booster. But most traffic jams are urban, not inter-city, so high-speed rail between metro areas will have no effect on your daily commute. And when construction costs are factored in, high-speed rail “may yield only marginal net greenhouse gas reductions,” say UC-Berkeley researchers.

3. The delusional Amtrak example. Obama and Biden look to Amtrak as precedent, but since its founding in 1971, the nation’s passenger rail system has sucked up almost $35 billion in subsidies and, says The Washington Post’s Robert J. Samuelson, “a typical trip is subsidized by about $50.” About 140 million Americans shlep to work every day, while Amtrak carries just 78,000 passengers. There’s no reason to think that high-speed rail will pump up those numbers, though there’s every reason to believe its costs will grow and grow.

Not too many people live in Chicago while working in Minneapolis, or the other way around.  The trains won’t affect normal commuting patterns at all.  The reason Biden takes the train every day to travel 250 miles to work is that the train is subsidized by the government.  Biden didn’t have to pay the actual cost of the transportation.  Otherwise, he would have been just like every other Senator and commuted back and forth every week or two while maintaining a residence in DC.  Incidentally, that may have been a better choice for energy consumption, too.

For the rest of the country where urban centers don’t have nearly the concentration seen in the mid-Atlantic region, the notion that a high-speed train will allow me to commute regularly from the Twin Cities to a job in Chicago is absurd.  Even at high speed, that would take several hours each way.  The only way that would work would be if I bought a condo on the train and lived my life on it.  As for any other kind of travel, the trains would travel at a top speed of about 150 MPH, while commercial airline service would travel about three times as fast.  A trip from Minneapolis to the West Coast would take a full day, where I could just book a flight and get there in about four hours now.

Supertrains are toys for statist politicians and delusional television executives, and equally unrealistic for both.


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You know what’s great about liberals?

Whatever the “problem”…the “solution” is more government.

Case in point.

The obesity epidemic’s impact on the economy has been an argument used by left-leaning groups and pundits that advocate stricter regulations from the government for the past several years

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
The dream’s in sight
You’ve got to admit it
At this point in time it’s clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we’ll be A.O.K.

What a glorious world this willl be
What a glorious time to be free

Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there’s time
The fix is in
You’ll be a whiteness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we’ve got to win
Here at home we’ll play
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There’ll be spandex jackets one for everyone

What a glorious world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(more leisure for artist everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We’ll be clean when their work is done
We’ll be eternally free yes and eternally young

What a glorious world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Akzed on March 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM

But Ed, those are UNION jobs being saved or created!

FloridaBill on March 4, 2010 at 3:45 PM

During the campaign to push the trains, they said a ticket would cost around $60 for one way between LA and San Francisco. Those estimates have now doubled. And as the video mentioned, so have the total project cost estimates.

El_Terrible on March 4, 2010 at 3:47 PM

They’ll spend BILLIONS on this and on some sort of “Health Care Bill”….oops, I mean “invest”, and it will be a mess and complete failure.

And then you know what? They’ll say it was a success and that skeptics are just greedy corporations and uninformed citizens.

“these are not the droids you’re looking for”

Opposite Day on March 4, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Another glorious boondoggle idea,in La La Liberal Land!!

canopfor on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM

What this country needs is decentralization. The fewer ways for you southern and western rabble to get into my beloved New York the better! ;-)

ernesto on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Ironically, a couple months ago I read about how environmentalists were being such a pain in the butt about the trains. They don’t want construction of the train to destroy the environment, and libs don’t want the train to wreck their neighborhoods.

El_Terrible on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Yeah, but chicks dig trains, Ed.

You sure Billy Jeff doesn’t have something to do with this?

DrW on March 4, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Hallowed is our glorious leader who will harness the wildness of labor, the genius of our elite, and blessed with his divine insight will create in the United States and industry unmatched in modern history; the white elephant industry.

Our dear leader will, with great effort and expense, build for us a super train the glory of which will be unmatched since the times of the ancient wonders.

Unleashing the inventiveness and adaptability of our well educated masses, generations will marvel at the speed at which this Great White Elephant will transform the country. Efficiencies un matched will relocate masses of labor to where their labor is needed. Unemployment will drop to zero, as everyone will have an assigned duty to preform within the Great White Elephant industry.

