Another Swing (and a Miss) From Anderson Cooper’s Show on High-Speed Rail

My apologies, readers: Anderson Cooper did another segment slandering high-speed rail last month and it’s taken me this long to bring it to your attention.

And the truth is, I don’t mean to hammer on Anderson Cooper. His “Keeping Them Honest” series has done some good work recently, looking into the IRS scandal and the failure of law enforcement to investigate rape cases. But why he insists on targeting the nation’s high-speed rail program — a good program showing excellent results — as a national “boondoggle” is beyond me.

Part Three, aired June 14, examines the California high-speed rail project, which it snarkily calls the “crown jewel” and the “best hope” of the federal rail effort. And it’s about time Cooper’s program finally turns to California, after wasting time kvetching about good little projects in Vermont and Washington state. If they wanted to take a look at what’s going on with high-speed rail in America, I said at the time, they should look at California. And now, they have.

The problem is that Cooper (played in this episode by John King) and reporter Drew Griffin demand instant gratification when megaprojects like these take many years.

Griffin notes that California voters overwhelmingly approved a bond measure for “a bullet train connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco in a little more than two hours,” but then complains that “like many high-speed rail projects across the country, it hasn’t happened yet.”

Certainly, the California project has gotten bogged down in many political and financial controversies. Cost estimates have vacillated, legal challenges have been overcome, and along the way, the project has lost a good many supporters. But the fact that the 432-mile rail line “hasn’t happened yet” — less than five years after the bond measure passed — is not one of its flaws. The first 130-mile segment in the Central Valley is set to begin construction this summer, with a target completion date of December 2017. The full San Francisco-to-LA trip won’t be possible until 2029, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

In a desperate attempt to point out where the project has stumbled, John King mentions that the first part of the project “was supposed to break ground this summer.”

“Well summer’s almost here, a week away,” King said ominously (remember, this was June 14). “The groundbreaking date: now pushed back until late next month.” Meaning, July. That still counts as summer, fellas. Not even late summer.

The goal of getting between Los Angeles and San Fransisco in under three hours hasn’t changed either. (Griffin later clarifies that by “a little more than two hours” he means the trip will take “two hours and forty minutes.”) Which is still the goal, despite the grievous fact that, as Griffin notes, the trains will, in some places, travel at speeds lower than 220 miles per hour.

Griffin also calls attention to the “blended system,” which requires the fast trains to share track with others — but he doesn’t mention that the idea is for them to share track with other passenger trains, as Amtrak’s Acela trains do on the Northeast Corridor without too much trouble. Sharing track with commuter rail isn’t nearly as problematic as sharing with freight trains, as Amtrak does in many parts of the country. Plus, the plan to share tracks with Metrolink and Amtrak trains in California is, for now, only a temporary measure before more track gets built.

That’s not to say the “blended” plan is particularly popular. Lots of people would rather see dedicated track from the get-go. But the cost estimate of $98 billion shocked the bejeezus out of people and forced the Authority to cut some corners. This is one of them. They were able to bring the estimate down by almost a third.

Drew Griffin interviewed one person for his story: former California High-Speed Rail Authority chief Quentin Kopp, now a prominent skeptic. Kopp is a compelling voice, for sure — one of the project’s most ardent backers turned sour on the idea. But it wouldn’t have been hard to find someone to talk to who can speak to the promise of the project. I guess they just didn’t want to.

  • Anonymous

    Can you give me an example of one of her own points or the editorializing you’re referring to?

  • Lee
  • John Dough

    N=thousands upon thousands, for highways, and that’s good, not bad. Drivers can come and go as they please, independent of somebody else’s arbitrarily schedule. And, unlike train passengers, drivers don’t have to stop at every other n unless they choose to do so.

    Eat your hearts out, train passengers!

  • Bolwerk

    Hurrr! Yes, look at all these people totally independent of somebody else’s arbitrary schedule, not having any impact on others around them at all. They must all be moving at least 180 mph! Hurrrrrr!!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t look down, John.

  • LAguttersnipe

    I’d rather my goverments spend money on something tangible that people can use, especially in the future. Why should I care how much it costs? My taxes are spent on tons of stupid wasteful things, would be nice to get something worth a fuck.

