Friday, August 8, 2014

High Speed Rail, Feasible or a Pipe Dream?...

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Purveyor of Truth

The high-speed rail program was one of the ways in which Obama sought to show that government is capable of doing big things, but thus far he has proved just the opposite.

Having high speed efficient rail is a dream come true, in Europe. Here in the USA we remain if not light years behind Europe certainly we are stuck in the technology of yesteryear. Perhaps this is because Europe simply sees more value in high speed rail, it is after all more efficient than the personal automobile. Maybe Europe is not so tied up in paradigms created through years of habit as the USA. I suspect if the American people wanted high speed efficient rail, and were willing to pay for it high speed rail service would become a reality in the USA.

High speed efficient rail service is extremely costly. While the ideal situation would be for private capital to build and operate a high speed rail system in America it is not practical due to regulatory constraints and therefore no private sector company, even if it had the capital would do so. As much as it pains me to say so for an endeavor of the magnitude of high speed rail service to ever become reality in the USA will require a a population desirous of it as well as one wiling to pay for it through taxation.

Europe has made it happen and Europeans are quite happy with their world class high speed rail system. America, being the exceptional nation we have become to believe we are ought to be able to out do the Europeans. Shouldn't we? Waiting to hear the sound of shattering paradigms...

Washington Examiner - Few of President Obama's initiatives are more emblematic of his early ambitions to be a transformational liberal leader than his vision for connecting the nation with a vast high-speed rail network.

The dream of building a system of bullet trains in the United States akin to what exists in Europe involves massive and sustained government spending, more money for unions, and promises to move the nation away from car-based transportation. Thus, it represents everything that excites American liberals.

Obama’s February 2009 economic stimulus package committed $8 billion to 79 projects spanning 31 states that were to lay the groundwork for “13 new, large-scale high-speed rail corridors across the country.”

In his 2011 State of the Union address, Obama touted high-speed rail as a central part of his plan for “winning the future.”

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail," Obama boasted. "This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already under way.”

As Americans’ assessment of Obama’s job performance turns increasingly negative, however, that vision is in shambles. And even the liberal New York Times is catching on.

In an article that appeared on the front page of the Times’ Thursday print edition, Ron Nixon wrote that “despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere.”

Nixon noted that “Instead of putting the $11 billion directly into [high-speed rail] projects, critics say, the administration made the mistake of parceling out the money to upgrade existing Amtrak service, which will allow trains to go no faster than 110 miles per hour.”

Liberals often argue that America is well behind Europe when it comes to train travel, but having a vast rail system in the United States makes a lot less sense. Europe is much more densely populated and its major cities aren’t as spread out. Somebody who takes a train from Barcelona and Paris can easily get around once in Paris without a car – but that isn’t the case in Los Angeles.

When Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida were taken over by Republican governors during the 2010 wave election, they smartly declined the federal money – recognizing that the short-term injection of funds would impose massive long-term costs and obligations on the states.

The only place where high-speed rail would theoretically make sense is the Northeast Corridor that runs from Boston to Washington, D.C., but it would also be a prohibitively expensive project.

If the Northeast corridor is a theoretical sensible possibility so too it would seem a West coast system would be a theoretical sensible possibility. What it appears to be needed is a) national paradigm shifts, b) willingness to invest in the nation's infrastructure, c) a real desire for improved transportation at a reduced cost that positively impacts the environment, and d) a government with vastly improved efficiency and ability to set realistic priorities and goals.

What say you?


Via: Memeotrandum


  1. It is a bit odd; when I was a wee tyke, passenger trains went to nearly every town in the US. It was
    relatively cheap, the depots were comfortable, etc. Since the roads and highways were poor and air travel was high priced, travel by rail was often the first choice. When we had visiting relatives from
    Switzerland this year, they planned to see the US by rail. Ha!! At any rate, there are still a few of us that would opt for train travel, but it remains a pipe dream. Unless of course, the roads and highways
    continue to disintegrate and the airlines continue to raise prices and lower services. Now, where is my pipe?

