January 29, 2010

As long as we're spending money, I love this $8 billion for high-speed rail lines.

Especially the one that connects Madison, Wisconsin to Milwaukee, and Milwaukee to Chicago and Minneapolis. Thanks for the $810 million for Wisconsin.

Much as I hate the proposals to add light rail commuter trains to Madison, I would love some great train lines connecting our midwestern cities. I don't think people will (or can) give up their cars and use rail lines to travel between home and downtown, but I do think people will use rail instead of cars or planes to travel distances in the 50 to 300 mile range. I hate dealing with the airport, and I'm afraid of flying, so I always drive to go to Chicago or Milwaukee. I'd love to use a great train — and I'd make those trips into the city a lot more often.

***

Here's the White House press release.
This historic $8 billion investment is expected to create or save tens of thousands of jobs over time in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering, and rail maintenance and operations.  Over 30 rail manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, have agreed to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if they are hired to build America’s next generation high-speed rail lines – a commitment the Administration secured to help ensure new jobs are created here at home.
Domestic and foreign? But "new jobs are created here at home." What proportion of the jobs are created here at home?

107 comments:

Opus One Media said...

In an era of $3.00+ gas, and SUVs still unsold or traded, and when things dealing with rapid transit will only grow more acute, perhaps, just perhaps we should take a lesson from the other countries in the world and just try, little steps...babysteps..., to adapt.

For NY'ers and communters this would be a Godsend and the idea of driving from NYC to DC or taking the USAir Shuttle means $60 in cabs, and $400 to get me from here to there and back..well..that is crazy.

If the infrastructure wants to extend to TheGreatCheeseState so be it. You'll be better off for it and frankly Madison is a fun place but Milwaukee connecting to Chicago...well now.

rhhardin said...

At speeds up to 79 mph, the news said of Ohio's.

That cuts the travel time to about what it is now by car, if you omit the stops and waits there will be.

MadisonMan said...

Mayor Dave says this could be Doyle's legacy (well, that and bankrupt coffers -- I added that part), and I agree it's great for WI. Now we can all hop the train to Chicago and pay the exorbitant sales tax there :)

I hope the bus infrastructure is in place at the rail terminus so you can actually get somewhere easily once you arrive, quickly, at your destination.

Joaquin said...

High speed? When did a top speed of 79mph become high speed???
Don't buy the hype!

Christopher said...

High-speed passenger rail is a financial sinkhole about the size of your state. It is an excellent idea for those who feel we haven't spent ourselves into oblivion quite quickly enough.

AllenS said...

I couldn't get the link to work. You say "track laying". Does that mean they will have a separate rail line for this train? If so, then the government will have buy land for this. 30 rail manufacturers. Doesn't sound like we have any in this country. So long $8 billion.

WV: clucki

Pogo said...

As soon as the TSA gets its mitts on train travel, its appeal will go *poof*.

AllenS said...

Wait a minute. Will the train have a club car where you can buy an adult beverage?

Palladian said...

New lines? That Kelo decision is sure gonna come in handy.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Grow up, girls. It's not worth it. Send buses. The trains are a nostalgia trip. Not with my tax money.

Pogo said...

The only reason I favor trains is because the TSA has made flying so horrible.

But I'm sure they can wreck every form of transportation if they put their minds to it.

No, I do not favor spending inflated and increasingly worthless dollars on this. But the printing presses have been cranked up, the boys are drunk, and they gots the keys to the Treasury car. Tomorrow we'll be broke and hung over, but the spending party will have been a wild one.

AllenS said...

Will it just run between the big cities, or will it stop at smaller towns in between?

sierra said...

link is broken; prefix is "hhttp"

Jim said...

One Billion US Dollars.

So people can ride a train from Madison, WI, to Milwaukee, WI. And the operations of the train will require government subsidies, forever, so what we are doing is building a hole to pour tax money into, until the end of time.

That is ridiculous.

lucid said...

@Ann (parenthetically) Being afraid of flying is very treatable. Make your life easier.

t-man said...

As long as we're spending money, I want a pony.

R.L. Hunter said...

The sad thing is once upon a time the rail system in the U.S had the greatest coverage in the world.(miles of track,cities and towns served)

However that went away when cheap and fast air service took away passengers and cheap gas and the interstate highway system made shipping freight by rail uncompetitive with trucking

The question I have is "What's changed in the last 40 years that would make rail competitive again?"

Leland said...

Geez, a chu chu from Madison to Chicago. It's like the turn of the 20th Century not the turn of 21st Century. No wonder you don't like the space program, it's just too advanced for your romantic notions.

Grow up, lady. It's not worth it. In money or in carbon emissions.

Chris said...

Planes make so much more sense except for the whole security angle but as Pogo points out, they can do that to trains and then we're back at square one.

PatHMV said...