  • California’s high speed rail program will likely end up costing 75 Billion dollars when completed. California currently has over 130 billion dollars in unfunded bond debt with annual debt servicing eating up 10% of the states TOTAL revenue. We are spending a billion dollars to build a corridor from Madera to Fresno…. Frickin Madera to Fresno! Why? Because it’s in the only part of the State where they have an approved ROW alingment. They knew the roof was caving in so they spent some money quickly so no one could take the money back!… they don’t even know if they can get easements, and meet environmental requirements along the lion share of the alingment.

    THEY DIDN’T THINK ANY OF IT THROUGH…. THEY WANTED THE MONEY… AND THEY WANTED THE CAMPAIGN CASH THAT THE HSR INITIATIVE CORPORATIONS WOULD GIVE THEM IF THEY WROTE UP THE BILL!

    The contractor who won the bid paid an undisclosed settlement to the City of LA for fraudulent claims (ON THE ORDER OF 100 MILLION) in change orders and would have been blackballed from ever doing business with Public entities ever again if they had not written a giant check to get out of the fraud charges…. They also had the LOWEST TECHNICAL SCORE of any of the Joint Ventures offering on the job…. They will cut corners, change order the state to death and the state will bend over gladly and not even ask them to buy it dinner because because Diane Feinstein’s husband is a senior share holder at the JV who won the contract.

    Oh it’s a boondoggle of epic proportions…. I get clean energy, I get alternative energy programs etc… But California is going to spend 75 Billion and pay 40 billion to borrow 10 to when it is already broke, in order to build a train it doesn’t even know if anyone will ride…. to compete against half a dozen airports on either side of the corridor.

    It Has NOTHING to do with Energy or Sustainable Futures…. It has to do with Big Time Corporations like; PG&E, Seimens, Granite and Kiewit and Tutor and Parsons and Trade Unions (all in the top 40 companies to donate to the 1a initiative) getting super rich mopping up the 75 billion the state is going to start hemmorraging pretty soon trying to build this thing that (A) we don’t need and (B) we don’t know if anyone will even use.

    Yeah Anderson Cooper Swung and Missed…. He was playing around on the typical news media sensational surface game…. rather than bothering to dig into the details… where it is far more dirty and wicked than anyone who likes riding a bike could imagine.

  • John Dough

    But, people here don’t care how much it costs. Just build it, they say.

  • Anonymous

    I think you weren’t because the ignorance you display would be simply too great if you had actually witnessed the successes of public-private partnerships on such a scale.

    You clearly do not know well the interstate highway systems’ funding, as it was 90% federal gov backed, 10% from the states. Huh, looks more and more like the HSR strategy. Except today’s opposition party is more dedicated to obstruction than anything productive (at least for 3 more years, eh?).

    Don’t hide behind the political BS from your own party — we all see the nonsense peddled daily from far-right “leaders” who only seek failure from their opponents, disregarding the well-being of this country.

    There has never before been a comparable obstacle in the house, and you can pretend there has been, but then you’d be ignoring the fillibuster DATA, 2x more than ever before, and in unprecedented contexts as well.

    You simply hate cooperative society and you believe we’ve gone to far in that direction. When the evidence clearly shows we haven’t gone far enough.

    prepare to enjoy this amazingly smooth ride, at 200+mph! and don’t forget who to thank — the other side, who refused to be swayed by an angry, short-sighted opposition.

  • John Dough

    You’re looking for “something worth a fuck”? Keep looking, genius. It ain’t here.

    High speed rail is the poster child for not worth a fuck.

  • Joe R.

    The irony is that 4 tracks could probably move all those people at a faster speed than driving could.

  • Joe R.

    Average speed is all that matters. Someone driving a car may not need to make stops to pick up passengers, but even best case you’re not averaging over 80 mph for car travel (and that’s pushing it). Typical HSR average speeds vary from about 100 mph all the way up to about 180 mph, including time spent stopping. That’s 2 to 3 times faster than driving, assuming no traffic jams. I’ll take HSR over driving any day of the week. Even counting local travel on both ends. I’ll still go door-to-door faster. Heck, I used to go door-to-door faster on public transit than by car going from Queens to Princeton.

