Government Spending

Obama's Super-Train in Vain!

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Jeebus H. Christ, what is it with the obsession over high-speed rail—best defined as trains that will carry people almost as fast as cars, though less conveniently?

Here's President Obama's latest bit, offered up by his vice president Amtrak Joe Biden, on the matter:

President Barack Obama will ask Congress next week to approve a six-year, $53 billion program for construction of a national high-speed and intercity rail network, Vice PresidentJoe Biden said.

"There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation—one of which is infrastructure," Biden said in a speech today at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Obama submits his fiscal 2012 budget to Congress on Feb. 14.

Who the hell mistakes high-speed rail, which is everywhere and always a massive sop for government subsidies (no high-speed rail anywhere in the world fully pays for itself), for "infrastructure"? And who has missed high or low speed passenger rail, exactly, since the 19th century robber barons' legacies finally went belly up in the early '70s and led to the creation of the generally execrable Amtrak?

In his SOTU, Obama promised to bring high-speed rail to 80 percent of the American population within the next 25 years. Is this his way of subtly pushing for mass suicide to cut entitlement spending? What's wrong with cheaper and more flexible planes and buses? Are they a little too 20th century? Too affordable? 

Nobody claims that Joe Biden is smart, so his backing of this foolishness is merely par for his course. But the next time anybody you know talks about how goddamned brilliant and sharp and yadda yadda Obama is (because, you know, just like that brainiac George W. Bush, he's got a couple of Ivy League degrees), please ask them what is so effing intelligent about high-speed rail.

And on that admittedly sour note, here's 3 Reasons Obama's High-Speed Rail Will Go Nowhere Fast:

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181 responses to “Obama's Super-Train in Vain!

  1. Fucking high-speed trains, how do they work.

    I think they work the same way as frost-free fridges and salmon.

  2. I found $53b we can cut.

    1. No kidding, what a waste.

      1. Waste?!? Apparently you don’t know what an investment is. It’s this thing where you take money from people who don’t want to give it to you and use it to build something that nobody would willingly give money to help build because it will always cost more to run than it brings in and everyone knows it.

        1. Like a MONORAIL!!

  3. But the next time anybody you know talks about how goddamned brilliant and sharp and yadda yadda Obama is

    I don’t think there’s really anyone who contends that any more, even people who voted for him.

    1. Oh no, I know some of them. They have tortured explanations for everything he’s done or hasn’t done.

      1. Hmm, even the more starry-eyed Dems I know are pretty down on him. They have a few excuses, but they’re not happy, and they have nothing good to say about him at this point.

        1. I love how the Obamanauts look at their shoes quickly change the subject when you point out how he has continued and expanded nearly every Bush-era regulation and policy.

      2. Torture? I thought Obama and his minions opposed torture.

        1. “Torture? I thought Obama and his minions opposed torture.”

          Bush! That’s all we have to say.

    2. You forgot about me

    3. Compared to Biden, Obama looks like Stephen Freaking Hawking.

      1. Compared to Biden, Homer Simpson looks like Stephen Hawking.

      2. Yeah but to be fair, Hawking is more articulate than either of them.

    4. Actually, he is smarter than any Republican I have ever met. And certainly smarter than you.

      1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      2. Chad|2.8.11 @ 6:04PM|#
        “Actually, he is smarter than any Republican I have ever met. And certainly smarter than you.”

        This would mean something if they finally let you graduate to the 1st grade.

      3. Is only near the top of the class that includes Al Gore and George W Bush.

      4. —‘Actually, he is smarter than any Republican I have ever met. And certainly smarter than you.”—

        I will give this credence if you have actually met Obama and been able to make some judgement, based on what he said to you.
        What he says on TV and stump speeches usually doesn’t come out of his brain, but someone else’s.

    5. I don’t think there’s really anyone who contends that any more, even people who voted for him.

      Spoken like someone who’s never watched Rachel “Droolstain” Maddow in action.

  4. Nothing says progressives are utterly out of new ideas like their obsession with trains.

    Compare this with the Republican plan for high speed spaceships for all, for example. Now that’s novel.

    1. PS – is it bad that I actually bought some Amtrak tickets today? I actually like travel by rail. I also happen to think that I should pay for my travel, not you.

      1. Amtrak might actually be profitable if it was limited to the Acela/northeast corridor.

        I looked at how long it takes to go from NYC to Chicago. 19 fucking hours. To hell with that noise.

        1. 19 hours??!!?? I’ve done that drive in 12 hours 6 times in the last year.

          1. Google maps says 12 hr 44 min, city center to city center.

        2. Amtrak hands down is the worst railroad company I’ve ever used.

          1. It is true that they have more problems than even most government run railroad companies. I think part of the problem is that they try to act like an airline (a very slow airline), when they need to behave more like a local commuter line (a long distance commuter line).

  5. Hey, I’ve got an idea. STOP. FUCKING. LISTENING. TO BIDEN. Reschedule the cabinet meeting and don’t tell him. This is a fucking (pardon the expression) train-wreck.

    Over and over again, I end up thinking: These fucking lightweights are running the country?

    1. Sometimes I can’t help to think he’s pulling a joke on everyone and goes home saying, I can’t believe people listen to my crap.

      1. A bit like Glenn Beck then?

        1. The zinger is gonna come at career’s end: “Guys, pftttt, I don’t know how exactly to tell you this….pftttt…but, um….pftttt…I’ve been fucking with you the eniter time….pftttt, hahahahaha”

        2. Yes, like Glenn Beck, who does consider himself an entertainer.

          Tu quoque doesn’t really work too well among libertarians, because we don’t put politicians and political commentators on a pedestal.

    2. Reschedule the cabinet meeting and don’t tell him.

      that is a great idea.

  6. Only governments can waste money on the scale needed to make this vision a reality.

  7. Buy my pork products!! Hu-hu-hu-heh-heh-heh!!!!

  8. “Jeebus H. Christ, what is it with the obsession over high-speed rail”

    Union. Jobs.

    1. And, of course, it was the unionization of railroad workers that helped kill passenger rail in the US in the first place.

