The insanity of high-speed rail.

California voters approved $10 billion for high-speed rail, but they're now facing the stark reality: That'll only cover less than one-tenth of the cost. Despite that revelation, California is determined to proceed.

I didn't expect this report from CNN's Anderson Cooper, but he lays out the gruesome facts. Now, if only Gov. Pat Quinn, the Democrats that run Illinois and the blindly enthusiastic high-speed rail fans will pay attention, we might prevent the same drain on the resources of an already bankrupt state.

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  • Let's see: travel by rail, power by windmills, car power by battery and sunlight to light our houses. All great things -- for the nineteenth century.

    Nothing like a rail connection from the new Southland airport to St. Louis, from an aiport nobody wants or will use to a city few want to go to.

    "Make No Big Plans" Daniel Burnham.
    "Make No Sensible Plans" RahmMadiQuinn, Obama & Co.

  • "Make No Small Plans," I mean. When will this be able to edit/correct?

  • The people that come up with these ideas need to take a course in economics. What's next moon colonies? Flying cars? Maybe we should research teleportation.

  • I agree - they should study and understand the economic concept of "externalities".

    Prices for fossil fuels continue to be directly and indirectly subsidized by taxpayers so airlines and autos can continue to have a monopoly on our transportation infrastructure. Same holds true with preventing solar and wind from being competitive with coal and natural gas.

    If the consumer paid the real cost to society for gasoline, mass transit would make more economic sense. But since we (taxpayers) all absorb the environmental and health costs, producers can continue to keep their costs low, profits high, and the public deprived of competitive alternatives.

    The policymakers (and their supporters) who selectively forget the cost of externalities are the ones who need to take a course in economics...

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Okay. We need to compare apples to apples when talking about the external costs of travel (highway v. high speed rail) to St. Louis from Chicago. To do that, we need to determine what external costs are saved by replacing the number of road trips between here and St. Louis with high speed rail. Do you have such a comparison? Of course we must use a more realistic figure (witness the California example) in making any comparison. For the number of cars that would be removed from I-55, what is their proportion of the cost of that stretch of the interstate system, gasoline, etc. I think that your argument is damaged by the fact that this isn't mass transit--which legitimately can make the case for public subsidies because of the density of the population it serves and the relatively high (compared with high-speed rail) ridership.

    It strikes me that the externalities argument, while rhetorically persuasive, fails because there isn't a computer fast or powerful enough to calculate the comparative external costs of all human activities and to make valid comparisons. At some point, common sense needs to kick in.

  • I remember reading a very good column written by Steve Forbes. The U.S. freight rail systems moves goods far more efficiently than any other rail system in the world, because U.S. railroads invest to keep track and equipment modern.

    Warren Buffet put in the Berkshire Hathaway annual report that the BNSF can move 1 ton of freight 500 miles on 1 gallon of diesel fuel.

    If we start diverting funds to high-speed rail, our freight system will suffer in the long run. Considering how much freight arrives at West Coast ports and needs to move east, reducing investment in the moving of freight is a bad idea.

    Here's another thought. Florida wants to build a high-speed line between Tampa and Orlando. But, it will end at the Orlando Airport. So, if you need to get to downtown Orlando, you will need to find ground transportation. In other words, the line is really meant to connect Tampa and the Orlando Airport with Disney World.

  • High Speed Rail Junkies are the Trekkies of Public Policy.

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