  2. I think there would be too much corruption, overruns, and kickbacks.

    Think "The Big Dig" times 50.

    I'd be a lot more open to this if the government/contracting model where changed from the usual right from the start. No nepotism, "prevailing wage" scams, no-bid contracts, etc.

  3. Les, there's a history in this country of how certain industries and corporations make it their business to get rid of competition. The Chandler family in L.A. come to mind. They owned many car dealerships and were the ones who bought up the public street rail systems in L.A. Yes, L.A. once had good public transportation, but it was in the Chandler families financial best interests to get rid of public transportation so that people would buy cars as their major means of transporation.

    It wouldn't be a stretch to surmise that the airline industry worked the same way in making sure that high speed rail didn't catch on. We don't know. But it sure is strange that this country couldn't get high speed rail in the northeast corridor, a heavily trafficked area, or on the west coast.

    Speaking of the west coast I have taken the coastal train from San Juan Capistrano to Santa Barbra several times. It's not high speed, but it is a pleasant ride. I've also taken the high speed TGV from Paris to the south. And it is a wonderful experience. Also I've ridden on the trains in Italy and Switzerland as well. Mr. Shaw Kenawe alway took the high speed trains from Narita to Tokyo when he was on his frequent business trips to Japan.

  4. dmarks, note my reference to breaking old paradigms, need for greater government efficiency etc. What I fail to understand, and will continue to fail to understand, is why the USA federal government is so damned inefficient. I mean it ran NASA and took us to the moon and back in less than a full decade. Now the bastards can't, or don't want to do a damn thing.

  5. "I mean it ran NASA and took us to the moon and back in less than a full decade. Now the bastards can't, or don't want to do a damn thing."

    When the American people keep hearing that their government stinks and it can't accomplish anything, they believe it. Why would anyone back anything the government proposed if they truly believe the government is the problem not the solution?

    We're in this situation because we've listened to propaganda and believed every word of it.

  6. RN said: "What I fail to understand"

    You have made many many comments about bad government. This includes your recent ones about gridlock, and the government losing more than $600 billion dollars... and also mocking Obama's promise "you will keep your doctor" when he meant most of us would lose our doctor. You have also referred to situations that Ayn Rand predicted.

    I suspect that the answer to this, or as reasonable a stab at it as one can make, is found in those posts.

    (As much as I oppose single-payer in the US, I look at Europe and see that they do it better there than it could possibly be done in the US.. what with our healthcare situation and Obama lying about keeping our doctor, it costing more than twice what it was supposed to and all. With corrupt, power-mad greedy politicians here, what might possibly work in Europe would be a national catastrophe here. )

  7. Shaw, Americans in general love the freedom that the automobile affords them. While you make excellent points I am thinking that what occurred in Los Angeles as well as America in general was inevitable, with or without the Chandler family.

    One thing seems certain, we'll likely not see high speed rail in America during our lifetime.

  8. "Why would anyone back anything the government proposed if they truly believe the government is the problem not the solution? "

    Because.....this for starters. And next, this.

  9. RN said: "we'll likely not see high speed rail in America during our lifetime."

    If we do, it will come from the private sector. No doubt after much entanglement due to frivolous lawsuits from unions unhappy that the workers on it aren't bullied into joining, zoning-board harassment, and other red tape.

  10. "We're in this situation because we've listened to propaganda and believed every word of it."

    We are in this situation because of the failure of our leaders, not imagined "propaganda" that conjures up such failure.They are doing a crappy job. This cannot be fabricated or imagined.

  11. Shaw, in many ways government is the problem, usually because it does too much without thought to possible consequences. Government is however indeed a VERY necessary evil, precisely as our wise founders understood and stated. However, that being said it does not mean government can't or shouldn't perform functions that are in the best in the interest of the nation. Our house of representatives being the closest to the people are responsible for acting in the interests their constituency. It has become increasingly obvious our representatives are becoming more clueless every day.

    What the nation's largest political problem is rests in two words, EXTREME PARTISANSHIP, and no, I don't buy the BS that one side is worse than the other. They are both odious and noxious, they simply have their followers hoodwinked into believing it's all the other side that is bad.