      1. I’m thinking more in the construction trades.

        1. Yes, just noting the irony.

      2. Damn coil mattresses destroyed featherbeds!

        Also, one more minus in JFK’s book, in case he needed one.

    2. I think it’s a double penetration for the progressives — kill off cars to save the planet and lot’s of union jobs to build and operate trains.

    3. Europe has trains, and as we all know, Progressives across the US love anything remotely European.

      If Europeans ate shit sandwiches for lunch, lefties would proclaim the stupidity of provincial ‘Murikans for refusing to eat fecal grinders during lunch.

  9. Tell me something I don’t understand

    You must explain why this must be
    Did Obama lie when he spoke to me?

  10. Jeebus H. Christ, what is it with the obsession over high-speed rail – best defined as trains that will carry people almost as fast as cars, though less conveniently?

    As children, these people came down the steps on Christmas morning certain that Santa had left a Lionel set under the tree for them. After multiple disappointments, they have decided that if Santa won’t give them trains to play with, they’ll just charge it to the taxpayers.

  11. What about steamboats – as American as apple pie. There’s even a musical about them with singing darkies.

    Or CANALS – why haven’t we built a new canal in 180 years? Those things are great for steamboats.

    What about Camel Caravans? Why have we allowed a camel caravan gap to grow between the US and Egypt? I blame Bush.

    1. Nothing says American like a covered wagon. Who cares if it’s slow? Even if, say, you get stuck in some mountains for the winter you can always find out what your traveling companions’ thighs taste like.

      1. Cletus has died of measles.

        1. “Cletus has died of measles.”
          And we lost the body somewhere.

      2. you can always find out what your traveling companions’ thighs taste like.

        If my traveling companion is your wife, I already know what her thighs taste like!

        Hey-oh!

      3. Obama did say we need to innovate. High speed covered wagons could be the next big thing.

  12. Judging from the comments of Bud Shuster (pork-friendly R-PA who chairs the railroad subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee) and John Mica (R-FL, chairman of House Transportation Committee), the relevant GOP leadership may give in on some train money, but will insist that it be spent in the Northeast Corridor instead of spread throughout the country:

    “To spend the money across the country in dribs and drabs is not going to do it,” U.S. Representative Bill Shuster, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the railroad subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a phone interview. “I’m not willing to spend money unless we know it is going to be targeted on the one corridor where it could seriously have an impact, and that’s the Northeast Corridor.”

    Rep. Mica’s said similar things before about the NEC.

    Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership increase by 57 percent, [Biden] said.

    This is true. However, since it has still lost money on every ticket, the result has been spending a lot of money on capital improvements and running more trains to lose money faster.

    1. “This is true. However, since it has still lost money on every ticket, the result has been spending a lot of money on capital improvements and running more trains to lose money faster.”
      But not nearly the amount it’ll lose in CA, so I’ll take the lower loss.

  13. Atlas Shrugged:real life commie bastards = Simpsons Monorail Episode : Joe Biden

  14. At least NBC will be able to kill an hour of prime time w/ this every week.

  15. At least NBC will be able to kill an hour of prime time w/ this every week.

  16. Obama’s Super-Train in Vain!

    He’s just trying to avoid Car Jamming.

  17. So which is it:

    (1) “Amtrak Joe” Biden

    (2) Joey “Hairplugs” Biden

    (3) Joe “The Gaffer” Biden

    1. “Warm Piss” Robinette?

  18. High-speed rail is the perfect metaphor for Obama’s statist agenda. It’s expensive, inefficient, inflexible, and impractical. Sounds a lot like PPACA.

    1. You know who else made the trains run on time?

      1. Oooh… Oooh… Pick me! I know!

  19. “$53 billion program for construction of a national high-speed and intercity rail network”

    $53 billion is a drop in the bucket for what that vision would cost.

    One thing I thank Obama for is killing the meme that highly educated people are automatically intellectuals.

    1. One damn section of light rail cost Norfolk, VA almost 1/2 billion.

      1. And it runs 7 miles from downtown to the city border where it stops in a low density residential neighborhood. I doubt if more then a couple of thousand people ride it a day and that is being very optimistic

        1. “I doubt if more then a couple of thousand people ride it a day and that is being very optimistic”
          That’s good news! The more riders, the more it costs us.

    2. Here in CA we had a bond issue for a $9B “down payment” to start a high-speed rail line between LA and SF. That line, according to proponents, was expected to cost $40B. To people with sense, I’m sure the number was equal or greater than $100B. And this is a state that is bankrupt to the tune of a $20B+ deficit.

      Of course, it passed.

      1. Here in CA we had a bond issue for a $9B “down payment” to start a high-speed rail line between LA and SF. That line, according to proponents, was expected to cost $40B. To people with sense, I’m sure the number was equal or greater than $100B. And this is a state that is bankrupt to the tune of a $20B+ deficit.

        Were people seriously expecting that train tickets would cost less than plane tickets- and compensate for the fact that a train ride would be three hours more than a plane ride?

    3. Nah, Bush did that, although Obama is beating the bejeesus out of the rotting corpse.

      1. No. Education has never equaled intellectualism so there are many examples of the highly educated being stupid. That is certainly true of Bush but people overlooked it because he was religious, on the right, and has a speech impediment.

        When Obama came along people, including those who should have known better, believed he was an intellectual and his education was highly touted. Obama was strongly linked to educated equals intellect and therefore his failures have damaged that meme.

  20. “In his SOTU, Obama promised to bring high-speed rail to 80 percent of the American population within the next 25 years. Is this his way of subtly pushing for mass suicide to cut entitlement spending?”

    He’s just thinking ahead:

    All his mandated electric cars will be stranded on the side of the road with dead batteries.

    People will need to hitch a ride on the choo-choo to to get home.

    1. Maybe he’ll just mandate everyone by a jet pack for emergencies.

  21. Make them nuclear powered super trains and you’ve got the makings of a bipartisan deal.

    1. I figured to get the Republican votes, they would have to be powered by burning illegal immigrants and marijuana users in a coal oven.

      1. Actually, just call them Patriot Trains and give the contract to Xe. Then Republicans will support it.

        1. Ha!

          The Patriot Riders Act of 2011

      2. Whereas the Democratic vote can be locked up by promising to burn every copy of the Constitution in existence for fuel – even the original one.