Ann, how would you get around in your destination city, if you started taking the train for those 50-300 mile rides to other midwest cities? To me, that's always been the limit of rail travel in this country. In France, for example, population density in every city and town is high enough to support decent bus services that can get you cleanly and easily wherever you want to go. Here in the U.S., however, we're so much more spread out, public transportation in all but the very largest cities is mediocre, at best.

Here in Louisiana, the feds wanted to give us money for high speed rail from Baton Rouge (capital city) to New Orleans (about 75 miles south). That might work, only because the French Quarter and downtown New Orleans are very compact. But even going from, say, the National WWII Museum to St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the Quarter, it's too far to walk, and bus service, while extant, is confusing and not always present on the weekends. So I just don't see it succeeding, no matter how much I personally like train travel.

Now, if they offered a highspeed service that included bringing your car along, THAT I would take advantage of regularly.

AllenS said...

It's been a while since I've been to Tomah, WI. There is an Amtrack train depot there that is a dump. Very old building. No paint. Outside there is a place to sit. It looks like the seat off of an old 1950's truck.

The Drill SGT said...

I love trains. My father worked for the Western Pacific for 40 years. I was traveling the train alone at 5 (well my mom showed her pass and handed me off to the Porter. I was the only 9 y/o in school that could talk about driving a EMD F5 Diesel through the yards. Dad consulted for BART when they bought their first cars. I love trains. having said that again.

This story is so much BS and the plans just piss away money.

1. Orlando-Tampa is 80 miles. A high speed train traveling at speeds up to 169 mph? for how much of the trip? So the trip now takes 90 minutes by car. How long to drive to the station in Tampa, ride the train for nearly an hour, the take a cab or bus on the other end to your destination? more than 90 minutes for sure. This train will lose money forever.

2. As others have noted, these rail plans will require entirely new road beds and perhaps new right of ways. You can't use the same track plans at 169mph that you used at 70. You need to straighten out the curves. That is what keeps the Acela way under designed speeds. The ends of the cars bind on curves and derail. ruins the whole trip :)

3. Beyond Bomdardier and maybe GE, nobody makes cars and engines in the US anymore. all the mass transit guys go to Spain for cars. Note that they are talking about different top speeds on different lines. sounds like different technologies. just spreading the love around on demonstrations that will always lose money like AMTRACK has done for 40 years.

John Burgess said...

I travel from my part of west-central Florida to DC several times a year. It's a 2.5-hr flight (not counting travel to/from airports, check-in, security, etc.); a 23-hr bus/train combo; or a 15.5-hr drive. The drive is 30% cheaper than the airfare.

Good thing my 14-y/o car gets good mileage.

FL, too, is to be a beneficiary of high-speed rail dollars. If they build it (and it works), I could certainly re-think my travel mode. I do like trains and use the DC-Phila Metrorail often and in lieu of driving.

AllenS said...

Drill--

I also used trains. Hard to believe, but I went into the Army on a train in June 1966 from Minneapolis. When I was young my mother used to take me to the train depot in St. Paul, MN, give the porter some money and he would make sure I got where I need to go. Can you imagine a mother today giving you to some strange man, and a black man at that, trusting him for your safety? Why were black men so trusted back then?

The Drill SGT said...

Can you imagine a mother today giving you to some strange man, and a black man at that, trusting him for your safety? Why were black men so trusted back

In my case, we were part of the WP family. Porters weren't just any black man. They were the height of trust and unifromed repectability. And my grandmother was standing on the platform in Oroville waiting for me.

as for the Pullman Porters, (well they were not Pullman cars, they were Vista Domes) they were clearly trusted agents. My mother would trust today's Stewardess less than she did those guys. Of course what she actually was doing was showing my pass to the 50/yo white conductor taking tickets and he was handing me to a 60y/o black porter in the car. So Mom had 2 points of reference. But there never was the slightest doubt that I'd get there and I'd behave, else the porter would have had words with Gram when I got off :)

M.E. said...

Trains are a money pit; the government wastes so much money on Amtrak every year and for what? A romantic notion that some train buffs enjoy, and that's about it. Service is mostly crappy; delays are expected; and yes, you still need a car when you get where you're going.

I am furious about this "high speed" train line; it's going to further destroy our state budget and never be worth it. I am so sick of the billions and billions of dollars being thrown away and wasted on useless projects.

Michael said...

The President made the remark that one wouldn't have to take one's shoes off to ride the splendid high speed rail the 90 miles from Tampa to Orlando. Not so fast... If everyone is speeding around America on upgraded trains are they not vulnerable to sabatoge to the thousands of miles of rural track that cannot be guarded? Terrorists don't bother with trains in the U.S. because there are so few of them, they are less spectacular to blow up than planes, and they probably haven't given them much thought as a result of the lack of theatrical effect. Not only are trains stupidly inefficient but the obstacles for putting them in place are profoundly daunting.

John Lynch said...

If it's a good idea, then why have high speed inter-city rail lines attracted zero private investment?

