Do you know why this article is here? (It's from the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia.) Because this is what we have been telling you right along. Now it's time to get everyone you know to understand the underlying realities of high-speed trains and what a crock this national program is.
It's all for show. It's all for politics and making people look like they have their hands on the future. That, as we've taken great pains to communicate, is nonsense.
Please sent this blog to everyone you know. Send them the address:
Send this URL address to both Democrats and Republicans. More taxpayers and citizens need to understand what high-speed rail is really all about.
Transportation: China syndrome
By TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF
Published: May 01, 2011
"China is building faster trains and newer airports," President Obama said in his State of the Union speech. "Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a D. We have to do better."
Obama is hardly alone in his enthusiasm for high-speed rail. We share it, too — at least in those densely populated areas where rail transit makes economic sense. Alas, too many have been seduced by the romance of rail for rail's sake and have wound up endorsing nonsensical projects in California's Central Valley or the now-sidelined Orlando-Tampa run in Florida.
The latest news from China might temper such enthusiasm. The top railway official has been arrested. Corruption appears rampant. More significant than those issues — which could affect any industry — are the safety and cost concerns. China has cut the top speed for its bullet trains by 30 mph out of worries over "severe" safety hazards. It also is rethinking some of the huge projects that it launched without regard to ridership demand. "We have a debt crisis — a high-speed rail debt crisis," says a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University. "I think it is more serious than your subprime mortgage crisis." The Washington Post's Charles Lane says China could have seen it coming, given the rail bailouts that were needed in Japan and Taiwan. China's rail ministry is $271 billion in the hole, and ticket sales aren't sufficient to service the debt.
Granted, roads in the U.S. rely on subsidies as well. Gov. Bob McDonnell just announced a road package financed through debt — one that, says Democratic Del. Vivian Watts, has "echoes of the subprime housing boom and bust" in it. "Virginia is about to take on debt beyond its transportation income stream," she said recently. If the price of gasoline goes through the roof, then many Americans also may find their love affair with the automobile turning sour as well.
But that shift should have little effect on the discussion about high-speed rail, whose purpose is inter-city travel. Bullet trains compete with airplanes; they don't reduce daily driving any more than building more airports would, which is why ridership in China isn't as great as boosters imply. In his State of the Union address, the president said America stood at a Sputnik moment as it confronted Chinese public investment in research and infrastructure. He might have been right about research but, at the moment, Red China's bullet-train debacle is looking less like a liftoff and more like a meltdown. High-speed rail in certain American corridors retains considerable appeal, but China's example cannot be ignored.