    2. “Because I dared to dream of my own race of atomic monsters, atomic supermen with octagonal shaped bodies that suck blood…”

      1. What is that from? I’ve got to pick up a copy.

      2. Never mind. Google has edumacated me on the wonders that are Futurama.

        1. Netflix has all seasons on play instant, by the way. Marathon time.

    3. Can trains be made from F-22 parts?

      1. I can help you with that.

  22. “And who has missed high or low speed passenger rail, exactly, since the 19th century robber barons’ legacies finally went belly up in the early ’70s and led to the creation of the generally execrable Amtrak?”

    Actually ICC regulations required that railroads run passenger trains until the creation of Amtrak. Passenger trains have not been prfoitable since Greyhound Bus Lines opened in 1928.

    1. Maybe what we need to do is ban the busses?

    2. That sounds really good on Greyhound. Link or something could help, though.

      One thing I’ve noticed, living in the DC area, a lot of olds don’t take trains anymore–even ones who might buy into “romance of the rails.” What gets them is Penn Station in NYC, fear of escalators that ain’t working, and no easy elevator access at their destination. So they take an upscale bus ($30 one-way), or drive*. Admittedly, Acela’s still packed on that route, but let’s see what happens after budget cuts.

      *OK, that’s my parents, but just about anyone riding Vamoose from Bethesda as well. And Vamoose can go Bethesda to Midtown in 3.5 hrs., which compares real well to Acela at 5x the price when you factor in the Red Line to Union Station…

  23. “Good-bye to you and your crummy job! I’ve got a future in gandy dancing!”

    1. I prefer this Gandy Dancer.

  24. Does any system of modern transportation “fully pay for itself?” Cars? Planes? Bike paths?

    My impression is that all major transportation modes, not just trains rely on a publicly-subsidized infrastructure.

    1. My impression is that all major transportation modes, not just trains rely on a publicly-subsidized infrastructure.

      Here’s data instead of an “impression.” On a federal level, cars pay for themselves and commercial aircraft sometimes pay for themselves and generally come close (not general aviation, which is subsidized). Some states and municipalities net subsidize cars and planes, though.

      Trains and transit are far, far more subsidized per passenger mile.

      1. Also priave roads do exist in America and around the world including no stop toll roads, and roads that are free but paid for by the community. Aviation can b profitable and I think there is no reason why the governemtn needs to run airports. General aviation airports could be profitable with enough traffic and some are simple enough to be built in large yard; roadable aircraft could make a differnce if it means the aircraft takes off from a hoe lands on a simple commercial strip and uses car parking.

      2. Without subsidized airports, I think commercial aviation could easily be profitable with a less centralized network, serving routes to more regional areas utilizing smaller and completely private airports. The industry might have developed this way if subsidies had nothing to do with it. I base this on nothing. There is no reason why general aviation can’t support itself either.

    2. I don’t know if that is true or not. However my guess would be that cars and planes could pay for themselves with properly planned infrastructure and user fees but passenger trains would never be able to do so.

    3. Automobile users pay more in user fees to the federal government than the federal government spends on roads. For all levels of government, about 72% of the money spent on roads is collected from purely user fees.

      1. Except for the fact that cars and gasoline are exempt from sales taxes. So they’re really just redirecting the sales tax revenue into a “dedicated” fund and pretending like they pay for themselves. But if you buy into the “broad base, low rates” argument, then they should tack it ON TOP of the sales taxes.

        Also, the roads never had to pay for their land ? it was taken from people using eminent domain.

        1. You can betchyer ass the high speed rail line won’t be eminent-domaining anything in Greenville, Delaware.

        2. Where are cars and gasoline are exempt from sales taxes?

          Certainly not in Florida.

          Retail sales tax is applied to gasoline including local option taxes. Road and transportation taxes, much of which are used to subsidize public transportation, are tacked on on top. On top of that goes the Federal fuel tax, about fifteen percent of which is siphoned off to subsidize mass transit.

          Retail sales tax is collected on the sale of both new and used cars as well as on cars brought into the state by newcomers (who have already paid sales tax on it in their home state).

          Also, the roads never had to pay for their land ? it was taken from people using eminent domain.

          That’s just bullshit.

          The “taking” is in the form of an involuntary sale. yes, it’s true that land is “taken” but it costs a shitload of money to “take” land. The owners usually make out like bandits.

          Prices paid for land for highways are considerably higher than what the same parcel would fetch in a normal sale. Admininistraive and legal fees add huge amounts to the end cost, especially if the case goes to trial. The owners and the lawyers usually make out like bandits.

          Land acquizition always starts with an offer which the owner can accept or reject. The state would like nothing more than not have to start condemnation proceedings.

          1. Many roads were built on land that was never owned by anyone but the government in the first place.

            1. So were the first railroads.

              1. Not that the government ever had any valid claim to that land. No one has claim to land except those who occupy and use it.

                And, most old roads (especially in rural areas) were constructed by the people who used them and owned the adjacent property.

          2. Whoa. That doesn’t sound right. Valuation of property is a constant source of headaches for the courts and policy makers with respect to eminent domain. Any cites or anything? Valuation, from what I understand, is a constant mud fight.

            1. I can only speak for Florida, where the state pays the property owner’s legal fees in a condemnation suit. For obvious reasons almost all cases now go that route. Nevertheless the FDOT and most cities and counties will go through a period of negotiations to strike an amicable sale before going to condemnation.

              My point was not that the property owners were always happy with the price (obviously some are not). My point is that eminent domain is not cheap. The state almost always pays far more for land for highways than the same amount of land would go for in an open market transaction.

              That said, highway right of way acquisitions are complicated by the fact that part of the payment is usually for damages. The state is not just compensation the owner for the loss of the land plus improvements (fences, walls, landscaping etc) but trying to come up with a number that will enable the property owner to restore his property to its former glory.

              Sellers always think the buyer’s offer is too low. The problem with eminent domain is that the seller is usually* unwilling. This makes the seller even harder to “bargain” with.

              *not always some owners fell that having a road built or improved benefits them in an amount greater than any loss of property. Some owners even donate right of way.