Prosperity will once again bless the masses under the enlightened leadership of our dear President. The United States will once again be the leader of the world.

Hail, dear President.

Skandia Recluse on March 4, 2010 at 3:50 PM

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Leftists aren’t actually interested in solving problems, They just want to empower themselves.

Chip on March 4, 2010 at 3:50 PM

The way the train tracks work never made much sense to me. My dad always pointed out how much money would be made if there was a bullet train that went from Mobile to Biloxi to New Orleans and back. Those are normal trips that people make all the time, but no train works that way.
Sad too, because it would make it much easier for me to visit my folks and vice versa =(
Oh well . . .

Ingenue on March 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM

ernesto on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Yes, the reverse is also true. :P

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 3:52 PM

The only train I would like to see would be from Southern California to Las Vegas… they tried a few years ago and it was shot down by CA politicians IIRC.

El_Terrible on March 4, 2010 at 3:52 PM

Sad too, because it would make it much easier for me to visit my folks and vice versa =(
Oh well . . .

Ingenue on March 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM

and it sure would make my commute from Hooterville to Pixley a might faster, too. dang Cannonball is always a-breakin down.

-Uncle Joe – Shady Rest Hotel

DrW on March 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Biden didn’t have to pay the actual cost of the transportation.

The question is what would be the cost of his drive to DC, factoring the lost work time, the added traffic congestion, and the military expense in the Middle East to secure the gasoline? If GDP can be increased by taking people out from behind the driver’s wheel and wired-to-the-office while on a train, it is worth a government subsidy. VP’s don’t add to GDP, so Biden himself wouldn’t count.

dedalus on March 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Is our stupid governor for the Florida addition of this because I know my goofy representative is? And he seems normal enough (excluding bad toupee) and usually votes the correct way.

Cindy Munford on March 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM

It takes extreme amounts of energy to get a train up a 1% grade, never mind cross mountains between LA and Las Vegas. So if you’re going to start moving a rail car that fast, you might as well put a wing on it and make it go up in the air for free…

Estimating from the numbers thrown around in news stories, it costs about the same amount of capital to build a 10,000 ft runway as it does to build 10 miles of high speed rail line… Making 98% of the rail infrastructure a total waste. So for the initial estimates for LA to Las Vegas, you could build a couple of new runways and buy 150+ 737′s for the same capital costs.

Barry and his minions want to buy the best 19th century transportation system that 21st century money can provide.

the Northeast Corridor works because it essentially is 5 commuter railroads tied together back-to-back… and because those rail lines were redundant to the nation’s freight rail system, and thus does not interfere with our 60 mph freight system

phreshone on March 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 3:52 PM

+ one trillion.

Cindy Munford on March 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Cindy Munford on March 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM

Of course he is. Florida politicians want it to give a buy off to CSX. They get more land, guaranteed donations from CSX to subsidize it. What’s not for them to like?

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM

These idiots want to build a train between Chicago and St. Louis too. What a fricken waste of money.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM

ernesto on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Don’t worry yourself about us getting there. More people are leaving than are entering.

mwdiver on March 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM

My dad always pointed out how much money would be made if there was a bullet train that went from Mobile to Biloxi to New Orleans and back. Those are normal trips that people make all the time, but no train works that way.

Ingenue on March 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM

And yet he never sought investors to capitalize on this gold mine.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM

The reason Biden takes the train every day to travel 250 miles to work is that the train is subsidized by the government.

Ed don’t forget, Union Station is about a block away from the Capitol too!

Lance Murdock on March 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Is CSX government subsidized? My experience with investigating train trips shows me that it is way cheaper and faster to fly.

Cindy Munford on March 4, 2010 at 3:59 PM

DrW on March 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Meh. ;-)

Ingenue on March 4, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Cindy Munford on March 4, 2010 at 3:59 PM

It’s not, but the rail would be. CSX is expecting reduced usage rates on the line to transport stuff from Tampa to Orlando. There was a story about it in the Orlando Sentinel a few weeks back.

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Another project, to get even more employees added to unions. *sigh*

capejasmine on March 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM

I rode a train from San Diego, CA to Boston, MA once. It took 4 days and I never had as much fun while traveling. I’ll never do it again though, I probably didn’t smell too good after spending that much time sitting in the bar car.