I like trains a lot (especially our local tourist trap), but if the demand was there we'd have the rail lines by now. Trains have been around for over 160 years. They are a mature technology.

TosaGuy said...

It is not Milw to Madison, it is Milw to the Dane County Airport, which is nowhere near anyplace one wants to go in Madison.

Say I want to go to the UW campus or downtown Madison and I live 15 minutes from the Milw train station. I show up 20 minutes before the train leaves to get my ticket etc. Then I ride it with stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown, which will take probably an hour. I am now at the DCA waiting 10-15 minutes for a bus, then its at least a 20 bus ride to downtown or the campus. My time investment is at least 2 hours and probably 2 1/2. I regularly do from my doorstep to the UW campus in 70 minutes. Then I have to go back...... so 4 to 5 hours of my day traveling instead 2 1/2 will be spent on that trip.

TosaGuy said...

There is already a much cheaper and flexible program for commuting to Madison from Milwaukee. The State of Wisconsin Vanpool.

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

Daddy, I want a pony.

AllenS said...

You're not getting a pony, now get on that damned train. NOW!

rhhardin said...

If you missed investing in inter-urban trolley lines the last time, this is your chance again.

Chris said...

Isn't Bombardier Canadian?

I love the idea of trains and if I can get from LA to SF in 2 hours I'm all for it for the cool factor. Probably makes no financial sense though. If we must have a boondoggle I'd prefer a mix of urban public transit and freeway expansion.

Chris said...

Maybe we should take the money for high speed rail and instead build a moon base?

radar said...

CA just got $2 billion for the LA-SanFran high speed rail line. Some data:

- $40 billion for construction, not operating costs
- needs 112,000 passengers/day to be solvent
- 7,400 people fly daily between LAX and SFO
- 78,000 people take Amtrak daily (entire network)
- 120,000 people at LAX daily (all departures & arrivals)

Boondoggle is the word that comes to mind.

BJK said...

Completely agree with TosaGuy (who I assume is a Mark Belling listener, since he ran down a similar scenario about a week ago).

The demand isn't there for high-speed rail; not in sufficent amounts to justify the cost. It's the form of transport that people can be sold on the convenience of use, until they actually get it and find out all the hassles associated with it.

Also...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEZjzsnPhnw

TosaGuy said...

I do blame Tommy Thompson for this boondoggle. When he was gov and president of the amtrak board, he pushed this route to the front of the line in 2000. All of the initial planning was done and dirt was going to be turned but then he was selected for HHS.

The boondoggle gets worse, this is only one part of the overall Midwest High Speed Rail initiative, which is car-speed trains running out of Chicago to the twin cities, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Detroit.

TosaGuy said...

I do listen to MB on occasion and did hear the scenario.....but my 70 minute commute to the UW is my own experience.

The rail line from Milw to Watertown is ready for such trains right now with only crossing improvements required. The line from Watertown to the DCA requires a complete rebuild

MayBee said...

If it's a good idea, then why have high speed inter-city rail lines attracted zero private investment?

That is an issue. Japan built its train system with public/private partnerships.
I love the train system and used them frequently when living in Japan. But there is a different lifestyle there than there is here, and I fear lack of private support for trains here indicates it isn't a lifestyle Americans embrace.
Even China, the country Obama used as an example, is moving toward the convenience of car ownership.

There have been terror attacks (from various groups) centered on trains in London, Tokyo, Madrid, Russia, and India. Off the top of my head.

Chris said...

Probably NYC -- DC is the only route that makes a lick of sense.

Jim said...

And this is the problem with people who complain about out-of-control government spending: it's all bad until the latest shiny government bauble is dangled in front of their face.

It's bad policy for the reasons that multiple commenters have already pointed out.

It will never EVER be profitable which means that it will forever be a drain on state and federal resources to keep it going anyway even as mostly empty train cars are zooming back and forth.

Do deficits mean something or don't they? If they do, then tell me which taxes should be raised to pay for this. Gas taxes on those who will never benefit from the train between these two very particular locations? Maybe toll roads on the highways between these two cities which would have to be paid by people whose travels don't include either destination as a starting or ending point?

Who will you demand subsidize your personal government pet project that you "love"? Somebody has to pay for this, and you surely aren't going to be opening your wallet to cover the whole amount.

I'm sick and tired of people claiming that they love this or that government project...because the unspoken idea is that somebody else should be on the hook to pay for something which your state's citizens are quite obviously not willing to pay. Why should Arizona pay for Wisconsin's trains? Why should Idaho?

This is the problem with so many federal programs - not just this particular one. If you want it in your state, then you and your fellow state residents find a way to pay for it. Quit trying to nationalize your bills while you localize your benefits.

Enough is enough.

former law student said...

During the flush of money to upgrade transit systems in the late 70's, several foreign bus and rail companies set up assembly plants in the US. My uncle worked for M-A-N in North Carolina at that time, which assembled mostly articulated buses from German-sourced kits for SF's Muni, Seattle, and the CTA.