              1. The cost of acquiring right of way in Florida is so high now that the state is telling consultants to design so that no additional right of way is required except to meet environmental standards.

                Exceptions and variations on actual roadway design standards (lane widths, curvature etc) are being approved at a record rate.

        3. —“Except for the fact that cars and gasoline are exempt from sales taxes”—

          You’re not from CA I take it.

        4. Except for the fact that cars and gasoline are exempt from sales taxes.

          Bad sockpuppet! Back in your cage, dammit!

    4. Print|Email
      Obama’s Super-Train in Vain!

      Nick Gillespie | February 8, 2011

      Jeebus H. Christ, what is it with the obsession over high-speed rail – best defined as trains that will carry people almost as fast as cars, though less conveniently?

      Here’s President Obama’s latest bit, offered up by his vice president Amtrak Joe Biden, on the matter:

      President Barack Obama will ask Congress next week to approve a six-year, $53 billion program for construction of a national high-speed and intercity rail network, Vice PresidentJoe Biden said.

      “There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation — one of which is infrastructure,” Biden said in a speech today at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Obama submits his fiscal 2012 budget to Congress on Feb. 14.

      Who the hell mistakes high-speed rail, which is everywhere and always a massive sop for government subsidies (no high-speed rail anywhere in the world fully pays for itself), for “infrastructure”? And who has missed high or low speed passenger rail, exactly, since the 19th century robber barons’ legacies finally went belly up in the early ’70s and led to the creation of the generally execrable Amtrak?

      In his SOTU, Obama promised to bring high-speed rail to 80 percent of the American population within the next 25 years. Is this his way of subtly pushing for mass suicide to cut entitlement spending? What’s wrong with cheaper and more flexible planes and buses? Are they a little too 20th century? Too affordable?

      Nobody claims that Joe Biden is smart, so his backing of this foolishness is merely par for his course. But the next time anybody you know talks about how goddamned brilliant and sharp and yadda yadda Obama is (because, you know, just like that brainiac George W. Bush, he’s got a couple of Ivy League degrees), please ask them what is so effing intelligent about high-speed rail.

      And on that admittedly sour note, here’s 3 Reasons Obama’s High-Speed Rail Will Go Nowhere Fast:

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      Editor’s Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time.
      hmm|2.8.11 @ 3:49PM|#

      Fucking high-speed trains, how do they work.

      I think they work the same way as frost-free fridges and salmon.
      reply to this
      nothinghead|2.8.11 @ 4:28PM|#

      Magnets
      reply to this
      hmm|2.8.11 @ 3:49PM|#

      I found $53b we can cut.
      reply to this
      TrickyVic|2.8.11 @ 4:05PM|#

      No kidding, what a waste.
      reply to this
      Fiscal Meth|2.8.11 @ 6:00PM|#

      Waste?!? Apparently you don’t know what an investment is. It’s this thing where you take money from people who don’t want to give it to you and use it to build something that nobody would willingly give money to help build because it will always cost more to run than it brings in and everyone knows it.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.8.11 @ 3:49PM|#

      But the next time anybody you know talks about how goddamned brilliant and sharp and yadda yadda Obama is

      I don’t think there’s really anyone who contends that any more, even people who voted for him.
      reply to this
      PapayaSF|2.8.11 @ 4:01PM|#

      Oh no, I know some of them. They have tortured explanations for everything he’s done or hasn’t done.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.8.11 @ 4:04PM|#

      Hmm, even the more starry-eyed Dems I know are pretty down on him. They have a few excuses, but they’re not happy, and they have nothing good to say about him at this point.
      reply to this
      JW|2.8.11 @ 5:36PM|#

      I love how the Obamanauts look at their shoes quickly change the subject when you point out how he has continued and expanded nearly every Bush-era regulation and policy.
      reply to this
      free to booze|2.8.11 @ 7:22PM|#

      Torture? I thought Obama and his minions opposed torture.
      reply to this
      sevo|2.8.11 @ 7:30PM|#

      “Torture? I thought Obama and his minions opposed torture.”

      Bush! That’s all we have to say.
      reply to this
      Tony |2.8.11 @ 4:12PM|#

      You forgot about me
      reply to this
      Seamus|2.8.11 @ 4:59PM|#

      Compared to Biden, Obama looks like Stephen Freaking Hawking.
      reply to this
      Aresen|2.8.11 @ 5:25PM|#

      Compared to Biden, Homer Simpson looks like Stephen Hawking.
      reply to this
      Chad|2.8.11 @ 6:04PM|#

      Actually, he is smarter than any Republican I have ever met. And certainly smarter than you.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.8.11 @ 6:06PM|#

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
      reply to this
      sevo|2.8.11 @ 7:32PM|#

      Chad|2.8.11 @ 6:04PM|#
      “Actually, he is smarter than any Republican I have ever met. And certainly smarter than you.”

      This would mean something if they finally let you graduate to the 1st grade.
      reply to this
      JoJo Zeke|2.8.11 @ 6:31PM|#

      I don’t think there’s really anyone who contends that any more, even people who voted for him.

      Spoken like someone who’s never watched Rachel “Droolstain” Maddow in action.
      reply to this
      David|2.8.11 @ 3:52PM|#

      Nothing says progressives are utterly out of new ideas like their obsession with trains.

      Compare this with the Republican plan for high speed spaceships for all, for example. Now that’s novel.
      reply to this
      David|2.8.11 @ 3:58PM|#

      PS – is it bad that I actually bought some Amtrak tickets today? I actually like travel by rail. I also happen to think that I should pay for my travel, not you.
      reply to this
      Ska|2.8.11 @ 4:35PM|#

      Amtrak might actually be profitable if it was limited to the Acela/northeast corridor.

      I looked at how long it takes to go from NYC to Chicago. 19 fucking hours. To hell with that noise.
      reply to this
      Esteban|2.8.11 @ 6:25PM|#

      19 hours??!!?? I’ve done that drive in 12 hours 6 times in the last year.
      reply to this
      Rrabbit|2.8.11 @ 7:00PM|#

      Amtrak hands down is the worst railroad company I’ve ever used.
      reply to this
      Brett L|2.8.11 @ 3:53PM|#

      Hey, I’ve got an idea. STOP. FUCKING. LISTENING. TO BIDEN. Reschedule the cabinet meeting and don’t tell him. This is a fucking (pardon the expression) train-wreck.

