Pardon me boy, but is this the bullet train to fantasy land?

You had to see this coming: The “high-speed” rail that will consume tens of billions of dollars won’t be up to speed. So, we’ve got to spend a lot more.

A new study, sponsored by high-speed rail enthusiasts, throws water on the $75 billion Midwest high-speed rail system that they had been pitching. Won’t generate enough passengers and efficiencies to make it worth while, the study says.

So, according to the study, we have to spend $83.6 billion for the higher-speed rail system. Hey, it’s not all that much more, so lets go (literally) for broke.

The figures, if not scary, are questionable. The speedier bullet train, supposedly won’t cost all that much more because it will attract a lot more  passengers that the 150 mph trains. For those that think another $9 billion, or so, isn’t much, I’d remind them that it’s more than the $6 billion originally planned for O’Hare Airport expansion. (Of course, they lied about that, too. If you throw in everything they were talking about, the cost would be more like $20 billion–still only a fraction of a rail system that would service a lot few destination than high-speed rail).

But, I digress. You have got to hand the bullet train enthusiasts for their honesty. But enthusiasm is the only thing going for this fantasy. The very fact that they would be talking about this kind of billions–even if we weren’t in the midst of a recession–shows such a high degree of detachment from reality that you have to wonder about their state of mind.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: air, rail, transportation


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  • I got into a similar debate on the CTA Tattler when I said that the Broadway subway would cost $8 billion and Kevin O'Neil said that the consultant's report was $4 billion, and implied that I should have changed my mind.

    It also appears that whatever the top speed, the fantasy train won't be able to go over 79 m.p.h. until south of Joliet. Hence, any time savings is overblown.

    Anyway, points I have made frequently on the CTA Tattler about these schemes only being designed as welfare for the consultants, and on MacCarron's piece on overdesigning, apply here. This is essentially the same type of consultant's analysis used to justify their Airport Express plans around 2006, and nothing still has come of that, as noted by KevinB's comments to that CTA Tattler post. Chapman's column today about LaHood overpromising also seems in point.

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