Siemens has a factory making light rail cars in Sacramento, so they're poised to make some money and employ some Americans.

John Burgess said...

If it's a good idea, then why have high speed inter-city rail lines attracted zero private investment?

Umm, perhaps because government is the one with the power of eminent domain? Building practical rail lines is going to mean acquiring a lot of currently-owened real estate, not quite the way it was in the 19th C. Straightening existing lines is still going to be cutting into/through someone else's property.

No private company has the power or money to do that on its own.

WV: Yes, I know, I'm twomene

ABP said...

I'm all for it, if we can get Dagny Taggart to be Operating Vice-President in Charge of Operations for the railway.

former law student said...

It will never EVER be profitable

Airlines are seldom profitable, and I seem to recall that Greyhound went bankrupt a while back. I'm old enough to remember Boeing's near-destruction in the late 1970s. ("Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?")

Shall we simply do without rapid intercity transportion? Nothing beats rail for moving troops.

Henry said...

Over 30 rail manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, have agreed to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if they are hired to build America’s next generation high-speed rail lines – a commitment the Administration secured to help ensure new jobs are created here at home

My God, this is sad triumphalizing. When offered a bucket of money, business lined up at the trough. Rail is great!

Personally, I think the U.S. needs a Chunnel. We can connect the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port with the Kennedy Compound on Martha's Vineyard. That is sure to create or save all sorts of jobs. Let us not forget the jobs of tunnelers.

ABP said...

Of course Dagny has probably already left for the Gulch.

former law student said...

If you want it in your state, then you and your fellow state residents find a way to pay for it. Quit trying to nationalize your bills while you localize your benefits.

Damn straight. I'm tired of paying for interstate highways in places like Montana and Idaho, places I never go. Let them convert them to toll roads, like everywhere northeast of Chicago. Pay as you go.

former law student said...

the overall Midwest High Speed Rail initiative, which is car-speed trains running out of Chicago

Welcome to 1952.

Back then it was easy to calculate train speed with a good watch by counting the telegraph poles that went by. They were spaced every hundred feet. Between stations we went between 70 and 80 miles an hour.

John Lynch said...

The other problem is that we did have an express train network, and Americans abandoned it. Why?

Without answering that, it's silly to spend a lot of money trying to bring back the trains.

Cars are not going away, SUV sales are up again, and the interstates are still a good way to travel between cities.

Henry said...

Airlines are seldom profitable, and I seem to recall that Greyhound went bankrupt a while back.

Airlines are seldom profitable ... except when they are.

These are arguments for private enterprise, you realize. Private companies are allowed to fail. If they go bankrupt, they have to make accommodations to get back in business. If they don't get back in business, another private company will take their place -- assuming the product is viable.

Here in Rhode Island, I can take the Peter Pan bus line to NYC or Boston for a fraction of the cost of an Amtrak ticket. And this is the Northeast corridor where Amtrak is actually profitable.

k*thy said...

My last Amtrak experience took me from Minneapolis to a few days in Glacier to a final destination in Seattle. Being picked up and getting around Glacier was quite easy with the private/public system they had set up. And any similar trips to Milwaukee and Chicago have worked similarly. So, to some extent I trust that someone will figure out how to make a buck and provide some local service for local travel. Now, with Madison and the proposed airport stop – that type of service doesn’t exist and I’d add…yet. It’s my understanding Metro buses would service the airport (which they currently don’t) and/or the future plans of a commuter rail would spur to the airport. I actually lean to this type of arrangement, locally – as I’m not sure how high speed, this high speed rail would be going in and out of the isthmus.

And, as I recall, from my days of sitting on a prominent downtown business board, the real kicker for them endorsing the commuter rail was to find a way to grow day and night time population densities -given the reality of limited parking and no space for additional roads or increased road capacities. Though I was leery at the time, it made a compelling argument.

Uncle Hesiod said...

Yes, but can he make them run on time?

Smilin' Jack said...

You're missing the point, guys--this isn't about trains, it's about jobs: "This historic $8 billion investment is expected to create or save tens of thousands of jobs over time in areas like track-laying..."

We'll pay billions to build the lines, then when they prove worthless, we'll pay the next generation of workers more billions to turn them into bike paths. Win-win!

Sheepman said...

I was recently in Japan on vacation and used a rail pass to travel around. IMO, their system with the high speed skinkansen trains are the way to go for dense urban corridors. On major routes, they have a few trains each hour that you can get on without a reservation. I had a 11:30 pm flight back from Osaka and I knew that I could easily catch that flight by train from wherever in Japan I happened to be that day (except Hokkaido).

Aside from being more convenient than flying, it was much more pleasurable.

Henry said...

@Smilin' Jack -- More Bike Paths! Sweet!

Kirk Parker said...