      Over and over again, I end up thinking: These fucking lightweights are running the country?
      reply to this
      TrickyVic|2.8.11 @ 4:11PM|#

      Sometimes I can’t help to think he’s pulling a joke on everyone and goes home saying, I can’t believe people listen to my crap.
      reply to this
      Jerry|2.8.11 @ 4:28PM|#

      A bit like Glenn Beck then?
      reply to this
      bigbigslacker|2.8.11 @ 5:47PM|#

      The zinger is gonna come at career’s end: “Guys, pftttt, I don’t know how exactly to tell you this….pftttt…but, um….pftttt…I’ve been fucking with you the eniter time….pftttt, hahahahaha”
      reply to this
      hmm|2.8.11 @ 4:27PM|#

      Reschedule the cabinet meeting and don’t tell him.

      that is a great idea.
      reply to this
      Tim|2.8.11 @ 3:54PM|#

      Only governments can waste money on the scale needed to make this vision a reality.
      reply to this
      Ska|2.8.11 @ 3:55PM|#

      Buy my pork products!! Hu-hu-hu-heh-heh-heh!!!!
      reply to this
      Atlas Reloaded|2.8.11 @ 3:55PM|#

      “Jeebus H. Christ, what is it with the obsession over high-speed rail”

      Union. Jobs.
      reply to this
      PapayaSF|2.8.11 @ 4:02PM|#

      And, of course, it was the unionization of railroad workers that helped kill passenger rail in the US in the first place.
      reply to this
      Atlas Reloaded|2.8.11 @ 4:21PM|#

      I’m thinking more in the construction trades.
      reply to this
      PapayaSF|2.8.11 @ 4:44PM|#

      Yes, just noting the irony.
      reply to this
      BakedPenguin|2.8.11 @ 5:55PM|#

      Damn coil mattresses destroyed featherbeds!

      Also, one more minus in JFK’s book, in case he needed one.
      reply to this
      kinnath|2.8.11 @ 4:23PM|#

      I think it’s a double penetration for the progressives — kill off cars to save the planet and lot’s of union jobs to build and operate trains.
      reply to this
      John Thacker|2.8.11 @ 3:58PM|#

      Tell me something I don’t understand

      You must explain why this must be
      Did Obama lie when he spoke to me?
      reply to this
      Ska|2.8.11 @ 4:37PM|#

      Well played.
      reply to this
      J sub D|2.8.11 @ 3:59PM|#

      Jeebus H. Christ, what is it with the obsession over high-speed rail – best defined as trains that will carry people almost as fast as cars, though less conveniently?

      As children, these people came down the steps on Christmas morning certain that Santa had left a Lionel set under the tree for them. After multiple disappointments, they have decided that if Santa won’t give them trains to play with, they’ll just charge it to the taxpayers.
      reply to this
      CoyoteBlue|2.8.11 @ 3:59PM|#

      What about steamboats – as American as apple pie. There’s even a musical about them with singing darkies.

      Or CANALS – why haven’t we built a new canal in 180 years? Those things are great for steamboats.

      What about Camel Caravans? Why have we allowed a camel caravan gap to grow between the US and Egypt? I blame Bush.
      reply to this
      Pablo|2.8.11 @ 4:42PM|#

      Nothing says American like a covered wagon. Who cares if it’s slow? Even if, say, you get stuck in some mountains for the winter you can always find out what your traveling companions’ thighs taste like.
      reply to this
      MECC|2.8.11 @ 4:53PM|#

      Cletus has died of measles.
      reply to this
      sevo|2.8.11 @ 7:35PM|#

      “Cletus has died of measles.”
      And we lost the body somewhere.
      reply to this
      Crude Joke Express|2.8.11 @ 4:58PM|#

      you can always find out what your traveling companions’ thighs taste like.

      If my traveling companion is your wife, I already know what her thighs taste like!

      Hey-oh!
      reply to this
      John Thacker|2.8.11 @ 4:04PM|#

      Judging from the comments of Bud Shuster (pork-friendly R-PA who chairs the railroad subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee) and John Mica (R-FL, chairman of House Transportation Committee), the relevant GOP leadership may give in on some train money, but will insist that it be spent in the Northeast Corridor instead of spread throughout the country:

      “To spend the money across the country in dribs and drabs is not going to do it,” U.S. Representative Bill Shuster, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the railroad subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a phone interview. “I’m not willing to spend money unless we know it is going to be targeted on the one corridor where it could seriously have an impact, and that’s the Northeast Corridor.”

      Rep. Mica’s said similar things before about the NEC.

      Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership increase by 57 percent, [Biden] said.

      This is true. However, since it has still lost money on every ticket, the result has been spending a lot of money on capital improvements and running more trains to lose money faster.
      reply to this
      sevo|2.8.11 @ 7:37PM|#

      “This is true. However, since it has still lost money on every ticket, the result has been spending a lot of money on capital improvements and running more trains to lose money faster.”
      But not nearly the amount it’ll lose in CA, so I’ll take the lower loss.
      reply to this
      CrackertyAssCracker|2.8.11 @ 4:04PM|#

      Atlas Shrugged:real life commie bastards = Simpsons Monorail Episode : Joe Biden
      reply to this
      Johnny Longtorso|2.8.11 @ 4:05PM|#

      At least NBC will be able to kill an hour of prime time w/ this every week.
      reply to this
      Johnny Longtorso|2.8.11 @ 4:05PM|#

      At least NBC will be able to kill an hour of prime time w/ this every week.
      reply to this
      ClubMedSux|2.8.11 @ 4:08PM|#

      Obama’s Super-Train in Vain!

