Government Spending

Florida Rejects High-Speed Rail Money—Again, So LaHood Will Just Spend Elsewhere


Florida Gov. Rick Scott made the right decision in once again (and for the final time, hopefully) turning down $2.4 billion in federal funding for the proposed Orlando-to-Tampa rail line. The line could have cost Floridians up to $3 billion more than advertised, since there is good evidence the cost estimate was low-balled. And it would have required ongoing operating subsidies because it didn't meet even the basic criteria for a successful high-speed rail line. Yes, Orlando is a major tourist attraction. But Tampa and Orlando are highly spread-out cities and don't have large central business districts that the majority of people seek to reach. The route scored at the bottom of American high-speed rail possibilities in terms of ridership potential. At 84 miles, the system was too short, and the medium-speed train was going to be too slow, to compete with the convenience of car travel. And, of course, the system couldn't hope to attract people away from flying, because people simply don't fly between Tampa and Orlando. Gov. Scott made the right call. 

The bad news: It doesn't look like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is learning anything. He's promising to simply divert the $2.4 billion in taxpayer money to other states' rail projects. If the Obama administration is serious about rebuilding the nation's infrastructure they should stop pushing shiny, medium-speed trains and shift the funding to cost-effective transportation projects that will move goods and people—as Gov. Scott requested. The nation needs plenty of infrastructure upgrades. And the most needed infrastructure projects will all demonstrate high benefit-cost ratios that will either interest the private sector in building them or make them self-supporting via user fees. High-speed trains aren't needed and aren't cost-effective. A serious Transportation Secretary would focus on getting people and goods moving, not ribbon-cutting ceremonies for medium-speed trains. 

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  1. Oh, gawd. Not another High Speed Rail thread.

    Could we save time by referring to the standard arguments by number?

    I say #1, #4 and #17 to start.

    1. I agree with #4, but I think you made a mistake by leaving #6 off the list.

      1. I only use #6 when responding to #12.

        1. I forgot all about #12, dammit.

          1. I want to add another argument. #1,000. Where is my fucking jetpack?!!!!

    2. Man #1: “Jesus Christ, your kind make me sick! Why don’t you jump off a building and save the world the trouble?”

      Man #2: I came here to have an argument!

      Man #1: Oh, I’m sorry – this is Abuse.

    3. Wasn’t there some joke about accoutants/bureaucrats/something like that telling jokes by saying the joke’s number? That joke sucks.

      1. In the version I heard, it was prisoners.

        1. And #387 was hilarious!

  2. Shibboleth time. Anyone who pronounces “high speed rail” with an “r” sound instead of an “f”, we seize him and kill him by the fords of the Jordan.

    1. How about the fjords of the Jordan?

  3. If the federal government is going to insist on spending all this money for rail, how about using it for local light-rail projects? At least there, there aren’t big private competitors (like the airlines), and many locales are already spending (local) tax dollars on the idea. I bet the riderships would be better too.

    1. no

    2. It’s cute how you call the airlines ‘private’ – so innocent and pie-eyed!

      How about the federal government shouldn’t pay for *any* ‘local’ projects?

      1. It’s cute how some people pretend that the airlines are subsidized greatly at the federal level, when they aren’t. General aviation is subsidized though.

        Note that, yes, the BTS study includes airport infrastructure in the subsidy costs.

        So many libertarians are remarkably innocent and trusting in believing that the feds must subsidize *everything* that they don’t like, or that the world would be perfectly to their liking without subsidies. Sometimes there are even enormous subsidies that are wasteful, but which don’t really change the overall landscape that much other than wasting the money.

  4. Buddy “Let’s Make a Deal” Dyer, the Orlando mayor, partnered up with Lakeland & Tampa’s mayor to try to save the rail.

    They claimed that there was a private company willing to go on the hook for any potential cost-overruns, but I suspect that company has “pals” in government, and we all know how that scenario would play out.

    Good for Scott for holding his ground. Between this and nixing the databases, I am starting to wish I’d voted for him.

    1. I’m so pleased with this development that I may drive to Orlando and back as an act of symbolic deviance.

      What’s really weird about this is that I remember the Democrats really harping on the need to fix roads and bridges, yet they’re willing to waste untold billions on something we don’t need at all, probably at the cost of repairing existing and actually used infrastructure.