Cheaper than flying, less convenient and it takes longer but you get to meet some cool people.

If it was economical, the private sector would have already done it.

Mord on March 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM

lorien1973 on March 4, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Thanks, I’ll go look for it.

Cindy Munford on March 4, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Cheaper than flying, less convenient and it takes longer but you get to meet some cool people.

Mord on March 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM

NOt even cheaper in most cases. If you earn $40K/year you hae forgone $960 ($160/day * 6) in wages for the 6 extra days of travel round trip. Add the cost of the train ticket to $960 and I am sure you would find that the airline ticket was cheaper.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 4:11 PM

If it was economical, the private sector would have already done it.

Mord on March 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM

Back in the day, they had ‘Pullman Cars’ which had small private sleeping rooms… And rail travel was for the wealthy with full course meals on china plates(and the ultra wealthy had private cars). It was only economical because of it shared overhead costs with freight trains.

Now about anyone can afford to fly from SD to Boston in 6 hrs, and the wealthy have private planes instead of private rail cars.

phreshone on March 4, 2010 at 4:12 PM

These idiots want to build a train between Chicago and St. Louis too. What a fricken waste of money.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM

There already is one-the Lincoln Service.
My son lives with his dad near Springfield and he takes it up here when he visits us.
My son and I also take the same train to go visit the Brother-in-law and his family in St.L.
It’s not high-speed, but it serves its purpose.

annoyinglittletwerp on March 4, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Barack Obama announces high-speed rail plan for 10 busiest US routes

New trains could reach speeds of 100 miles per hour

President Barack Obama has asked for additional funds for rail

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/16/barack-obama-high-speed-rail

canopfor on March 4, 2010 at 4:13 PM

My brother and I rode the Skunk Train in the early 70′s from Willits to Eureka. I stopped counting the deer after 112 in the first two hours of a seven our ride. The train stopped somtimes where there was just a platform to pick up a mail bag hanging on a hook. The back country was right out of Deliverence at times. Today, I can drive the same distance in about 3 hrs without pushin’ it, and the old tracks from Willits to up here haven’t been used for years because of the lack of demand. Still, no one’s in a hurry like most folks in the east, but I miss that train.

Rovin on March 4, 2010 at 4:14 PM

The fewer ways for you southern and western rabble to get into my beloved New York the better! ;-)

ernesto on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM

You are more than welcome to your dirty, congested, stinky, crime blasted midden heap of a city.

I’ll stick to the west coast. :P

TheUnrepentantGeek on March 4, 2010 at 4:14 PM

annoyinglittletwerp on March 4, 2010 at 4:13 PM

And we have two highways and probably fairly inexpensive service between Midway and St. Louis. What a boondoggle!

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 4:16 PM

And we have two highways and probably fairly inexpensive service between Midway and St. Louis. What a boondoggle!

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 4:16 PM

We also have ‘MegaBus’ which- depending on when you buy your ticket can be as low as $11.50…round-trip.

annoyinglittletwerp on March 4, 2010 at 4:21 PM

“I’m excited. I’m gonna come back down here and ride it!”

For Obama, it’s just a $40 billion “E” ticket ride.

(Can you imagine if Bush had said something this juvenile?)

notropis on March 4, 2010 at 4:22 PM

These idiots want to build a train between Chicago and St. Louis too. What a fricken waste of money.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM

There used to be a half a dozen railroads who provided this service until the 60′s, but it couldn’t compete against the interstate. Most were losing the value equation in the 40′s before the Eisenhower Interstate system.

An Amtrak Acela set has a weight of about 3800 lbs/passenger seat, about the same as a large car with only a driver.

phreshone on March 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Why don’t they spend their efforts on a train to Dulles? I travel internationally frequently and have to drive up 95 from Richmond to Dulles. It’s usually a nightmare and can take 2 1/2 hours on a good day and double that on a bad day.

In the UK they have the Heathrow express that runs non-stop to Paddington Station in central London. It’s cheap (around $20), clean and fast. Around 25 minutes as compared to a $125 taxi down the M4.

BacaDog on March 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

TheUnrepentantGeek on March 4, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Safest big city in the nation :)

ernesto on March 4, 2010 at 4:24 PM

It’s still public transport, and that means that anyone can use it. They’ll just have less time to mug you.