      He’s just trying to avoid Car Jamming.
      reply to this
      R C Dean|2.8.11 @ 4:09PM|#

      So which is it:

      (1) “Amtrak Joe” Biden

      (2) Joey “Hairplugs” Biden

      (3) Joe “The Gaffer” Biden
      reply to this
      Ragin Cajun|2.8.11 @ 4:14PM|#

      “Warm Piss” Robinette?
      reply to this
      sven|2.8.11 @ 4:10PM|#

      High-speed rail is the perfect metaphor for Obama’s statist agenda. It’s expensive, inefficient, inflexible, and impractical. Sounds a lot like PPACA.
      reply to this
      Corduroy|2.8.11 @ 4:16PM|#

      You know who else made the trains run on time?
      reply to this
      Auntie Semitic|2.8.11 @ 5:18PM|#

      Oooh… Oooh… Pick me! I know!
      reply to this
      Scott66|2.8.11 @ 4:13PM|#

      “$53 billion program for construction of a national high-speed and intercity rail network”

      $53 billion is a drop in the bucket for what that vision would cost.

      One thing I thank Obama for is killing the meme that highly educated people are automatically intellectuals.
      reply to this
      Corduroy|2.8.11 @ 4:19PM|#

      One damn section of light rail cost Norfolk, VA almost 1/2 billion.
      reply to this
      DJF|2.8.11 @ 5:01PM|#

      And it runs 7 miles from downtown to the city border where it stops in a low density residential neighborhood. I doubt if more then a couple of thousand people ride it a day and that is being very optimistic
      reply to this
      sevo|2.8.11 @ 7:39PM|#

      “I doubt if more then a couple of thousand people ride it a day and that is being very optimistic”
      That’s good news! The more riders, the more it costs us.
      reply to this
      Brad Warbiany|2.8.11 @ 5:08PM|#

      Here in CA we had a bond issue for a $9B “down payment” to start a high-speed rail line between LA and SF. That line, according to proponents, was expected to cost $40B. To people with sense, I’m sure the number was equal or greater than $100B. And this is a state that is bankrupt to the tune of a $20B+ deficit.

      Of course, it passed.
      reply to this
      Otis Schmotis|2.8.11 @ 5:14PM|#

      Nah, Bush did that, although Obama is beating the bejeesus out of the rotting corpse.
      reply to this
      Scott66|2.8.11 @ 5:30PM|#

      No. Education has never equaled intellectualism so there are many examples of the highly educated being stupid. That is certainly true of Bush but people overlooked it because he was religious, on the right, and has a speech impediment.

      When Obama came along people, including those who should have known better, believed he was an intellectual and his education was highly touted. Obama was strongly linked to educated equals intellect and therefore his failures have damaged that meme.
      reply to this
      Gilbert Martin|2.8.11 @ 4:15PM|#

      “In his SOTU, Obama promised to bring high-speed rail to 80 percent of the American population within the next 25 years. Is this his way of subtly pushing for mass suicide to cut entitlement spending?”

      He’s just thinking ahead:

      All his mandated electric cars will be stranded on the side of the road with dead batteries.

      People will need to hitch a ride on the choo-choo to to get home.
      reply to this
      TrickyVic|2.8.11 @ 4:44PM|#

      Maybe he’ll just mandate everyone by a jet pack for emergencies.
      reply to this
      Tim|2.8.11 @ 4:15PM|#

      Make them nuclear powered super trains and you’ve got the makings of a bipartisan deal.
      reply to this
      Corduroy|2.8.11 @ 4:18PM|#

      I figured to get the Republican votes, they would have to be powered by burning illegal immigrants and marijuana users in a coal oven.
      reply to this
      Corduroy|2.8.11 @ 4:20PM|#

      Actually, just call them Patriot Trains and give the contract to Xe. Then Republicans will support it.
      reply to this
      TrickyVic|2.8.11 @ 4:45PM|#

      Ha!

      The Patriot Riders Act of 2011
      reply to this
      Gilbert Martin|2.8.11 @ 5:24PM|#

      Whereas the Democratic vote can be locked up by promising to burn every copy of the Constitution in existence for fuel – even the original one.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.8.11 @ 4:22PM|#

      “Because I dared to dream of my own race of atomic monsters, atomic supermen with octagonal shaped bodies that suck blood…”
      reply to this
      Corduroy|2.8.11 @ 4:23PM|#

      What is that from? I’ve got to pick up a copy.
      reply to this
      Corduroy|2.8.11 @ 4:25PM|#

      Never mind. Google has edumacated me on the wonders that are Futurama.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.8.11 @ 4:27PM|#

      Netflix has all seasons on play instant, by the way. Marathon time.
      reply to this
      Ragin Cajun|2.8.11 @ 4:26PM|#

      Can trains be made from F-22 parts?
      reply to this
      Mad Max|2.8.11 @ 4:56PM|#

      I can help you with that.
      reply to this
      Knoss|2.8.11 @ 4:20PM|#

      “And who has missed high or low speed passenger rail, exactly, since the 19th century robber barons’ legacies finally went belly up in the early ’70s and led to the creation of the generally execrable Amtrak?”

      Actually ICC regulations required that railroads run passenger trains until the creation of Amtrak. Passenger trains have not been prfoitable since Greyhound Bus Lines opened in 1928.
      reply to this
      James|2.8.11 @ 4:56PM|#

      Maybe what we need to do is ban the busses?
      reply to this
      dmoynihan|2.8.11 @ 5:33PM|#

      That sounds really good on Greyhound. Link or something could help, though.

      One thing I’ve noticed, living in the DC area, a lot of olds don’t take trains anymore–even ones who might buy into “romance of the rails.” What gets them is Penn Station in NYC, fear of escalators that ain’t working, and no easy elevator access at their destination. So they take an upscale bus ($30 one-way), or drive*. Admittedly, Acela’s still packed on that route, but let’s see what happens after budget cuts.

      *OK, that’s my parents, but just about anyone riding Vamoose from Bethesda as well. And Vamoose can go Bethesda to Midtown in 3.5 hrs., which compares real well to Acela at 5x the price when you factor in the Red Line to Union Station…
      reply to this
      Rich|2.8.11 @ 4:21PM|#

      “Good-bye to you and your crummy job! I’ve got a future in gandy dancing!”
      reply to this
      ClubMedSux|2.8.11 @ 4:31PM|#

      I prefer this Gandy Dancer.
      reply to this
      Danny|2.8.11 @ 4:26PM|#
      “Does any system of modern transportation “fully pay for itself?” Cars? Planes? Bike paths?
      My impression is that all major transportation modes, not just trains rely on a publicly-subsidized infrastructure.”