      1. Roads let people drive where they want. HSR takes people where the designers want. Why is is weird that progressives want rail instead of roads?

      2. But PL, didn’t all your good fellow citizens of Florida enshrine into the state Constitution that high speed rail was a necessary and good thing?

        1. They also enshtined pig birthing rules. [2000 word rant elided]. So there’s nothing holy about the state constitution.

    2. BP, I don’t know how anyone could have taken that deal seriously.

      It’s interesting how liberals are now doing the whole “trust the private sector to assume all the risk” schtick.

      Actually, the whole thing has been some of the best political theater ever. It’s hard to tell whose heads are asploding more violently the Republicans or the Democrats.

      As usual, our lovable doofus Senator Bill “Spaceman” Nelson is providing some of the best entertainment of all. He is so predictably economically illiterate.

      1. I like to call him Major Nelson.

        I’ve been amused about all the “private money” that has been referenced in the fight against the rejection of the money. It’s such total bullshit. If there were really private money and a real demand for the rail, we’d have built it years ago with private money.

        1. OH, shut up!

    3. They claimed that there was a private company willing to go on the hook for any potential cost-overruns,

      Four words:





  5. You know who also likes trains? Hitler. Der fuhrer was also in the transportation business, from point Berlin to point Auschwitz.

    Now I’m not saying riding Obama’s choo choo is comparable to going to a concentration camp, although I’m sure Michelle Obama is quite gassy after eating those ribs she fed her children in Vail, Colorado.

    “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.” –Adolf Hitler (Speech of May 1, 1927. Quoted by Toland, 1976, p. 306)

    Similarities between the DNC and the Nazis.…..tween.html

    1. You know who also likes trains? Hitler.

      Whoa, whoa, whoa! Why don’t you just dive on the clitoris with no foreplay?! Subtlety, man! Subtlety! How about a simple KISS?

      “You know who else liked trains?” And that’s all…


      1. Pardon me goy, is that the Tampa – Lakeland Joo Choo?

        1. Yes comrade, the socialist train that the governor of Florida rejected. Florida congress wants it, however, even though the taxpayers voted against it.

      2. Yeah well, I’m rarely subtle, thanks for the thought, nevertheless.

  6. I read an article by Fred Barnes the other day that said the 25% of highway trust fund money is siphoned off for non-highway projects and has been for years.

    The overwhelmingly revealed preference for people’s choice in transportation is to drive their own cars.

    Yet the self appointed elites keep trying to force people out of them and into vaious mass transit schemes that they prefer.

    One of the ways they do this is diverting driver paid gas taxes that are supposed to be strict user fees for highway construction and maintenace so that there is underinvestment in roads.

    They are deliberatly refraining from increasing road capacity to force increased congestion as a way of trying to force people out of their cars and into some alterative masss transit.

    1. Well, if that’s true, what are all those guys doing behind those cones? They’re there all the time. Fucking up my commute!

      1. Dig we must.

        Actually of all the people deserving scorn around road jobs the last ones should be the employees and management of the contractors building them.

        Keeping a road open at its former capacity and operating speed in pretty much impossible but almost every construction, reconstruction or widening contract requires it.

      2. Around here it’s orange barrels.

  7. Slightly OT – but has anyone else noticed that security theater has now come to intercity rail? (Thus removing one actual advantage Amtrak had over the airlines.) Last time I took Amtrak through Chicago, for the first time in my experience Amtrak police were randomly pulling people aside and going through their bags.

    Of course, in addition to bothering innocent people, this doesn’t even make good security sense. The reason airport security is ~sort of~ sensible is that planes are safe from outside attack once airborne. Ergo, if we can prevent weapons from getting on the plane, the plane should be safe. Obviously this isn’t the case for trains. Jesse James didn’t buy a ticket to rob a train – he stopped it when it was out in the middle of nowhere. Go through your bag before you board a train makes a lot less sense than scanning it before you board a plane – this is just another example of trying to make people feel safe by subjecting them to discomfort.

    1. Jesse James didn’t buy a ticket to rob a train – he stopped it when it was out in the middle of nowhere.

      Trains don’t stop that fast. James most likely was jumping on board, then tossing the loot off.

      Your point is otherwise valid and I would gladly subscribe to your newsletter.

      1. Your point is otherwise valid…

        Well, except most people don’t have horses anymore, and I can’t see an automobile working in that application.

