Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obama's Train To Nowhere

Recently, my husband took the Acela train from New Haven to Pennsylvania. He thought he'd save time and get to his destination faster. As a result of his travel he believes the rail should be renamed to "A-Slow-a".

Meanwhile, back in DC, King Barack Obama still has dreams of pouring gobs of taxpayer money into his high speed rail plan. The only catch is that after all the money that has already been spent on this escapade, there has been very little to show for it.

As part of the economic stimulus plan of 2009, Obama pushed through more than $8 billion in initial funding to extend high-speed intercity rail service to 10 major U.S. rail corridors by 2034. The idea is to create superfast rail service — like Japan's futuristic bullet trains — that would be available to 80 percent of the U.S. population.

A quarter of that money — a little more than $2 billion — went to California, where voters in 2008 approved a plan to build a 220-mph line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The California High Speed Rail Authority promised voters that the line would open in 2020, at an overall price of about $33 billion.

Since then, not a single segment of track has been laid and not a single station has opened.

So this begs the question... what happened to all that money? What is there to show for it? and of course now the project has been re-estimated: "That $33 billion price tag? It's been recalculated at $98.5 billion — nearly three times the original estimate."

Yes - our infrastructure needs updating - from everything from rail to power to roadways - but when it comes to public transportation, the fact is that we are not Japan or France or China. Americans are in love with their cars and pick-up trucks and the majority of Americans are against spending on these kinds of projects and especially on high speed rail. They would certainly rather fly than take a train.

And just think of all the land that is being grabbed up in the name of eminent domain to build this pipe-dream. It's a travesty and a trampling of property rights.

We are also against crony politics and politicians that put pork projects in their legislation in order to pay back supporters.

Just take a look at this "Green jobs" initiative and wasted taxpayer money that went to places like Solyndra.

We've had enough.

And these kinds of projects are so over-priced that they would never be able to make a profit.
As one commenter on the MSNBC article stated:
The problem is that with the cost of building the high speed rail so high, the ticket prices will never be cost competitive with flying. At a cost of $98 billion to build the line between San Francisco and Los Angeles just do the math to see what ridership and ticket prices would need to be to pay off the investment, let alone the actual operating costs. The reason Amtrak is so heavily subsidized now is that it is not cost competitive with flying. Even if you figure on a ridership of 100,000 round trips a month, which would be very optimistic, the ticket prices would need to be $817 in order to pay this off in 100 years, and that does not even consider the operating costs that must be covered. Right now you can fly round trip between LA and SF for a fraction of that cost, about $140 including all the taxes. In order for the rail to be cost competitive you would need a ridership close to 600,000 a month to pay it off in 100 years. A more realistic payback of 30 years would push that up to almost 2,000,000 round trips a month, which is absurd to expect as it far exceeds the current air traffic by a huge margin. The point is that high speed rail is not economical by any stretch of the imagination. Even allowing that people would be willing to pay a little more to go by rail which would be more comfortable, there is still no way that this rail line would ever succeed as a viable commercial operation. - JS in SD
One can see that this project will be a permanently yet another subsidized taxpayer boondoggle.
And a big one at that.

Where is Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon when you need them?
Gone Galt - I imagine.

(H/T Linda D.)