      I just LOVE this brain-dead ‘justification’:
      ‘Since we subsidize other things, why we should just blow the paycheck on this one!’

        1. Transparency!

        2. Preview is your friend

          1. “Preview is your friend”
            I should know that, but it’s only the last week or so that the ‘copy’ function runs up the page instantly.
            Did MS take over the Reason site?

    5. Does any system of modern transportation “fully pay for itself?” Cars? Planes? Bike paths?

      If it makes a profit, it pays for itself.

  25. Planes are a pain in the ass, and buses are full of people who smell. Of all the forms of transportation out there, I’ve simply found rail to be the best all around.

    But this isn’t really about what’s most profitable or makes the most sense, it’s about what sorts of people ride trains (Eurofags!)

    1. Planes are a pain in the ass, and buses are full of people who smell. Of all the forms of transportation out there, I’ve simply found rail to be the best all around.

      But this isn’t really about what’s most profitable or makes the most sense, it’s about what sorts of people ride trains (Eurofags!)

      This must be a troll, is even Tony that stupid?

      Of course it’s not about what’s most profitable or makes the most sense, because trains are neither, as data shows. Even if you find that something is the “best all around” when it’s been heavily paid for by someone else.

      1. All transportation is subsidized, trains, in the US, the least of all.

        1. Only if you look at total net subsidies instead of per use.

          But that’s just stupid, because then you can claim that covered wagons, horses, sled dogs, inline skates, , among other things, are subsidized less than trains.

          Unfortunately it seems that Tony really is that unintelligent.

    2. If you want to find out how badly a train can smell, may I invite you on a 3-day cross-Canada trip in a single rail car containing 68 teenagers and one toilet?

      1. One summer I took the whole family to Florida for a vacation. The smell from the back seat…

        I know that smell, Roy.

      2. Who planned that??

    3. Re: Tony,

      I’ve simply found rail to be the best all around.

      People USED to ride trains all the time until the highly socialistic interstate highway system was built, shafting the railroads and shifting travel towards cars…

      Oh, I’m sorry, Tony, I thought YOU liked socialism!

    4. “I’ve simply found rail to be the best all around.”
      Good. Pay your own way.

  26. I thought he was moving to high speed buses?

    1. I about shat myself when the Velocibus started cutting everybody off and mid-lining it like a motorcycle.

    2. Yes! Let’s see you criticize that, Dr. Smartypants Gillespie!

    3. I hear he ordered 1,000 of these.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..re=related

  27. Nobody claims that Joe Biden is smart…

    Really, Nick? That isn’t true on liberal arts college campuses. A classmate told me a couple of months ago that Biden isn’t stupid; “he’s just a bad public speaker.”

    1. No matter how much brain you have, it is possible to not use any or all of it.

    2. There are ways to be smart about being a bad public speaker. Not that Biden would know anything about it.

  28. I think this push for high speed rail is a big mistake. It sends the exact opposite message that Americans are wanting to hear. Instead of “it’s time to tighten our belts” they are telling us “We can borrow money from China to build something nobody will ride”.

  29. China is totally into high speed rail and their economy is growing by leaps and bounds…………what sa matta wid all you boys?????

    1. Even the best centrally planned dreams sometimes don’t work out: http://www.businessinsider.com…..mma-2011-1

  30. Is there a single example anywhere in the US where a newish commuter rail line has succeeded? Here in the PNW we paid through the nose for the Sounder line, which run near empty at all times. No impact on traffic congestion on the roads. Though, they did get a bunch of school kids to paint graffiti murals on closed businesses the Sounder runs past, so that’s progress.

    I really think the obsession with rail is nothing more than liberal dreams of “Europe in My Town.” They take a backpacking trip through France on daddy’s dime (or Pell grant remains) and come back with big dreams for the college town of their choice.

    1. Way to flip-flop on the issue, Servo.

      1. Unfair! Clearly I was pining for my younger days stowing away on a baron’s Challenger, not a government-sponsored Grapefruit Special. Just look at the hat.

  31. President Barack Obama will ask Congress next week to approve a six-year, $53 billion program for construction of a national high-speed and intercity rail network, Vice President Joe Biden said.

    Well, I’ll ask them, but I don’t think they will be very keen. Uh, they’ve already got one, you see.

  32. This whole debate would be moot if there wasn’t a need to get to the airport two hours early for the security hoohaa. Just wait until some
    terrorists send a high speed train off the roadbed at 150mph. Put the same security waits at Penn Station, Wilmington, and Podunk, Iowa and high speed rail won’t look even a little competitive with airplanes.

    1. Just wait until some terrorists send a high speed train off the roadbed at 150mph

      Michael Bay movie?

      1. Just wait until some terrorists send a high speed train off the roadbed at 150mph
        “Michael Bay movie?”
        TSA “opportunity”.

    2. I haven’t been in Washington DC in nearly 30 years, but the last time I was there, the rail station was near Congress and the trains came into the station more or less pointed at the Capitol.

      So, the thought of a 150 MPH train failing to stop and coming into the station at full speed doesn’t exactly dismay me.

      1. Reminds me of Silver Streak, although that movie ends in Chicago.

    3. You mean “evil corporation” right? Didn’t that movie come out recently?

  33. And- the Hudson River tunnel last seen being blown to bits by mean old Governor Christie is back! For trains!

    Hurray!

  34. If they don’t put TSA fel-up goons in Amtrack stations, it might become an attractive alternative to flying. Perhaps those enhanced pat-downs are all part of Obama’s devious plan to make the people clamor for high-speed rail?

  35. I have a cunning plan: Bullet zeppelins.

    This may be my most cunning plan ever.

    1. “Hello, airplanes? Yeah, it’s blimps. You win!”

  36. There are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation — one of which is infrastructure

    This statement is nonsensical: How can one sacrifice what one doesn’t already have?

    I suppose it’s the same logic as claiming that the government “can’t afford” a tax cut.