MM,

"I hope the bus infrastructure is in place at the rail terminus so you can actually get somewhere easily once you arrive, quickly, at your destination."

Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ... [falls off chair, continues now literall ROFL'ing...]

So when did you get to be such a comedian?


R.L.,

"the interstate highway system made shipping freight by rail uncompetitive with trucking"

What? Then what are the vast, longer-than-the-eye-can-see trains that I see going by every day doing?

madawaskan said...

The Vegas to Barstow one is stupid.

Have you been to Barstow?

wv:dizingsh

[somehow that fits.]

And, the Democrats want to keep up or catch up with the rest of the world with bullet trains-while giving up on something where we were light years ahead....

Leave it to Democrats always perpetually oveconcerned with-

Sister Europe.

Joe said...

Programs like this infuriate me. If having high speed rail between Ohio and Chicago is such a great idea, let Ohio, Indiana and Illinois pay for it. The only function of the federal government would be permits and some regulations. Of course, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois won't pay for it because they know it will just a huge money pit.

That said, at least there is an interstate commerce argument. Why should the federal government be involved in light rail in California, Portland, Salt Lake, etc.?

TosaGuy said...

"the interstate highway system made shipping freight by rail uncompetitive with trucking"

Then how come my investment in Norfolk Southern pays a nice dividend?

Trains are great for freight like coal and grain. Great for cars and plywood. Great for anything you can put in a shipping container. People are the worst type of freight for a train because the passenger will never pay what it actually costs to move him via a train.

I would rather see this train money going into fixing bottlenecks in the national rail network where double-deck shipping container cars cannot pass (i.e tunnels, bridge underpasses). Also invest in intermodel freight facilities where ship, train and truck can transfer shipping containers easily.

Want to save fuel, reduce road congestion and limit beating the roads to pieces, get as much freight as possible on trains.

Joe said...

The money hole:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyS5n0ByLag

madawaskan said...

btw-

The Vegas to Barstow Xpress-

Here is a little something about the cost of just this ONE line-

From the Desert Dispatch-

Maglev proponents estimate the cost of construction at $12 to $15 billion, while DesertXpress proponents peg their project’s costs at $3.5 to $4 billion

That is outside of the $8 billion they are talking about-here.

The Drill SGT said...

madawaskan said...
The Vegas to Barstow one is stupid.

Have you been to Barstow?


LOL, Yes, on my way up a 40 mile deadend road to main Post Ft Irwin.

Barstow would be a great passenger terminus. It has 1,200,000 acres of free parking.

madawaskan said...

Drill-

Do you want to laugh even more-

I promise you ...

Get a load of the "artwork" on the pdf the White House linked to-

It's called something like-

Invisioning Bullet Trains for America-I'm paraphrasing but the cover art for the pdf is laugh out loud funny.

It has a red, white and blue-Obama campaign blue- bullet train running across-mid air- through a big ole Obama moon.

It's like the Obama Campaign logo on crack, erh tracks....

Yearrrgh!

Ugh, here is how they "describe"-it;

High Speed Rail cover graphic of stylized train on rails within circle.

Her is the link to this Obama "art"-

http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/rrdev/hsrstrategicplan.pdf

madawaskan said...

Darn it let me try that again-

Link

madawaskan said...

Oh quelle surprise!

Reading the pdf there are eighteen "designated high speed rail corridors"-

FIVE of which lead to Chicago.

The force with the unions must be strong in Chi-town.....

Paul Zrimsek said...

The Obama moon is there but where's the bullet train? All I saw was a red, white, and blue single-button mouse.

cold pizza said...

What we need is a variation of Galt's engine. Nuke would be great, works for subs and carriers, but the environmental/security concerns would be a nightmare. Electric? Perhaps putting down an infrastructure now while waiting for the tech to catch up would work but I don't credit the gov with any type of forward looking ability. -cp

wv: soptouti: "s'opt out, I"--refusing to get involved.

former law student said...

FIVE of which lead to Chicago.

Only five? Chicago is the traditional rail and air hub of the country. Eighty million people take off and land yearly in Chicago, between O'Hare and Midway.

Chris said...

I like the bike path idea. Kill the high speed rail idea and throw the money into local transit, roads and bike paths. I used to live in SF and date a girl in Manhattan Beach and I'd fly down pretty much every other weekend after work friday and fly back monday morning. I would leave work at 5pm and be eating dinner with my girl at 8pm. I would leave the house at 6am monday morning and be hard at work by 9am. Sadly I didn't marry this girl but if I had, I would have asked Herb Kelleher to be my best man.

Chris said...

The point being that air travel works great. It's like the internet and the last mile problem. Where is the bottleneck? I live in LA so my bottleneck is probably not the same as Prof. Althouse's

Jim said...

fls -

"Damn straight. I'm tired of paying for interstate highways in places like Montana and Idaho, places I never go. Let them convert them to toll roads, like everywhere northeast of Chicago. Pay as you go."