  • John Dough

    Photoshop. Good enough to fool the fools who are gullible enough to believe the unbelievable that is high speed rail.

    http://www.bricoleurbanism.org/whimsicality/when-photoshop-is-so-good-its-bad/

    Hurrrr, indeed.

    What an idiot!

  • John Dough

    “Average speed is all that matters.”

    Really?

    Doesn’t cost matter? What if you’re traveling with three kids and the family dog? Does that not matter?

    Suppose you and the missus want to take your bikes?

    What if you have lots of time on your hands and want to see the scenery?

    Suppose you want to spend a night with your cousin in Santa Cruz and a weekend with your sister in Bakersfield?

    With apologies to Ted Williams, if you don’t think too good, don’t think too much!

  • Joe R.

    John, you can take bikes on most trains. And as for cost, even though you don’t want to accept it, rail costs less per passenger mile than roads. The only time it doesn’t is when you build it in inappropriate places. For example, a subway in the middle of Montana would be a big money loser.

  • John Dough

    I know enough about the way the Interstate Highway System was funded to know the 90% Federal funds came 100% from the Federal gas tax (and diesel tax and other miscellaneous other road taxes and road fees) and the other 10% came 100% from state gas taxes and registrations.

    In other words, the people who used it payed for its construction. That was the genius of the Eisenhower plan.

    Your favorite boondoggle will never have enough passengers to pay for itself. So, the only way it will ever be built is to spread the cost among millions of people who will never even see it. That’s the idiocy of the Obama plan. That’s why it’s controvercial.

  • John Dough

    I’m tempted to point out that every place is an inappropriate place for high speed rail.

    Instead, I’ll just ask you to backup your claim that rail costs less per passenger mile than roads. And, just to use a level playing field, you won’t mind if I ask you not to include roads “in the middle of Montana”.

  • John Dough

    Oh, and you can take bikes on ALL cars.

  • Joe R.

    “I’m tempted to point out that every place is an inappropriate place for high speed rail.”

    When you devolve to this sort of absolutism then I know nothing I post will sway you. Nevertheless, and very relevant to the topic:

    http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2011/11/01/high-speed-rail-costs-985b-freeways.html?page=all

    This a direct, apples-to-apples comparison. California needs to expand its intercity transportation network. It can spend $98.5 billion for HSR to do so, or it can spend $170 billion on roads and runways for something which is decidedly inferior in terms of travel time, pollution, operating costs, etc.

    And just to be fair, there are certain scenarios where roads can be more cost effective:

    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/01/24/how-roads-could-beat-rail/

  • John Dough

    Oh, come on, Joe. You can do better than that, can’t you?

    You said, “rail costs less PER PASSENGER MILE than than roads” (emphasis added). And, lest you use the highly suspect ridership projections claimed for CAHSR, you also made a general claim, then attempted to prove your claim with one selected train and one selected road.

    Back to the drawing boards for you, Joe.

  • Joe R.

    The problem with coming up with exact costs per passenger mile for either road or rail is figuring out the costs of the externalities. We know pollution from motor vehicles costs a lot of money, but we don’t have more than a rough estimate of this. There are also other externalities which are even more difficult to calculate. To be sure, rail has externalities also, but it uses less land, less energy, and less resources to move people.

    In any case, this debate is dropping to the levels of absurdity. I gave you an example of an direct comparison. Yes, it’s one line but it’s a direct comparison of what it would cost for HSR versus what it would cost for road and air to move the same number of passengers. HSR comes out cheaper, even in a case where local politics has caused its costs to balloon enormously. In most other scenarios HSR would fare even better. The key thing is rail costs less than roads in places where rail makes sense. California is probably the second best place for HSR in the United States (the Northeast Corridor is number one). Rail is only a boondoggle when it’s built inappropriate places, like my subway in Montana example.

    How about you support your ridiculous claim of “I’m tempted to point out that every place is an inappropriate place for high speed rail.”?

  • John Dough

    Right. There’s this problem with proving your claim but not with making it. Got it.

  • Jacey Smith

    We gotta Invest back into our Country’s Infrastructure; Where falling apart and lagging behind another countries like China. There’s NO reason why, we the richest country in the world, cant have a state-of-the-art Transportation system. Not just trains but freeways, stoplights, Ethernet, airports, water quality, schools, ect… The very system that built this country is slowing us down. It should not take this long. (its all about the money). Figure it out. I Don’t want to be 45 Years old when the train is completed.