    1. Well, if we spend tens of billions on trains we don’t need and can’t afford, I suppose one must ask whether those billions won’t be going to repair/build roads and bridges.

      1. No, they’ll have to collect a whole bunch of different billions for that.

        Those union construction workers aren’t gonna pay themselves.

        1. Maybe they should save up for the magic bullet train they want. We’ve got other stuff to spend money on, it appears.

  37. This right after the DCCC complains about a $41 billion cut.

  38. Also, the roads never had to pay for their land ? it was taken from people using eminent domain.

    You are aware that eminent domain involves the forcible sale of land to the government, yes?

    1. And as I noted above, by the time purchase price and legal and administrative fees are added up it’s a hefty bill.

      Land acquizition costs are getting so bad in Florida that we are now being told to design roads without new right of way.

  39. So, the thought of a 150 MPH train failing to stop and coming into the station at full speed doesn’t exactly dismay me.

    I can think of several people who would make excellent hood ornaments.

  40. Bullet zeppelins! Bullet zeppelins! Jesus, what’s wrong with you people?

    1. You had me at “rigid airship.”

      1. Bullets are made of lead, too, which allows for the whole program to be called Lead Zeppelin.

        1. “Bullets are made of lead, too, which allows for the whole program to be called Lead Zeppelin.”
          You’re onto something here! It could be you stairway to heaven!

          1. Plans are underway to run a bullet zeppelin line from San Diego to Kashmir.

  41. couldn’t we end unemployment by building high-speed negative railroads?

  42. “Who the hell mistakes high-speed rail, which is everywhere and always a massive sop for government subsidies (no high-speed rail anywhere in the world fully pays for itself), for “infrastructure”? ”

    Odd, both JR East and JR West in Japan make money, a lot of that coming from the Shinkansen (particularly the Tokaido line, but others are profitable too).

    And how many roads make a profit? Not many. And like the trains, they usually had subsidized construction, and various other subsidies along the way.

    1. Government doesn’t make cars, dude.

      Well, that was once true, anyway.

    2. Chad, apparently you haven’t gotten the memo; we are out of money. As such, I don’t think it’s a very good idea to sink $50 billion more of borrowed/printed money into a project that might, not will, mind you, but might, turn a profit.

    3. Even presuming that to be true, it seems like there might be something different between US and Japanese geography and population density — not to mention culture — would could well lead to a different result.

    4. Re: Chad,

      Odd, both JR East and JR West in Japan make money, a lot of that coming from the Shinkansen (particularly the Tokaido line, but others are profitable too).

      Profits? PROFITS? Pshaw! Don’t tell me about “profits”! They should return at least 33% of what they “take” from “society” to “society” anyway! Just like Chad told me!

      Oh, sorry Chad! It is YOU talking about profits….

    5. “And how many roads make a profit? Not many. And like the trains, they usually had subsidized construction, and various other subsidies along the way.”
      Once more, the brain-dead justification:
      ‘Hey, we blow money on other things! We can lose the whole paycheck on this one!”

    6. If New York, LA, Chicago and Houston were all within 300 miles of each other and had the population density of New York, then a high speed rail between them might be sustainable. As much as I enjoyed the trains when living in Japan, there is no reason to think they will pay for themselves here.

    7. Odd, both JR East and JR West in Japan make money, a lot of that coming from the Shinkansen (particularly the Tokaido line, but others are profitable too).

      Bzz, Chad, you once again show you don’t know what you’re talking about. The T?kaid? Shinkansen is entirely operated by JR Central. There’s no way that it contributes to the results of JR East and JR West. You really just can’t ever get a fact right, Chad.

      JR East and JR West make their profit off of low speed trains, not the Shinkansen that they do operate.

      And if you want to talk about subsidized construction, the Shinkansen were all completely subsidized at construction.

  43. Such things I hear, and they don’t make much sense –
    I don’t see much evidence.

    Once a railroad, now it’s done

  44. More centrally planned subsidized infrastructure is not the solution to the problem of centrally planned subsidized infrastructure.

  45. Now, if they want to develop true AI train engines, like they have on the island of Sodor, well, that might be awesome enough to justify the expense. But that’s it!

    1. That’s right. Here on Sodor we love our trains. Thomas, pictured above after falling down a mine, is one of our most beloved. Although I would admit that the first time I saw one of our trains, it creeped me out a bit.

  46. I would argue that low-speed rail is also “everywhere and always a massive sop for government subsidies”.

    1. Bob Smith|2.8.11 @ 6:32PM|#
      “I would argue that low-speed rail is also “everywhere and always a massive sop for government subsidies””
      Not for freight.

      1. We aren’t talking about freight, we’re talking about moving people.

  47. Nixon had watergate, and Obamas legacy will be choo-choo gate. i can see it now, money gone, nothing built, tune in for the latest on the choo-choo gate hearings!

  48. But the next time anybody you know talks about how goddamned brilliant and sharp and yadda yadda Obama is (because, you know, just like that brainiac George W. Bush, he’s got a couple of Ivy League degrees), please ask them what is so effing intelligent about high-speed rail.

    Intelligent is not the same as sensible. A big brain plus a faulty, wrong starting premise can lead to really well-reasoned fail.

  49. How I imagine Joe Biden’s basement:
    http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/train4.jpg

    If he was a super-villain those would be real trains. Unfortunately for him, he’s just a plain old villain with a train fetish.

  50. So I can take a high speed rail into oh… let’s say Chicago. Where I will have to take their creaky L train / bus / taxi to the hotel with my luggage. From there I have to take the same train / bus / taxi everywhere else.

    Or I can load up my highway cruiser and drive right up to the hotel and have someone else unload my luggage. Then have the freedom of travel to use my car if I want to…

    yeah…

    1. So I can take a high speed rail into oh… let’s say Chicago. Where I will have to take their creaky L train / bus / taxi to the hotel with my luggage. From there I have to take the same train / bus / taxi everywhere else.

      Or I can load up my highway cruiser and drive right up to the hotel and have someone else unload my luggage. Then have the freedom of travel to use my car if I want to…

      yeah…

      Of course, one must consider how much it costs to park in Chicago.

      1. true that…

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