    Frankly, I hold zero belief it will change.

    Close to time for afternoon cocktail.

  12. As I understand it, it wouldn't take much of an upgrade to significantly improve the Acela speeds to NYC and Washington.

    It's just a lack of will. The route is profitable (bad public sector!).
    The issue is hardly technical. The government doesn't have the will to take up the project and the Free Market(LMAO)™ would have to privatize to make a buck.

  13. ... but, this is America the Exceptional.

    Leave baby stuff like high speed rail to backwater towns like Paris and Tokyo.

  14. I disagree, Les. The Republicans have broken all records for obstruction and filibusters. It's not a matter of "both sides do it" during the Age of Obama. Even though the Democrats disagreed with GWBush, they never blocked bills that the Bush Administration proposed when it needed funds to finance the Iraqi and Afghani wars. And they absolutely worked with Bush Admin. on the Medicare Part D legislation. What the GOP has done to the Obama Administration IS unprecedented.

    From CNN:

    Editor's note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

    (CNN) -- Congress is reaching a point where it will no longer be able to function at all. Over the past two years, some members of the Republican Party have ramped up the partisan wars on Capitol Hill. They are threatening to bring the legislative process to a standstill.
    For many years, journalists and scholars have lamented the rise of partisan polarization on Capitol Hill. The number of moderates has vastly declined and the number of bills that receive bipartisan support has greatly diminished. The usual culprits range from the advent of the 24-hour news cycle to changing demographics.
    But now observers are starting to note that both parties are not equally to blame, especially in recent years.
    In their new book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks," Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein -- two of the most prominent talking heads in Washington, known for their balanced view and proclivity toward moderation -- say that the Republican Party is to blame.

    "The GOP," they wrote in a Washington Post op-ed based on the book, "has become an insurgent outlier in American politics." Mann and Ornstein trace the partisan style back to the emergence of Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist in the 1970s, when the two men promoted a style of slash-and-burn, take-no-prisoners politics that has remained integral to the strategy of congressional Republicans."

  15. Americans don't like railroads. They like cars, planes, with buses a distant third. And they especially don't like the fact that their tax dollars have been going to subsidize these boondoggles (The Union Pacific filed for bankruptcy TWICE in just the first 24 years and God only knows how much we've petered away on Amtrak) for pretty close to two centuries now. Enough already with the crony capitalism and Obama is a frigging dolt.

  16. And it isn't even remotely unprecedented, Shaw. Lincoln imprisoned dozens of Maryland state legislators, deported an American Congressman (Clement Vallandigham) who was running for Governor of Ohio, and actually went as far as to issue an arrest warrant for Chief Justice Roger Taney. Yeah, these present day Republicans are huge jackasses but enough already with the hyperbole.

    1. Will: Regardless, its no excuse for Obama to rule by decree when this so called "obstruction" is entirely within Congress' legal powers. Maybe if the President had more executive talent and more popular programs.

      Of course, it is easier for this lazy man to golf and fundraise than it is for him to do this sort of hard work.

    2. Constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley (considered by many to be left of center), has actually said that Obama is rapidly becoming "the type of President that Richard Nixon could only dream about" and that his abuses of executive power have easily superceded those of his predecessor; the fact that he's actually gone farther than Bush with the warrantless wiretapping (spying even on the press; the AP, specifically), the fact that he's developed a "kill list", the fact that he's unilaterally changed the Affordable Care Act numerous times, the fact that his Justice Department made Fox News's James Rosen an unindicted co-conspirator, the fact that he busted more medical marijuana facilities in 4 years than Bush did in 8, the fact that he's sextupled the number of drone attacks from the Bush years (in 4-5 countries now!!), the fact that he got involved in Libya without Congressional approval, the fact that his EPA has basically turned into its own little dictatorship, the fact that he's seemingly picking and choosing what immigration laws to enforce, the fact that he's seemingly waging a war on whistle-blowers (instituting the espionage act more than all previous Presidents combined), etc., etc........An interesting perspective to say the very least.


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