OldEnglish on March 4, 2010 at 4:25 PM

BacaDog on March 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Those are the rail projects that are at least worth exploring… 20-100 mile routes in HIGH density regions

phreshone on March 4, 2010 at 4:27 PM

In the UK they have the Heathrow express that runs non-stop to Paddington Station in central London. It’s cheap (around $20), clean and fast. Around 25 minutes as compared to a $125 taxi down the M4.

BacaDog on March 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Good point, the links between major cities and airports in the US can be bad. NYC is a joke. Europe tends to be much easier.

dedalus on March 4, 2010 at 4:29 PM

He forgot two other major problems:

1. Lawyers. Every acre of right of way will go into litigation even if it is seized by eminent domain. So will noise complaints. Safety complaints. This is a make work project for attorneys.

2. Bureaucratic and political wrangling over where it will stop. Two many stops will convert this high-speed rail into something much slower than a car. Since we won’t have the money or the right of way to build multiple lines on the same route. There won’t be two trains like there are in Japan: a local and an express. Bureaucratic and political wrangling will make all of these trains locals.

If America is ever going to build high-speed rail, we will need a ban on any lawsuits, including environmental lawsuits, that affect the project. And that ain’t ever going to happen.

fleiter on March 4, 2010 at 4:31 PM

The only way that would work would be if I bought a condo on the train and lived my life on it

Please don’t give them any ideas Ed.

JusDreamin on March 4, 2010 at 4:40 PM

If America is ever going to build high-speed rail, we will need a ban on any lawsuits, including environmental lawsuits, that affect the project. And that ain’t ever going to happen.

fleiter on March 4, 2010 at 4:31 PM

So any environmental impact needs to be summarily dismissed for a project to get off the ground? Sounds like that should be a non-starter right there.

ernesto on March 4, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Case in point: Wisconsin’s “high speed rail” will reach a whopping 100 mph carring 6 people per car, per day, per trip, between Milwalukee and the Madison ariport… and take 2 hours… car is trip 90 minutes.

Friendly21 on March 4, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Monorail, monorail, monorail… A great Simpson’s episode. Don’t forget what happened in Shelbyville.

rhombus on March 4, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Just got this e-mail letter from Debbie Halverson (D) (IL-11):

Dear Mr. WashJeff:

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about high speed rail. Hearing from my constituents allows me to better serve the 11th District.

I have heard from many constituents who are frustrated with excessive government waste and spending. I agree with many of these concerns which is why I opposed the $700 billion bank bailout plan, voted to eliminate over 550 earmarks totaling more than $1 billion, and voted against raising the salaries of Members of Congress. Furthermore, I am a co-sponsor of the Pay-As-You-Go Act which was signed into the law by the President in February, 2010, because Congress must live within its means just like any American household.

However, I am a strong supporter of critical infrastructure projects, like high speed rail, which create new jobs and spur private investment. I was proud to support the construction of the high-speed rail line that will be built from Chicago to St. Louis. The over $1.2 billion dollars for the state of Illinois that I helped secure will create construction and engineering jobs throughout Illinois and will spur private investment by businesses especially in communities along the route, such as Joliet and Bloomington-Normal. Additionally, this investment will create more transportation competition and options for our communities throughout Illinois.

I appreciate your concern for our great nation and I will take your views under consideration as I continue to work on this important issue. Feel free to contact me again in the future regarding any matter of concern to you. Please visit my website, http://www.house.gov/halvorson, to sign up for my e-newsletter to stay informed on my work in Congress and the 11th District.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 4:47 PM

We also have ‘MegaBus’ which- depending on when you buy your ticket can be as low as $11.50…round-trip.

annoyinglittletwerp on March 4, 2010 at 4:21 PM

MegaBus is a better name than the Illini Swallow.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 4:49 PM

Trains make absolutely no sense in 97% of this country. It is beyond boondoggle. It is moronic.

daesleeper on March 4, 2010 at 4:54 PM

In case you have questions, Amtrack subsidizes an average of $32 per passenger.

But my favorite is:
Leading the list was the train traveling between New Orleans and Los Angeles — the Sunset Limited — which lost $462 per passenger. Taxpayers subsidize the losses to keep the passenger train service running.

barnone on March 4, 2010 at 4:58 PM

BacaDog on March 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Having a subway or light rail from any major airport into the heart of the biggest city nearby just makes sense (at least to anyone who has done business traveling).
I don’t think Sacramento has one set up, though.