  • Bolwerk

    I guess it should come as no surprise John Dough’s
    irony meter is outta order. The whole point of that picture is that it conveys motion and order…at a capacity beyond a roadway. Funny that he got that it was fake, but otherwise missed the point. Not flattering though, since it points to him being more paranoid than he is clever.

    So, yes, I was stupid…for thinking he’d understand. It’s not hard to find a real picture of a traffic jam, and the truth is they tend to look more chaotic than that. But, you know, hurr!

    (4 tracks? Figuring about 50 cars per lane in the picture times 23 lanes is 1150 cars. Multiply by 1.2 passengers/car, and it’s 1380/people. That’s about 2/3 the capacity of a full-length IND train. In the real world, two tracks could probably have vastly better throughput than a highway like that, if necessary.)

  • Bolwerk

    It’s not so much that it costs more, but typically passenger rail recovers a greater percentage of its operating costs (70%-80% for Soviet Amtrak), vs. about 50% for highways. Local transit agencies are all across the board, but most rail lines I’ve seen still do better than 50% at least on operating expense. Highways, of course, don’t describe all roadways; many of these are paid for out of pocket, and don’t recover any of their own costs at all.

    Greenfield European HSR construction costs float in the 15-25 million euro range for two high-speed tracks, which includes land acquisition costs. Of the dozens of these projects completed, I’m not sure one has ever been unprofitable in the sense that the infrastructure was not paid for with operating costs covered (though perhaps the Italians finally managed with an epic boondoggle). The closest thing so far in North America has been Acela, and even it has managed to cover its own operating costs plus the share of capital costs attributable to its operation…and Amtrak is far from a model railroad.

    So, for CAHSR: they’re blowing a big wad of cash they shouldn’t blow on capital expenses. We all get that. But, if it’s really HSR, it probably has a pretty good shot at operating profitably in service. The only major question mark is whether it will actually be able to pay back its loans, as Europeans expect when they construct new transportation infrastructure and Americans expect only when they don’t like something for ideological reasons. Still, if it at least contributes, it’s doing better than the highway system.

  • Bolwerk

    With the accounting costs we already have it is pretty easy to see the U.S. highway transportation system is embarrassingly dependent on government aid. Anyone who denies that is more full o’ shit than a manure truck, and anyone who criticizes rail for something roads are more guilty of is just hypocritical.

    However, where things get squishy is with utility. Needing highways to deliver produce to your local grocery is obviously economically beneficial to lots of people, even people nowhere nearby who gain indirectly from tax revenue such trips ultimately generate. John leaving his mom’s basement to drive to the supermarket to get more pockey nets a questionable degree of utility, even for John, and probably none for wider society.

    I would make the case there are lots of unaccounted for costs to roadways that don’t really exist for rail. including externalities. And not even the environmental ones: perished time stuck in traffic is a big one. Minor routes probably are paid for with local property taxes and general appropriations, and don’t even fit in the spectrum of user free financing. And highways take a lot of land that is taken off property tax rolls in favor of an activity that the state needs to subsidize (true of some rail too, but not to the same extent).

    As for rural rail in Montana: not an entirely outlandish idea, though U.S. rail regulations probably preclude it being done efficiently.

  • John Dough

    You’re not a rocket scientist, are you Bolwerk?

    You’re comparing average observed auto occupancy rates with train capacity and concluding that “(I)n the real (nay, in YOUR) world, two tracks could probably have better throughput than a (23-lane) highway.”

    A valid comparison would compare observed auto occupancies with observed train occupancies or theoretical highway capacity with theoretical train capacity.

    In a town with a crowed Dunkin Donuts and an empty Starbucks, you would call the DD a failure and close it while declaring the Starbucks a success and you would coerce the DD customers to build more Starbucks.

    Don’t you get it? A business that attracts a lot of customers (think Interstate) is a success and a business that doesn’t (think Amtrak) is a failure.

  • John Dough

    You’re not a rocket scientist, are you Bolwerk?

    You’re comparing average observed auto occupancy rates with train capacity and concluding that “(I)n the real (nay, in YOUR) world, two tracks could probably have better throughput than a (23-lane) highway.”