        1. Dirtbikes = modern Jesse James horses

        2. You and your crew just climb on to a slow moving trailer train, and bust open the doors. Throw the shit on to the right of way where your boys drive by and pick it up. It happens in urban areas all the time. Look up the Conrail Boyz.

    2. Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?

    3. Of course, trains are far more vulnerable to attack from outside than anything that can be done from inside.

      Anyone that could get explosives to carry onto a train could do every bit as much damage at any one of hundreds of secluded spots along the trains route.

      All you really need to fuck up a train real bad is a crowbar and about five minutes of spike pulling.

      1. This. Thousands of miles of track, and only 1 link needs to be broken to derail it.

      2. So if geniuses like us can figure this out, what in the world is Amtrak thinking?

    4. Not OT at all, David, and the reason why I came here to write a comment was because of Brian Doherty’s H&R post yesterday about the train passengers getting patted down after having disembarked a train in Savannah, GA. If the federal government can shepherd everybody into public mass transit, it will be much easier for the TSA to touch their junk.

      1. I really hope someone brings a 4th amendment lawsuit from this. How could they lose? Not only have they done absolutely nothing to warrant suspicion, but the search doesn’t even improve train security.

  8. He’s promising to simply divert the $2.4 billion in taxpayer money to other states’ rail projects.

    And, of course, those mischievous talking magpies, Heckle and Jeckle Boxer and Feinstein, will swoop in to bicker over the scraps.

    1. Interesting to see if other governors will protect their future budgets the way Scott did.

      1. Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation Thursday that hands the responsibility for environmental assessments to the corporations pushing the projects, drawing sharp criticism from environmentalists and giving a solid victory to the state’s business community.

        That put the DFL governor in the unusual position of being praised by the likes of Twin Metals Minnesota, which is undertaking a $2 billion mining operation in northeastern Minnesota, while getting skewered by the environmental groups that are a longstanding part of his party’s base.

        “The governor took a significant further step in improving Minnesota’s business climate,” said Juan Andres Morel, Twin Metals Minnesota’s chief executive. Morel said the legislation “will go far in eliminating unnecessary redundancies” and create “more certain deadlines for state actions.”

        Dayton sped up environmental permitting through executive order in January. But Republicans said the bill he signed Thursday will go further to speed the process, permitting corporations to draft environmental impact statements. The documents, often lengthy and contentious, analyze potential environmental effects of proposed mines, mills and other large industrial projects.…..75933.html

        1. Environmental assessments are nearly useless, because I’ve never seen one that actually affected what the government did on a project. They tend to spend an incredible amount of time and money examining alternatives, only to decide to do what they wanted to do anyway.

          Feasibility and cost-benefit studies are marginally better.

      2. Maybe some nice productive people from other states that try to grab that choo-choo cash will move to Florida with a nice big “Fuck you” to gtheir particular Governor Steals-a-Lot on the way out.

        1. That would still mean those people would have to want to move to the dick state, and ignore all the other shit there.

      3. Some of them did back with the first round of stimulus, turning down some programs because there was a back end kicker.

  9. If the federal government is going to insist on spending all this money for rail, how about using it for local light-rail projects?

    Fuck that, give it to me; I have always wanted my very own roller coaster. I’ve got twenty acres; there’s plenty of room.

  10. The decades-old dream of high-speed rail in Florida died Friday when the state Supreme Court turned down a last-minute lawsuit to save the project and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he would send Florida’s $2.4 billion to other states.

    While Scott did stand firm, the thing could have been strung out by a different decision by the Florida Supreme Court.

    Oh, and the only people who have been dreaming this “decades-old dream” are a handful of FDOT administrators and the mayors of the cities involved.

    As near as I can tell most advocates for mass transit projects want it so that other people will take the bus/streetcar/monorail so that traffic won’t be so bad for them in their cars.

    I don’t know if this shit will ever let up. Orlando/Orange County even went through a monorail phase – Orlando Intl to Disney – back in the eighties. It fell through because Disney didn’t want to have any stops between the airport and its parks. Needless to say Sea World and the lesser attractions didn’t think much of that shit.

    Notice that even with a monopoly on the thing, Disney still wasn’t willing to finance it.

    1. “As near as I can tell most advocates for mass transit projects want it so that other people will take the bus/streetcar/monorail so that traffic won’t be so bad for them in their cars.”

