Sunday, June 12, 2011

As Iowa goes, so goes High-Speed Rail in the Nation

As we all know, Iowa is an election cycle bellweather state.  The first unofficial primaries are held there.

What's important about this article by Mark Perry is not that it addresses a situation in Iowa, but that there is an underlying pattern to the entire high-speed rail program in the US which is predicated upon totally false assumptions. 

High-Speed Rail is a solution in search of problems.  It finds them and claims it can cure them.  False.  HSR supporters claim we need these trains.  False.  We don't.  HSR supporters claim that we can afford it.  (It would be more expensive not to build it.)  Complete, idiotic nonsense. HSR will solve our transit problems on the highways and airways.  All false.

The article suggests low cost bus alternatives.  Well, to begin with, what rich person is going to be found even dead on a bus, no matter how fancy?  

There is already a super-bus from Washington D.C. to NYC.  That's Acela country, partner!  And,the traint costs aroundt $200 one way, but the bus costs $15. one way.  I've been told that the ride is comfortable and one can get a lot of work done via wi-fi. So, that leaves non-subisidized buses for most of us, and highly subsidized HSR for the rich. And, in the same way that the super-rich pay a far lower percentage of their income in taxes, they will also receive this highly subsidized premium, luxury rail service for themselves. (No, buses are not subsidized.  Gas taxes pay for highway usage.)

And aren't HSR trains better for the environment?  The short answer is absolutely not.  Buses will become hybrid and far more fuel efficient.  Trains will consume fossil fuels for construction in such quantity that the emissions can never be amortized.  We don't need construction for buses; we need to repair the infrastructure we already have, and improve it.  And that will come in at a fraction of what HSR will cost. 

I love the H.L. Mencken quotation at the end of the article: 

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” 
================= » Economy » 

The Latest Government Solution To A Non-Problem
By Mark Perry on June 12, 2011 | More Posts By Mark Perry | Author's Website

Megabus provides low-cost, non-stop express bus service twice daily between Iowa City and Chicago for fares as low as $10 each way for service on some days, and $18 and $23 on other days.  The single and double decker luxury buses offer free wireless Internet, convenient power outlets for laptops and cell phones, and panoramic windows (see photo above), and the one-way trip takes less than four hours.  To provide this affordable, convenient, dependable and low-cost daily bus service between Iowa City and Chicago, Megabus receives no taxpayer funding, federal or state subsidies, loan guarantees, support payments, etc.
So what’s the federal government’s response to the “non-problem” of affordable public transportation between Iowa City and Chicago?  At New Geography, Wendell Cox writes:

“The federal government is again offering money it does not have to entice a state (Iowa) to spend money that it does not have on something it does not need. The state of Iowa is being asked to provide funds to match federal funding for a so-called “high speed rail” line from Chicago to Iowa City. The new rail line would simply duplicate service that is already available (Megabus).

Perhaps most surprisingly, the luxury buses make the trip faster than the so-called high speed rail line, at 3:50 hours. The trains would take more than an hour longer (5:00 hours). No one would be able to get to Chicago quicker than now. Only in America does anyone call a train that averages 45 miles per hour “high speed rail.”

The state would be required to provide $20 million in subsidies to buy trains and then more to operate the trains, making up the substantial difference between costs and passenger fares. This is despite a fare much higher than the bus fare, likely to be at least $50 (based upon current fares for similar distances). 

By contrast, the luxury bus service charges a fare of $18.00 (or less, see above), and does not require a penny of taxpayer subsidy. Because the luxury bus is commercially viable (read “sustainable”), service can readily be added and funded by passengers. Adding rail service would require even more in subsidies from Iowa. The bus is also more environmentally friendly than the train.”

MP: H.L. Mencken summarizes the situation well: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”  And the government solutions to the imaginary hobgoblins, e.g. the need for “high speed” transportation between Iowa City and Chicago, are always very, very costly, in this case hundreds of millions of dollars to solve a “non problem.”

HT: Michael Barone via Pete Friedlander

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