    A valid comparison would compare observed auto occupancies with observed train occupancies or theoretical highway capacity with theoretical train capacity.

    In a town with a crowed Dunkin Donuts and an empty Starbucks, you would call the DD a failure and close it while declaring the Starbucks a success and you would coerce the DD customers to build more Starbucks.

    Don’t you get it? A business that attracts a lot of customers (think Interstate) is a success and a business that doesn’t (think Amtrak) is a failure.

  • John Dough

    You’re not a rocket scientist, are you Bolwerk?

    You’re comparing average observed auto occupancy rates with train capacity and concluding that “(I)n the real (nay, in YOUR) world, two tracks could probably have better throughput than a (23-lane) highway.”

    A valid comparison would compare observed auto occupancies with observed train occupancies or theoretical highway capacity with theoretical train capacity.

    In a town with a crowed Dunkin Donuts and an empty Starbucks, you would call the DD a failure and close it while declaring the Starbucks a success and you would coerce the DD customers to build more Starbucks.

    Don’t you get it? A business that attracts a lot of customers (think Interstate) is a success and a business that doesn’t (think Amtrak) is a failure.

  • Bolwerk

    When the Government paid for the initial infrastructure of the Interstate System, it did it with revenues derived from users of the Interstate System…while those people also paid for their own operating costs.

    This reeks of being a lie. The interstates obviously had to start from zero at some point, and needed an initial investment to do that.

    Furthermore, even if true, the majority of road miles are not even on the interstate and maybe not even on the interstate + all other roads funded through fuel tax and tolls. Drivers who rarely/never use such highways are paying for the drivers who use them. Interstate users are hardly self-sufficient.

  • Joe R.

    A more valid comparison here might be not building any Starbucks and then saying that everyone prefers Dunkin Donuts. People use cars because they often have no choice thanks to lack of investment in other forms of transport.

  • Bolwerk

    You want specifics?

    Observed auto occupancies: 1.6-1.8 passengers for general auto use, but IIRC closer to 1.1-1.4 passengers on highways.

    Observed train occupancy: what do you want? Amtrak? Occupancy is often near 100%, which is a BAD THING because it means losing riders due to lack of seat turnover. Transit? Often standing room only. I know it’s just more hurrr from you, groping around in the dark to find reasons Amtrak is worse than your object of masturbation, but by your measures Amtrak is a smashing success. I’m actually the one who expects better than that.

  • Bolwerk

    Evidently what makes him so angry about trains is nobody wants to use ’em because they’re too crowded.

  • Anonymous

    Way to gloss things over, much like you always do John.

    Ike’s Interstate Highways went down in flames in 1954. It wasn’t wanted by “virtually everyone” at all. Ike had to regroup, tell his little white lie that we needed to do this for the Military, as well as divert the Federal fuel tax from its primary purpose of paying down our national debt into the newly created Highway Trust Fund in order to garner enough votes to pass it in 1956.

    And that 1956 Highway Act called for the fuel tax to revert back to paying on our debt in 1972. Instead Congress continues to divert it to subsidize driving.

    It’s also highly unlikely that faced with today’s Congress that Ike would have gotten his plan through this Congress, except for maybe telling the same little white lie that we needed to do it for the military.

    I won’t even get into the fact that the plan was to borrow the money via bonds and then in theory repay that from the various taxes, a plan that didn’t work back then and still isn’t working today.

    By the way, CAHSR wasn’t President Obama’s idea either. It was President George H W Bush’s idea. It was his White House the designated HSR line in 5 different states, including California & Florida back in 1992.

  • Anonymous

    John,

    If the engineer were to actually fall asleep, the train will come to a stop. Unlike your car which would keep going until you crashed it. While HSR trains have even more technology than conventional trains, even today’s Amtrak trains running through the countryside won’t continue moving for more than 2 minutes if an engineer falls asleep or is incapacitated in any way.

    Next, no one is proposing a HSR system that goes every place an Interstate Highway goes. So your’s is a useless comparison. Your comparison also however fails to account for the fact that the costs to maintain the HSR system were it built to such lengths is far less than the ongoing costs to maintain the existing highway system.

