Don’t Waste Any More Money On A High Speed Rail Fail

Over at the Boston Globe, execrable liberal columnist Derrick Z. Jackson is making the case for wasting incredible amounts of taxpayer money on highspeed rail,

WHEN PRESIDENT Obama proposed in his State of the Union address that 80 percent of Americans should have access to high-speed rail within 25 years, he drew laughter by saying, “For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down.’’

It will be much faster if we end the political pat-down for high-speed rail itself.

One promising hallmark of the Obama administration was the $8 billion in stimulus funds and $2.5 billion in subsequent grants to jump start high-speed rail projects. Several key Republicans support high speed rail in principle, even if they disagree with Obama and the Democrats on funding mechanisms and focus.

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…Earlier this month, a report from America 2050, a consortium of regional planners, researchers, and policy makers, found that the potential for increased train ridership and decreased auto and short-haul airspace congestion remains immense for the Northeast Corridor, the Great Lakes region, and California and the Southwest.

A study last fall by the London School of Economics found that high-speed rail significantly increases the gross domestic product of cities connected on the route, compared to unconnected cities. “By driving economic agents closer together and increasing access to regional markets, HSR [high-speed rail] should promote economic development,’’ the study concluded.

The Boston-based Economic Development Research Group says that the job, wage, and business-sales creation of high-speed rail would be massive, whether for giant cities like Los Angeles or Chicago, or for capital cities like Albany, which would be more efficiently connected to New York City.

“The ability of people to be within two or three hours of major economic centers will change labor-market dynamics and increase our competitive advantage,’’ said the research group’s Stephen Fitzroy. “You give businesses a much greater access to a larger pool of skill sets and create a more diverse labor force in the process.’’

With that, it is indeed crazy that we are fighting to hold on to the infrastructure of the past. It is time for high-speed rail, without the political pat-down.

In his State-of-the-Union speech, Barack Obama called for connecting “80 percent of the nation by high-speed rail.”

In a country the size of the United States, that’s crazy talk.

Just consider this: Let’s say you want high speed rail to actually REACH 80% of the population. Well, you’re not going to be able to just hit the big cities. You’re definitely going to have to reach medium size cities as well. So locally, for me, that would mean connecting to a city like Wilmington, N.C. The problem with doing that is cost. My guess is, to actually pull that off, all across the country, would cost trillions over the course of the next decade.

But, let’s say you take another approach and just hit the bigger cities. So, in N.C., you might run high speed rail to Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham Triangle. Well, if that’s the case, then you’ve got to wonder how useful it would be to people across the state. Personally, it would be a 4 hour drive for me to get to the station. From that point, how much does it help to have a train going 100MPH as opposed to my car going 70MPH on the highway? If you’re talking about a trip to somewhere like D.C., after the time you’d probably spend waiting for the train, it might shave an hour off the trip. But of course, then once I got to D.C., I wouldn’t have a car. That’s enough of a disadvantage that it probably wouldn’t be worth it to take the train. “But, John, what about the longer trips?” Ehr — that’s what planes are for. Why would I get on a train and go to LA or Las Vegas when I could get there much faster on a plane?

All that being said, I could conceivably see certain uses for high speed rail. In states like California, where you have a number of large cities, it could certainly be useful. Also, in cities that have outrageous housing costs, high speed rail might make it more practical for people to live farther out from the city. Instead of getting into rush hour traffic, you hop on the train and head home at 100MPH. Conceivably, you could even have enough business to justify trips from say, D.C. to NYC to Pittsburgh to Philly.

However, all of that begs two related questions.

First off, if high speed rail is only going to be useful in places like Cali, D.C., or NYC, shouldn’t they be paying for it? Why should my tax dollars go to pay for a high speed rail connection between Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland if it’s not going to benefit me?

Along those same lines, we should ask: If it can be done profitably, why isn’t there a corporation stepping up to do it? The fact that there isn’t one should tell you something. So should the fact that Amtrak has never made a profit. The biggest question about this boondoggle is how many billions — or maybe even trillions — of dollars would it cost taxpayers by the time it’s done.

Quite frankly, this idea would be so unfeasible that it would border on insane under normal circumstances, but when this country is spending itself into oblivion already, wasting stunning amounts of money on a project that’s doomed to failure before it even starts doesn’t make any sense at all.

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