Count to 10 on March 4, 2010 at 4:58 PM

I took the train to work for about six months here in the Seattle area. Let’s just say that when I drove, I’d leave the house at 6 to get to work by 8. Taking the train, I left the house at 4:30 to get to the office by 7:45.

I might be willing to do that to save money, but downtown parking cost about the same as my train ticket, and when you consider that Washington State taxpayers subsidize my ride with tax revenue, the gas costs are about a wash as well.

Now, let’s consider the intangibles. On the road, I get to listen to the radio, or enjoy the silence. On the train, there’s a lady named Marge who spends her trips doing ad hoc infomercials for weight loss surgery. “Why, I’ve lost over 150 pounds since they removed the last 30 feet of my large intestine. Why look, here it is in a jar! Anybody? Anybody?”

So let’s review. My commute time increases by over 50%, my costs stay the same, and I get to spend the trip contemplating whether it would hurt too much if I Van Goghed my ears off in a bid to save what’s left of my sanity.

Easy choice.

RationalIcthus on March 4, 2010 at 5:00 PM

I have to admit, I love traveling by train. It’s great to be able to get up and walk around during a long trip.

If there were still sleeper car service between LA and the Bay Area, I would take it even if it were more expensive than flying.

That said, don’t get me started on the idiocies of the LA Metro system.

Mary in LA on March 4, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Let’s see here. . .

Cancel the Rocket. . .

Build a Train. . .

I’m really starting to get pissed off.

Jason Coleman on March 4, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Uhmm Ed, not to be fussy or anything, but having grown in them thar neck of the redwoods, its Skunktrain not Skunk Railroad. Jussayin.

And no. The name is not derived from the fact that the skunkiest cannabis in world is grown in that (Mendocino Co.) region.

Archimedes on March 4, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Rail ONLY works economically to move freight. Even in the dense NE corridor, I doubt AMTRAK is even revenue-neutral. If it is profitable, let it be privatized.

Rail as a prime-move for passengers is simply dumb in the same world with air travel and cars.

Ragspierre on March 4, 2010 at 5:08 PM

One of the biggest on-going jokes in the high speed rail proposed in California. The ‘proposed’ costs are about 3 time too low, and the ‘expected passenger load’ would require EVERYONE IN THE STATE to ride on it on a regular basis.

Just shows what happens when you let tokers write proposals.

GarandFan on March 4, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Rail as a prime-move for passengers is simply dumb in the same world with air travel and cars.

Ragspierre on March 4, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Easily fixed/Obama.

OldEnglish on March 4, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Easily fixed/Obama.

Well, after his czars give effect to their hatred of human progress, a wagon might seem like rapid transit…

Ragspierre on March 4, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Ragspierre on March 4, 2010 at 5:25 PM

But the eco-nuts won’t allow the horses. They fart, you know.

OldEnglish on March 4, 2010 at 5:34 PM

Not only do we remember Super Train, but also its bus cousin, The Big Bus.

’70s camp will rulz forever!

keep the change on March 4, 2010 at 5:52 PM

Amtrak sucks. I rode in college from Carbondale, IL to Urbana-Champaign, IL and back. That was only to save time going to/leaving school on breaks so that my parent’s didn’t have to drive so far to pick me up.

Rightwingguy on March 4, 2010 at 6:05 PM

Rightwingguy on March 4, 2010 at 6:05 PM

Should have just stayed in Urbana-Champaign, IL, or too close home thing?

That reminds me of a joke from my college days, “Amtrak Sucks, but the Illini Swallow.”

Illini Swallow is a bus line in IL for non-illini.

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 6:09 PM

I’m against high speed rail-but as a non-driver in the Chicago ‘burbs I’m grateful for our transit system. On ‘Metra’-our commuter train-I can get to Northwest Indiana or Madison Wisconsin. If I take Amtrak I can visit St.Louis, Indy, or Milwaukee-as a day trip. If I want to travel over-night-like my then 7 year old son and I did when we took the Capitol Limited to DC the summer of ’01-then the adventures are endless.
The trains in my area have given me a ton of independence that I might not otherwise have. I need to get my D.L.-but until I do I’m grateful for when we have here.

annoyinglittletwerp on March 4, 2010 at 6:09 PM

The real reason the statists want this is control. They hate the freedom of individual cars. Why ordinary people (the delta minuses) can come and go at will. No telling what they are up to.