  • Anonymous

    John,

    If the engineer were to actually fall asleep, the train will come to a stop. Unlike your car which would keep going until you crashed it. While HSR trains have even more technology than conventional trains, even today’s Amtrak trains running through the countryside won’t continue moving for more than 2 minutes if an engineer falls asleep or is incapacitated in any way.

    Next, no one is proposing a HSR system that goes every place an Interstate Highway goes. So your’s is a useless comparison. Your comparison also however fails to account for the fact that the costs to maintain the HSR system were it built to such lengths is far less than the ongoing costs to maintain the existing highway system.

  • Anonymous

    Clearly you don’t know as much as you think. Once again, that is not the way that the 1956 Highway Act funded things. All roads were to be built with bonds, not directly from the fuel taxes collected. The fuel taxes were supposed to pay off the bonds, only that plan has failed.

    As of 2010 we drivers only manage to cover 42% of the costs of our highways via fuel taxes and other direct fees.

  • Bolwerk

    Lack of knowledge is the least of his problems. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is strong with Mr. Dough.

  • Ari

    I see your points. And they may be correct.

    But spending 10% of revenue on debt service isn’t that high. In fact, most people would be very happy to spend 10% of their income on loan payments.

    Just saying.

  • John Dough

    “HSR is one of the more expensive, subsidy-laden, and therefore unviable forms of public transportation. If it were as beneficial and feasible as lawmakers and city planners claimed, the private sector would have embraced it without dependence on costly, taxpayer-funded subsidies from Washington. Congress should abandon any notions of future funding for HSR and pronounce any such proposals from the Administration as dead on arrival.”

    http://blog.heritage.org/2013/07/11/shh-obama-administration-puts-brakes-on-xpresswest-high-speed-rail-project/

  • Anonymous

    John,

    If you’re going to post stuff and make claims, at least try to find an unbiased source. Naturally a conservative think tank is going to say that. Even if they have to bend the truth a bit in order to claim it.

    Let’s go look at America’s one and only HSR system. In 2012 Amtrak’s Acela turned an operating profit of $206.5 Million. No subsidies required there.

    Yes, that profit doesn’t cover all the capital expenses for those trains, but then part of the problem is that Congress dumped the upkeep of the NEC on Amtrak after the original owner went bankrupt. So now Amtrak has to maintain that not only for its own trains, but multiple commuter agencies. Commuter agencies that don’t fully pay for their use.

    As for that quip about the private sector embracing things, if that were true then private companies would own all the highways in this country. Instead we subsidize the highways big time because private companies aren’t lining up to build them. In 2010 that subsidy was $118 Billion.

    “After years of slippage in fuel taxes’ buying power, only 42 percent of the $202 billion spent on U.S. roads in 2010 came from fuel or vehicle taxes, according to federal statistics. Somebody’s non-user taxes made up the $118 billion shortfall, a figure that dwarfs annual nationwide subsidies for transit, intercity rail, walking and bicycling combined.”

    http://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2013/01/fuel-taxes-new-third-rail-public-policy?utm_source=MinnPost-RSS&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+minnpost+%28MinnPost.com+-+Minnesota+News+and+Analysis%29

  • Anonymous

    John,

    If you’re going to post stuff and make claims, at least try to find an unbiased source. Naturally a conservative think tank is going to say that. Even if they have to bend the truth a bit in order to claim it.

    Let’s go look at America’s one and only HSR system. In 2012 Amtrak’s Acela turned an operating profit of $206.5 Million. No subsidies required there.

    Yes, that profit doesn’t cover all the capital expenses for those trains, but then part of the problem is that Congress dumped the upkeep of the NEC on Amtrak after the original owner went bankrupt. So now Amtrak has to maintain that not only for its own trains, but multiple commuter agencies. Commuter agencies that don’t fully pay for their use.

    As for that quip about the private sector embracing things, if that were true then private companies would own all the highways in this country. Instead we subsidize the highways big time because private companies aren’t lining up to build them. In 2010 that subsidy was $118 Billion.

