Friday, February 18, 2011

Seeking substantive reasons for saying no thanks to high-speed rail

Here is the script from a Fox Business News Report by Gerri Willis.  She's talking about High-Speed Rail.  If nothing else, this is a great example of the Republican position regarding HSR.  You can see and listen to her if you wish. 

It's contains innuendo against Republican enemies, such as the Unions, Amtrak, the deficit, etc.  But, never mind.  

I could say that Republicans are pretty much wrong about everything except high-speed rail; which they are right about.  At the same time, I could also say that Democrats are pretty much right about everything except high-speed rail; which they are wrong about.  

The reality, of course, is that it's much more complicated than that when you strip away the hyperbole and misleading rhetoric from both sides.  That's true about high-speed rail as well. It's been oversold. But, most of the arguments from both sides have little to do with the train, or transportation, or cost/effectiveness.  It's about the money. And Democrats want the government to spend money on this project in order to stimulate the economy and Republicans don't. 

But, that shouldn't be our concern so much.  We should weigh the cost/benefits of building and operating of this rail system based on empirical data; the facts.  And those tell us this project is a bad idea, not the way Gerri Willis tells us it's a bad idea, but what the actual numbers tell us about use, need, costs, alternatives, impact, and affordability. We've been trying to bring that information to this blog for a number of months.

The advocates, mostly Democrats, exort us to embrace this project as the cure-all for all our problems; the universal panacea.  That's highly speculative and pertains mostly to the impact on unemployment and the economy.  While those do need to be fixed, this is not the vehicle for doing that.  And, I suspect that the Republicans reject it for ulterior reasons as well.  In short, it's not about the train; it's about the money.

As it happens, some Governors have done their homework (or their staff did), reviewed the extensive literature and have a much more fact-based argument for opposing high-speed rail.  And, I believe the facts do make a compelling argument to reject HSR in its entirety for our social, cultural, demographic, geographic, technological and economic circumstances -- the context -- in the United States.

The Willis Report
Thanks But No Thanks, High-Speed Rail

By Gerri Willis
Published February 18, 2011
| FOXBusiness

High-speed rail for all—this White House seems to have become obsessed.

Everything the President talks about when it comes to spending and energy involves high-speed rail. What he fails to mention is that many states don't want it.

Vice President Joe Biden introduced the administration's plan recently that would send $53 billion to high-speed rail projects. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Florida is in line to get nearly $2.5 billion for a track between Tampa and Orlando.

But guess what—Gov. Rick Scott is saying, “Thanks but no thanks.” Scott predicts taxpayers in the Sunshine State would have to fork over an additional $3 billion initially, but there's also upkeep costs for such trains which could top a half billion dollars.

That's $2.5 billion that gets to be used to pay off the deficit, right?


It's going to California, or New York or Washington or Maryland. These states are all lining up to get the extra money.

By the way - California already got billions after the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin said no to the high-speed rail funds.

Another reason states don't want to do this is because they think no one will use it. The paper points out it would actually be cheaper to drive between Tampa and Orlando - and would only add a few minutes to your travel time.

Back in 1999, when this issue first came about, a ticket between Los Angeles and San Francisco was to cost $55 dollars one way. Now Forbes predicts it could be closer to $200 dollars.

If I was to buy a ticket on Southwest it would only cost about $150 dollars, and get me there quicker.

Then there's Amtrak, which is already a federally funded rail-line. The government has its hands full trying to keep it afloat - and they've been quite unsuccessful at it.

Amtrak has never made a profit - losing money every year it has existed - maybe because the average employee earns $91 thousand annually.

In fact for every rider it carries it loses $32.

High-speed rail has become a punch-line for Republicans furious over this administration's spending habits.

States don't want it, riders can't afford it—and yet the money keeps flowing.


Fix the system you already have - and let states make their own transportation decisions.

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