Nice try at misdirection, but it's a ridiculous argument to make. The answer to your non-answer is contained within your non-answer:

"INTERSTATE" highways

It is one thing for the federal government to take a role in projects which require INTERSTATE cooperation and which benefit multiple states.

What we're talking about here is purely INTRASTATE project. The federal government shouldn't be involved in funding something which is designed purely for the benefit of local inhabitants. If there isn't sufficient will within the state of Wisconsin to fund it, then it should not be built. Period.

For a "former law student" you really do have some difficulty in:

a) arguing the actual subject at hand and not trying to change it, and
b) understanding the basic difference between inter- and intra-state commerce and where the federal government has jurisdiction and where it is overreaching,

DADvocate said...

In Ohio, we're getting $400 million for high-speed rail. Except, at first anyway, it won't be that high speed, maybe 80 mph.
But, from the times and fares from Cincinnati to Columbus or Cleveland that they're giving, including stops, you can drive the distance faster and cheaper. Plus, you won't need to pay for a cab once you get there.

White elephant.

bagoh20 said...

The real problem with all this stuff is cost. Due to government regulation, unions, and political siphoning, we are unable to wipe our own asses without going broke. Which makes me wonder why isn't toilet paper more carefully regulated. There should be softness, scent, and size standards, biodegradability standards, minimum TP employee benefits and handicap aides built in. Not to mention numerous stickers telling us how not to kill ourselves while wiping.

madawaskan said...

fls-
Ya five outta eighteen, and even the White House is saying that the $8 billion is seed money-in their own press release they say it will eventually cost-

$55 Billion

Ever work for the government-how do their projections work out?

You could perhaps triple that...

And while we are doin the math-what percent of eighteen is five?

But ya lets follow Europe it's worked out so well...

broken on a ship of fools
even dreams must fall to rules
so stupidly
words are all just useless sound
just like cards, they fall around


Sister Europe



[Hey! you can hear the rails on this song...heh.]

former law student said...

The federal government shouldn't be involved in funding something which is designed purely for the benefit of local inhabitants.

Man, people in Oahu are gonna be pissed off at you:

http://www.interstate-guide.com/i-h-003.html

madawaskan said...

Paul-

All I saw was a red, white, and blue single-button mouse.

LOL!

former law student said...

The point being that air travel works great. It's like the internet and the last mile problem. Where is the bottleneck?
OPEC

Just like the French, we can have high speed trains running off nuclear-generated power, but I don't see rechargeable jetliners ever being developed.

Penny said...

But Uncle Joe Biden LOVES trains.

You know the story...every day from Wilmington, Delaware to Washington DC for over 35 years.

Big Mike said...

And taking into account the likely ridership for your route, the cost of maintenance (tracks, right-of-way, locomotives, rail cars, etc.), if you had to pay your full, fair share of the cost of the trip you'd be money ahead to rent a stretch limo for your next ride to Chicago.

garage mahal said...

Makes you wonder why China just invested 300 billion more on high speed rail if it's such a boondoggle. Perhaps we should just keep redirecting these billions in the Iraq sinkhole for their infrastructure. That would be the "serious" position to take. What a load of bullshit, as usual.

Liberals for it? We're against it!

Big Mike said...

BTW, interesting contrast between law-bloggers. Professor Althouse owns up to being afraid of flying, while Reynolds links to an article in Popular Mechanics about how to improve your odds of survival if you're blown out of a plane at 35,000 feet.

madawaskan said...

Yes, I would think that if you did side by side comparisions of air travel and train travel one would come out as a lot more dangerous in reality.

If you want to consider terrorism and sabotage with train travel you have-


miles and miles of track.

Try keeping a watch on that.

Penny said...

"miles and miles of track.

Try keeping a watch on that."

When our men get done laying the rail lines, they can go to work for the TSA to watch those rails.

Jim said...

fls -

"Man, people in Oahu are gonna be pissed off at you:"

Then they're gonna have to be pissed...Calling a highway an "interstate" that has no connection to another state is ludicrous. It's only called an "interstate" because it was funded with federal dollars.

With the billions of dollars of tourist dollars that flow to that tiny state every year, there's no reason they couldn't have built their own infrastructure without being subsidized by everyone else.

Thanks for bringing up another boondoogle that the federal government shouldn't have been involved with. Think it's too late to get a refund from the state of Hawaii for the millions and millions of dollars wasted on this?

Big Mike said...

@garage, you're against it? Now I have to go change my position.

At least I think I'm right in believing that you are opposed to the high speed rail boondoggle.

As for China, I can hypothesize why high speed rail makes sense for them (e.g., high population density increases likely ridership, poor highway infrastructure when compared to the US Interstate system). Looking at Washington's Metro system and even Amtrak, the US can't succeed with trains without massive ongoing subsidies, making it a luxury we cannot afford.

Penny said...