    “After years of slippage in fuel taxes’ buying power, only 42 percent of the $202 billion spent on U.S. roads in 2010 came from fuel or vehicle taxes, according to federal statistics. Somebody’s non-user taxes made up the $118 billion shortfall, a figure that dwarfs annual nationwide subsidies for transit, intercity rail, walking and bicycling combined.”

    http://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2013/01/fuel-taxes-new-third-rail-public-policy?utm_source=MinnPost-RSS&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+minnpost+%28MinnPost.com+-+Minnesota+News+and+Analysis%29

  • You don’t even seem to bother to be reading, much less comprehending, the complex arguments, so let’s make it simpler. Road costs are mostly off the books (congestion, pollution, crashes, military), and road revenues are mostly on the books. Transit costs are mostly on the books, and transit revenues are mostly off the books (property taxes, peak hour congestion reduction).

    If I run a business and get to shove all of my costs off the books — free rent, free labor, free dumping, free getting in everyone’s way, free police — while you run a business and have to pay for all of those, that’s not “a healthier model.”

  • The Acela corridor? Tokyo to Osaka? Paris to Lyon? Yeah, sure, “every place is an inappropriate place for high speed rail.”

  • I keep seeing references to “families of four.” While not a worst case scenario, that’s actually an unusual scenario. I can’t find figures for domestic travel, but for U.S. travelers going abroad, the average traveling party size is 1.5, and the median is… 1.0.

    Sure, driving makes more sense for large groups traveling together, but these just are NOT typical.

  • burnsilver

    I used the family of four to illustrate how expensive it will be for a family to ride the train. They keep telling us that it’s going to eliminate traffic on the freeways between LA and SF or that families in LA, Fresno, or SF will jump on the train to go to one of the other cities for a Dodger / Giants game and be home in time for dinner. They also like to talk about how people could commute to work on the train, so you could take that “family of four” scenario and turn that into four days of commuting to see how unaffordable the train is for the average person. It might save time/money for one traveller or a small party, but then you have to factor in car rental at the other end or adding several hours to your trip after you get off HSR to ride multiple buses around these major cities (especially LA) that have inadequate mass transit systems.

    I’m not sure about the median group size being 1.0. I think the definition of median would make that impossible because every group of two that was traveling would need a group of zero to bring the median back to 1.0.

  • burnsilver

    Jacey, we’re actually the most indebted country in the world, not the richest. We have unfunded liabilities exceeding $100 trillion by many estimates. That’s a stack of dollar bills (a stack, not end to end) approx. 6,700,000 miles long. We borrow/print 40% of the money our government spends and we have no way of paying back the money we already owe.

  • Bolwerk

    Hurr! Hurr! Hurr-Heritage Foundation. It’s a foundation, it must be true! ‘Cause there aren’t tons of counterexamples proving the exact opposite of that claim all over the world.

    John ran out of unsubstantiated comments to make, and now is cutting and pasting from the paid professionals.

  • Kevin Wright

    California could have had the Acela system decades ago, instead, politicians have cooked up scheme after scheme to reward Cronies, run up costs, and kick the can down the road, again, and again. Diane Feinstein’s husband even took his cut. California is getting what it deserves for abandoning the American that once was: Reagan’s America.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Another Slanted High-Speed Rail Story From Anderson Cooper

|
Not one to back away from a terrible argument, CNN’s Anderson Cooper is sticking with his series exposing the “boondoggle” of federal high-speed rail funding. In a segment aired Monday night, he and reporter Drew Griffin hammered away yet again at their argument that high-speed rail has been a waste of money. Under the tagline […]

What Boondoggle? Private Sector Wants in on HSR Action

|
President Obama’s proposed high speed rail initiative would have the US embarking on the biggest infrastructure project since the interstate highway system. And while the significance of this effort — and the need for more sustainable transportation options — may be lost on a few cranky governors, it is not going unnoticed by the private […]

Obama’s 2014 Transpo Budget Calls for Higher Spending, HSR

|
The Obama Administration has put forward an opening bid in what are sure to be contentious 2014 budget negotiations, issuing a solidly progressive transportation budget that calls for increased overall spending and continued investment in passenger rail. The $76 billion transportation budget would represent a 5.5 percent, or $4 billion, spending increase over 2012 levels. […]

High-Speed Rail: Do We Have the Will?

|
Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a train from Washington, DC to New York. It’s going to take me almost three-and-a-half hours to get there. Sure, I could pay more for an Acela and get there in less than three hours. But why can’t it take 90 minutes? Yesterday, Amtrak unveiled a plan [PDF] to build […]