FOWG1 on March 4, 2010 at 6:10 PM

Rail ONLY works economically to move freight. Even in the dense NE corridor, I doubt AMTRAK is even revenue-neutral. If it is profitable, let it be privatized.

Rail as a prime-move for passengers is simply dumb in the same world with air travel and cars.

Ragspierre on March 4, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Amtrack is profitable in the North East, and the passenger numbers have steadily climbed on the Downeaster from Portland, Maine to Boston. In fact, passenger rail will be extended further up to Brunswick in the next year or two.

For those complaining about subsidies, Amtrack’s pales when compared to the subsidies we pay for the highways.

I often take Amtrack from Boston to Washington, DC. I can not only get there faster by train than by plane, but I can do it for significantly less. You can’t just say the plane takes 2 hours to fly there. You also have to factor in another two hours to arrive at the airport, go through security, etc. Then there’s another hour or more after landing to get through Dulles and get into DC. You can ride Amtrack to Washington’s Union Station (downtown) for less than $100 each way. Most flights from Boston start at over $300. Plus, you can get up and walk around, go to the club car and get a beer or a sandwich, etc.

Additionally, I can take Trailways from Maine down to Boston’s South Station for less than it costs me in gas, tolls, and parking to drive there.

Upgrading Amtrack is a positive idea, one that should have been done 10 or 20 years ago.

AW1 Tim on March 4, 2010 at 6:12 PM

WashJeff on March 4, 2010 at 6:09 PM

Bah-dum-dum-TISCH!!

Rightwingguy on March 4, 2010 at 6:16 PM

Obama is a unicorn farm and rainbow factory specialist. What’s it like in your world Barrack?

Mojave Mark on March 4, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Flip all of this noise — I want my flying car that folds into a briefcase.

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 6:35 PM

I think it would be great to have high-speed rail in this country . . . but only if there is legitimate demand for it and private industry operates it. The last thing we need is to expand the disaster that is Amtrak. And I assume that if there’s demand for high-speed rail travel, someone would take advantage of that fact and put some trains on the rails.

NoLeftTurn on March 4, 2010 at 7:45 PM

The only train I would like to see would be from Southern California to Las Vegas… they tried a few years ago and it was shot down by CA politicians IIRC.

El_Terrible on March 4, 2010 at 3:52 PM

Ah, the Reidly Express.

unclesmrgol on March 4, 2010 at 7:58 PM

The Obama administration spending money on dumb things? Shocking.

therightwinger on March 4, 2010 at 8:09 PM

I believe that high-speed rail is the future. We need to invest now. Several other countries are already far ahead of us, making wise investments in the technology.

Airports are becoming increasingly clogged, and expansions are proving expensive in the extreme. The amount of hassle passengers are forced to undergo just to get on an aircraft (i.e., security) is becoming ridiculous, and will only get worse as terrorists find more ways to bypass it. I takes me two and a half hours to park my car, take a shuttle bus to the terminal, check my bag, have every inch of me scanned as I have to remove articles of clothing and put them back on, wait for my wife to get “wanded” because she has prosthetic knee joints that always set off the alarms, wait for the train to take my to my terminal building and walk to the gate through vast crowds of travelers. Then we sit on the taxi way for thirty minutes to an hour to await our takeoff.

Once on the aircraft, one practically has to assume the fetal position, given the miniscule amount of space allotted to a passenger, whereas trains generally have more leg room.

Along with intercity high-speed rail routes there will be a network of connecting routes from small cities and towns, making available commuter rail (also high speed). This will alleviate much of the clogging traffic that itself has become ridiculous.

Fuel will only become more expensive with time, and aircraft burn huge amounts of it. Rail is more fuel-efficient on a per passenger basis.

For those who absolutely must get to the other coast within four hours, aircraft can still do the job. For 200+ mph train service from Chicago to New York, the time saved by aircraft travel would not be a big deal to most folks.