"...if you had to pay your full, fair share of the cost of the trip you'd be money ahead to rent a stretch limo for your next ride to Chicago."

Oh I doubt that, Big Mike. Don't you feel new taxes and fees coming on for those who ride anything on four wheels while living in a newly-defined "rail corridor"?

"Hell, we built you these damn new lines and now you better use 'em, citizen."

Jim said...

garage -

"Makes you wonder why China just invested 300 billion more on high speed rail if it's such a boondoggle. "

Only a person completely ignorant of the actual working of the Chinese economy could make a statement like that.

China has built entirely empty cities because the central government demands that the local provinces generate a certain percentage of growth in GDP every guarter, and the easiest way to boost that GDP growth is building government-funded projects - whether they're needed or not.

They are using all the public works projects to artificially inflate their GDP growth, and building an economic bubble that will make what happened here look child's play.

Ask Japan what happens when you use massive government spending to build and build in order to artificially inflate GDP...It's 20 years later and their economy still isn't fully recovered...Remember when Japan was going to be the economic powerhouse that was going to displace the USA? Yeah...me too.

Claims of China doing the same are equally as fallacious...

But the Democratic Party is insistent on repeating their mistakes...and put us on the track to do the same kind of permanent damage that the Japanese did...

This is what happens when you fail to do anything more than read the latest talking points and don't do your homework. You wind up saying very silly things that actually make the opposite point you intended.....

garage mahal said...

@garage, you're against it? Now I have to go change my position.

I'm for it, you'll have to change your mind back. Which proves my hypothesis. Anything a few liberals might advocate, MUST be unanimously opposed by conservatives. Anything that might be an actual improvement of things in this country, clean energy (we all breathe don't we?), smart developing, high speed rails, paperless health care records, and on and on and on. All these things could easily be done, but you people just fucking refuse to spend a dime on your own country. Iraq? Yes! Send billions to that god forsaken shithole. We lost 10 billions in Iraq, LOST. And we continue to spend 10 billion dollars there per month now going on 8 years! Enough to pay for this high speed rail system, with 2 billion left over.

MayBee said...

As for China, I can hypothesize why high speed rail makes sense for them (e.g., high population density increases likely ridership, poor highway infrastructure when compared to the US Interstate system).

Not to mention the relative inability of the average Chinese citizen to buy or own a car.

traditionalguy said...

The level of usage determines the loss from operations, and that can be far higher than the loss from shutting it down. Until we get the $7 a gal. gas that Obama also wants to put us into, no one will use it that has a car. But the construction will raise the level of government jobs sky high. The Big Dig in Boston will seem cheap soon.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If government does something, that proves it's a good idea-- as long as it's the Chinese government.

garage mahal said...

Or just about any other industrialized country in the world, but us.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"But us", indeed. We suck.

XWL said...

Improving the infrastructure of choice from the 19th century doesn't seem like the best investment strategy in the 21st.

Semi-autonomous vehicles utilizing automated highway systems would be a better way to spend billions of dollars.

MayBee said...

If government does something, that proves it's a good idea-- as long as it's the Chinese government.

Ha!
The Chinese government just gives us so many options to chose from when it comes to government controlling our lives. How can any pro-government involvement fan resist invoking them?

MayBee said...

Here's an excellent way to determine in which direction lies progress:

What does the elite do?

Does anybody imagine the American elite will start taking the high speed train rather than private cars or private jets?
Does anybody think the Chinese elite take trains rather than planes?
I don't. People don't aspire to take a train. Thus, building more trains isn't progress.

Perhaps they just want to keep the rest of us out of the airports and off the roads, so they can enjoy their luxury lifestyle without all of us getting in the way.

Bill White said...

Fast rail is just another slush fund boondoggle. You could "create or save" more jobs and do more objective good by digging holes and filling them in again, say in Montana in the summer and the desert southwest in the winter. 8 billion could buy a lot of these: http://americatopten.blogspot.com/2006/11/largest-earth-mover-in-world.html

Henry said...

If government does something, that proves it's a good idea-- as long as it's the Chinese government.

The Canadian government is also a favorite -- but not in this case.

Compare:

Rail Canada

Amtrak

What do we have in common with Canada? A lot of sparsely-settled plains.

I'm just now seeing Opus One Media's very first post in which he claims that rapid transit would be a godsend for "NY'ers and communters [sic]".

Dude, New York is already covered. Amtrak is profitable on its Boston to DC runs and all the major Eastern Seaboard cities have regional mass transit systems. I can take the MBTA into Boston from Providence. I can take Metro North into New York City from Poughkeepsie.

And why no love for the bus? Everyone wants a comfy subsidized train to ride in and scorns the intercity bus. Buses are comfortable, adaptable to changes in demand and affordable.

But buses aren't cool.

Big Mike said...

I'm for it, you'll have to change your mind back.

Oh, garage, c'mon. I was being facetious.

I suppose I could take the opportunity to say something snarky about liberals being always ready to pour other people's money down a rat hole, but I'll be nice and not say that.

