Wednesday, March 28, 2012

High-Speed Rail is Robin Hood in Reverse

Here's a great example of what I've been talking about.

The government is, in effect, giving Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid's High speed rail company a loan/gift of five billion dollars.  What for? To build a train connecting Las Vegas in Nevada with Victorville in California.  Victorville? That's 100 miles from Las Vegas.

But, that's only a small part of the problem.  The problem is, who are the intended riders for this train?  As the article says, Las Vegas-bound "high-rollers" from Los Angeles.  In Los Angeles, there's Rodeo Drive, the fanciest shopping street in the US. And 30 miles from Los Angeles, there's Anaheim, home of Disneyland. 

So, we can call this a high-speed tourist train. That is, a train for people with considerable disposable income.  That's what this train will be connecting. Of course, will all the conferences in those famous Casino Hotels in Las Vegas, there's another market niche, the expense-account junket, but that's tourism in a business suit.

Now the question becomes, should the government be using all of our tax-dollars to build this train? Or, as we've put it before, should the government be taking money from lower income people and giving it to higher income people? 

Please understand the ridership for this train are people affluent enough to have transit choices, unlike many Americans who make transit rides as economical as possible in order to go to work. The well-to-do can fly, can rent cars, can take cabs, can do what they please in order to make their travel as convenient as possible, and they can pay for it.  Do they need such massive costly upgrades paid for by us to make their expensive travel less expensive with our tax dollars?

Have we become so hard-hearted as to not give a damn about anyone less wealthy than we are? We, as a nation, have been slashing budgets for education, elder care and all the other social services that establish a great, civilized nation.  

Those cuts are justified by our struggling economy. In which case, is building a fancy train for the rich the right thing to do?  And I don't want to hear any more about the "jobs creation" myth. Those promises are hollow.

But, wait, there's more.  After having built this train, it has to be operated, and that operation has to be paid for. High-speed trains are the most expensive trains to operate, costing far more per mile than regular trains, even Express passenger trains.  We've said this a million times: Speed Costs!

Now, contrary to Mr. Dan Richard's claims, high-speed rail systems world wide not only charge the most of any other passenger train ticket, but most need additional funding from the government. Mr. Richard, to remind you, is the Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and he denies this, claiming that all these fancy-pants trains are profitable. Of course he does! Of course they are!

That is to say, the operational costs of such trains are so high that even their most expensive tickets don't cover all the costs.  Therefore, these HSR trains, in most of the world, must be government subsidized.

So, whose money is it that subsidizes these luxury, premium passenger trains for the affluent?  We, the taxpayers do. And who put up the money to build these useless trains in the first place? We, the taxpayers.

Had enough yet?


High-speed rail from the Vegas Strip to Rodeo Drive; is this the way to keep money in circulation?
Las Vegas : NV : USA | Mar 26, 2012 at 5:40 PM PDT
By RiversLangford 

Two decades ago visitors and residents alike were being polled as to whether or not a train from the Vegas Strip to (at that time) Rodeo Drive would be something they would be interested in or not. It isn’t important what the poll revealed, it was really a ploy to be able to add another great day excursion to Vegas visitors and be able to ferry in gamblers from the money pit of California. It has not yet come to fruition but it will if Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has his way and manages to draw breath long enough.

Lobbyists have been hard at work to get this loan of more than $4 billion pushed through so that the Desert Xpress can become a reality.

There is no doubt that a commuter train that travels 150 mph could be a unique attraction. Many high rollers (especially from foreign countries) would love for their wives to spend the day and half the night spending money in the shops along Rodeo Drive while they whiled away their time in the high-roller rooms gambling. Of course, there is the little problem of getting the commuters from L.A. to the train station which, will probably be located about 100 miles away. Then how will they get from the station in Las Vegas to the Strip in the center of town? It isn’t quite what was originally proposed in the 90’s.

There is the question, of course, of how the Federal Railroad Administration can justify a loan that is twice the amount of all the other loans it has made since it was created. Does our country really need to reward Harry Reid and his supporters with a $5 billion dollar loan when there are so many other infrastructure items that could use the money?

Maybe the FRA is willing to just call it a “crap shoot,” but most of the American people probably wouldn’t think it was a great priority.

RiversLangford is based in Savannah, Georgia, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices. 

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