And, with competing travel modes, airlines will be forced to continue with their bargains.

oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:13 PM

oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:13 PM

Why would security for high-speed rail be any different?

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 8:19 PM

I assume that it would be less of a protracted process. I haven’t ridden on a train recently, but from what I have heard, it isn’t even close to airport-style. Would high-speed rail have increased security requirements over and above the snail rail?

oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:23 PM

I’m with AW1 Tim on March 4, 2010 at 6:12 PM.

Air and car travel is heavily subsidized with federal air facilities and highway construction funds. There really is no more pleasant way to travel than in a train, sitting in a comfortable seat, watching the countryside roll by. I’ve taken Amtrak from Boston to Washington many times, and always enjoy it.

A friend argues that overnight sleepers between moderate-distance cities, say 300-600 miles, would be a money maker for Amtrak; he’s done the calculations And as another friend once claimed, an overnight train “really takes no time at all,” because you’d be asleep anyway.

Unfortunately, Amtrak took the sleepers off the Boston-DC route a few years ago. We’ve taken the Empire Builder and the Lake Shore Limited from Seattle to Boston, and I greatly enjoyed the trip. Of course, I’m a railfan. But you would be too, if you tried it.

Admittedly, the economics of true high-speed rail are tough to overcome. But modest-speed, Acela-level travel on dedicated tracks, is a no-brainer—especially if they offer more sleeping cars.

Arguably passenger rail should be treated like air and car travel: have the government own, build, and maintain the infrastructure (tracks, stations, etc.), and let private companies own and run the trains. That’s how I’d do it.

MrLynn on March 4, 2010 at 9:45 PM

Would high-speed rail have increased security requirements over and above the snail rail?

oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:23 PM

One would assume, considering the high profile of the target (media-wise), the dramatically increased likelihood of horrible damage and loss of life in case of calamity, and the $$$ involved.

Of course any new project like this would be a tasty target for terrorists.

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 9:47 PM

For the record, I love trains, and would love to see a resurgence of passenger rail service if it can be done without federal subsidy.

There’s no reason that cheap rail service can’t be achieved between sensible destinations utilizing current freight lines; only without all of the frills, and the expectation of first-class service. The biggest expense would be service at destination/departure points and no-nonsense passenger cars.

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 9:55 PM

The biggest expense would be service at destination/departure points and no-nonsense passenger cars.

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 9:55 PM

I forgot to add insurance. That would probably be the killer, considering the tort laws as they currently exist.

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 10:08 PM

I believe that high-speed rail is the future.
oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:13 PM

Maybe you were thinking of the monorail…Thanks for the laugh.

How did you become such a true believer? Are you under twenty or do you stand to personally gain from implementing such asinine boondoggles such as high speed rail in the USA?

daesleeper on March 4, 2010 at 10:40 PM

daesleeper on March 4, 2010 at 10:40 PM

I’m guessing oakland is a grad-student. Just because.

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 11:05 PM

High speed trains operate at a net loss in revenue.

IT IS INSANITY TO ADVOCATE FOR THESE HERE.

daesleeper on March 4, 2010 at 11:18 PM

What this country needs is decentralization. The fewer ways for you southern and western rabble to get into my beloved New York the better! ;-)

ernesto on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM

If you want to build a wall so that nobody can get in, or out, I’ll chip in.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 9:46 AM

If GDP can be increased by taking people out from behind the driver’s wheel and wired-to-the-office while on a train, it is worth a government subsidy. VP’s don’t add to GDP, so Biden himself wouldn’t count.

dedalus on March 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM

How does wasting billions add to the GDP?

Why not just wire up the homes, and have the guys stay there.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 9:48 AM

It takes extreme amounts of energy to get a train up a 1% grade, never mind cross mountains between LA and Las Vegas.

phreshone on March 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM

It takes an extreme amount of energy to get all of the cars necessary to carry the same number of passengers up that same grade.

The reason why it won’t work, is that very few people want to give up the convenience of having their own car.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 9:50 AM

Why don’t they spend their efforts on a train to Dulles? I travel internationally frequently and have to drive up 95 from Richmond to Dulles. It’s usually a nightmare and can take 2 1/2 hours on a good day and double that on a bad day.