I'll just point out that the US is a very different country from the nations which been successful in putting high speed rail in place (that's that "American exceptionalism" you keep taking exception to) and failure to recognize and deal with those differences will pretty much doom high speed rail.

Just as a for instance, if you want high speed rail between the East Coast and Chicago you have to decide what to do about the mountains in between. Climbing them means fairly tight curves, which cuts back on safe speeds, plus, by definition, dragging a heavy train up a slope of some sort, so that old nemesis, gravity, fights your ability to move at high speeds. The Pennsylvania bit the bullet and went over the mountains, but if you take over the old Pennsy tracks for high speed rail service, and upgrade them as needed to support high speeds with better easements and superelevation of the curves, then what about the freight trains? How do they get through the mountains? The old New York Central chose to flank the mountains, running north from NYC, then west along "the water level route" more or less paralleling the eastern great lakes until they could run more or less straight from near Toledo to Gary. Which added hundreds of miles.

So, bottom line, at a huge expense and (probably!) major impact to current rail freight operations, with major subsidies to be required forever afterwards, we are proposing to replace a two hour flight from O'Hare with a 9 or 10 hour rail journey.

Every place else that isn't the East Coast has comparable problems. High speed rail from San Francisco to LA? The California coastal range forces you to take over heavily traveled roads or head inland (over mountains or tunneling through them, adding expense to the route and distance to the trip). Eastwards from Denver? Nice and flat, but huge distances leave you to compare travel in a jet at 400 mph versus high speed rail at 100 or 120 mph. Denver west? You must be joking.

It will either not be built, after spending $8B just for studies, or it will be built and turn into a huge money pit that somebody (probably a fiscally conservative Republican) will have to use up political capital to kill down the road (making you deliriously happy, but taking money away from things that the US needs much more).

At any rate, I don't view high speed rail as a bad idea just because you like it. I view it as a bad idea because it really is a bad idea.

Now whether you, as a liberal, only like it because it's a bad idea, that I'm not so sure about.

[Should have resisted that last little bit of snark, but it's been a long, tough week.]

Big Mike said...

Oh, BTW, I'm in favor of paperless health care records, as you say that you are. So we can find common ground.

But only if the idea is a good one.

dick said...

Henry,

I live in NYC. I can take the Peter Pan to DC to visit my friend round trip for less than the price of one-way on Amtrak and half the price of one way on shuttle. It takes 20 minutes longer by bus than by Amtrak and lets me off at the same station (I get off at New Carrollton just outside DC which is the train and bus station combined). The bus is as comfortable as the train is.

In my case (I am over 65) the round trip was $52, the Amtrak one way was $72 and the plane one way was $144.

I don't see the train being profitable at all. What I think would make a lot more sense is suburban rapid transit. When I lived in Lakewood, NJ you had to have a car. There was bus transit that went to Newark or NYC. If you wanted to go to Trenton to the state govt offices, you had to go to Newark and then back out to Trenton or you had to go to Atlantic City and then from there to Trenton. The bus lines all ran on straignt lines from the central point. There was nothing connecting the lines. If you lived between the lines then you had to drive to one of the stations on the line and then you could use the rapid transit. I think the same thing holds true for Connecticut and Westchester County as well as Long Island. I would think smaller buses connecting the lines might be a way to do this. I think the same holds true in Boston and DC as well.

PatCA said...

We subsidize roads--right?--so I don't get the objection to subsidizing rail. High speed rail is not practical, though, for reasons others have mentioned. In CA various cities are requesting a stop, or objecting to being in its path, so it's not going to be high speed. And why spend billions for one to Vegas? Driving or flying is easier. The Amtrak up and down the coast is popular in the summer.

The train trip from Chicago and Milwaukee is now 90 minutes. The only additional leg that would be practical is Madison/Milwaukee.

These proposals are union/state boondoggles, IMHO.

former law student said...

I don't see the train being profitable at all.

When jet fuel/diesel hits $12 a gallon, we'll be glad we have electrified high speed rail

Robert R. said...

FWIW, I recommend reading the Service Development Plan and Appendices located at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/recovery/railroad.htm

As a civil engineer, I have to say that it's a well written report and generally conservative. There are some areas that need further discussion, such as fares, but a lot that makes a lot of sense. Updating old, out of date rail structures built in the 1950s to modern standards. Connecting the Wisconsin capitol to downtown Chicago makes strategic sense, and the train will make roundtrips between Madison and Chicago. Connecting General Mitchell Airport to the western suburbs makes good sense, and when parking is figured in is probably cost competitive. The rail line will also be used for freight, so that may help get trucks off the road. And getting trucks off the road is the single best way to extend pavement life and reduce maintenance costs.

Obviously it needs further review and discussion, but it also needs less knees jerking. Heck, the suburban business commuter that flies out of GMA frequently probably benefits the most.