BacaDog on March 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Atlanta extended MARTA service to their airport.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 9:55 AM

Why don’t they spend their efforts on a train to Dulles? I travel internationally frequently and have to drive up 95 from Richmond to Dulles. It’s usually a nightmare and can take 2 1/2 hours on a good day and double that on a bad day.

BacaDog on March 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

In Vegas they are talking about extending the rail service to the airport. Two problems:

The taxi cab companies pay big bucks to the politicians, and those companies are completely opposed to the competition.

The system is broken half the time.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 9:57 AM

So let’s review. My commute time increases by over 50%, my costs stay the same, and I get to spend the trip contemplating whether it would hurt too much if I Van Goghed my ears off in a bid to save what’s left of my sanity.

RationalIcthus on March 4, 2010 at 5:00 PM

When I worked in downtown Tampa, I used to ride the bus. The only real advantage was when my boss would ask everyone to work late, I could tell him no, because the last bus left at 5pm.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 10:02 AM

For those complaining about subsidies, Amtrack’s pales when compared to the subsidies we pay for the highways.

AW1 Tim on March 4, 2010 at 6:12 PM

For the most part, roads are paid for with gas taxes. Or at least they would be if congress would stop siphoning that money off for every feel good “green” project the environmentalists can think of.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 10:06 AM

I believe that high-speed rail is the future. We need to invest now. Several other countries are already far ahead of us, making wise investments in the technology.

oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:13 PM

Another subject on which you are willing to proudly proclaim your ignorance.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Of course any new project like this would be a tasty target for terrorists.

hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 9:47 PM

You also have to provide security for every single mile of track.

You need to something like a stinger missile to bring down a plane in flight. But any doofus with a crowbar can cause a train derailment.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 10:10 AM

How did you become such a true believer? Are you under twenty or do you stand to personally gain from implementing such asinine boondoggles such as high speed rail in the USA?

daesleeper on March 4, 2010 at 10:40 PM

He also believes that catastrophic AGW is a proven fact.

MarkTheGreat on March 5, 2010 at 10:11 AM

I believe that high-speed rail is the future. We need to invest now. Several other countries are already far ahead of us, making wise investments in the technology.

oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:13 PM

It’s as if you didn’t even read the other comments. Arguments were presented why the investments, as they are currently envisioned, are foolish. Especially given the tradeoffs that will have to be made.

Airports are becoming increasingly clogged, and expansions are proving expensive in the extreme.

Expensive compared to what?

The amount of hassle passengers are forced to undergo just to get on an aircraft (i.e., security) is becoming ridiculous, and will only get worse as terrorists find more ways to bypass it. [Insert typical passenger story here, air/rail tradeoff on time + room etc.]

See below.

Fuel will only become more expensive with time, and aircraft burn huge amounts of it. Rail is more fuel-efficient on a per passenger basis.

Evidence? Links? Remember, efficiency calculations must factor in actual (vs. maximum potential) passenger load to be meaningful.

For those who absolutely must get to the other coast within four hours, aircraft can still do the job. For 200+ mph train service from Chicago to New York, the time saved by aircraft travel would not be a big deal to most folks.

Then what about sub-200 mph travel? For that is what we they are trying to sell us. The “220 mph” being bandied about for a handful of the projected routes is laced with equivocation and speculation. (Not necessarily on raw technical feasibility, but definitely on land use, terrain, cost, opportunity cost, etc.)

And, with competing travel modes, airlines will be forced to continue with their bargains.

This presumes the eventual cost of a ticket is competitive with the airlines. If not, the only way to put downward pressure on the airlines is to rig the market through subsidies, kind of like the Dems wanted to do with the so-called “public option” in healthcare.

Why would security for high-speed rail be any different?
hillbillyjim on March 4, 2010 at 8:19 PM

I assume… [sucker's assumption that the future will be like the present]. Would high-speed rail have increased security requirements over and above the [level of security seen on today's] snail rail?

oakland on March 4, 2010 at 8:23 PM

It will once the jihadis decide to start bombing trains in this country like they did in Madrid on 3/11.

Train travel as compared to airplane travel is a blessed luxury in this country, until the day this cr-p starts here in earnest.

Rail was once thought to be unattractive to “hijackers” because, well, you can’t hijack a train and drive it to Havana. But today’s jihadis aren’t necessarily hijackers, are they?

RD on March 5, 2010 at 4:16 PM