      And if that money had been spent to widen the road instead, they would have had an ACTUAL decrease in congestion instead of the pie in the sky notion that “other people” would get off the road to take the choo choo.

    2. As near as I can tell most advocates for mass transit projects want it so that other people will take the bus/streetcar/monorail so that traffic won’t be so bad for them in their cars.

      The Onion beat you to that one.

      Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others

      1. The Onion is like The Simpsons.

  11. As near as I can tell most advocates for mass transit projects want it so that other people will take the bus/streetcar/monorail so that traffic won’t be so bad for them in their cars.

    I remember seeing a survey years ago about BART saying that exact thing: “I voted for it so other people would use it, and stay the fuck off my road.”

    1. Of course a significant number of advocates for mass transit projects are construction union members, consulting engineers and heavy construction contractors. I know because I have spent almost all of my working life around them.

      Now the only thing is for Gov Scott to finally pull the plug on Sunrail.

  12. This train thing is such a freaking joke that I almost believe LaHood is really the Republican he claims to be. The more he talks about it, the worse Obama looks.

  13. As far as I’m concerned, making Ray LaHood Secretary of Transportation in and of itself is sufficient grounds for impeachment.

  14. an act of symbolic deviance.

    How does tat work? Will you be riding your motorcycle, naked?

  15. I like the story. But saying “high benefit-cost ratios that will either interest the private sector in building them or make them self-supporting via user fees” fails to recognize that benefits may in principle exceed costs because of indirect benefits, including reducing congestion-reduction. I don’t think that’s typically the case, but it’s possible.

  16. I’ll be interested to see what Obama’s administration tries to bribe Floridians with next.

    1. It’ll be awfully hard to write off the fourth largest state won’t it?

      Needless to say, anything he does will have to bypass the state govenment.

      Next up, a big boondoggle at the Cape to forestall mass unemployment due to the end of the Shuttle program.

      I wonder what “green jobs” jobs he can come up to keep all the rocket scientists off the dole. 🙂

      1. Space program and the military are his only practical end runs. I don’t think he can realistically throw enough bones in this climate to do something in either setting.

        Unless he orders the giant Obama statue/space elevator to be built here. The Obamavator.

        1. I think I would prostitute all my principles if a working space elevator were the end result. However, since NASA would be building it, we don’t have to worry about that.

        2. Mr. President, we cannot allow a space beer gap. And may I say G’donya to the Aussies.

          “The Australian 4-Pines Brewing Company teamed up with Saber Astronautics Australia who did some lateral thinking and realized there’s no way any future astronaut will be able to pick up Barbarella over a pint at the orbital space bar if a “wet burp” makes an appearance.

          In addition, the scientists involved with the beer research also had to consider changes in taste perception when in space. It has been reported that astronauts on long-duration missions on board the space station experience changes in taste. Therefore, a crisp, flavorsome ale on Earth may taste like stale swill in space.

          Selecting a strong, reduced-carbon dioxide stout, the researchers have created a space-safe beer called “Vostok” (in honor of the first manned, Russian spacecraft flown by Yuri Gagarin in 1961). Presumably, Vostok was the winner of taste tests flown on several zero-G parabolic flights in association with Astronauts4Hire last year.”

  17. The decades-old dream of high-speed rail in Florida died Friday…

    Much as I would like to believe that, I guarantee the promoters will be back at it within one election cycle. (More likely within the month.)

    1. I’ve been hearing the sirens’ call for rail–light and high-speed–for a good chunk of my life. Florida has some crazy people that we occasionally have to beat down.

      1. I seem to recall that Tampa got some kind of downtown peoplemover thing a few years back.

        Isn’t there one out to that island development that was the big thing in the mid eighties?

        Oh the whole “Disney will build a monorail to the airport” (once it was to Port Canaveral to connect with their cruiseships) keeps raising its ugly head every few years.

        The big problem is it won’t. What Disney wants is for the State/County to build shit for them that will carry people exclusively to their parks. The only thing Disney is will to provide is the “Imagineering”*.

        So much money has been diverted from other locations in Central Florida to build roads for Disney (and Disney connected developers) that it isn’t funny.

        *I have to admit to having a love/hate thing with Disney. Epcot was probably the coolest construction project I ever worked on and their architects, engineers and art directors are some of the coolest, smartest people on the planet. But the Mouse is a real fucking porker when it comes to rentseeking.

        1. We’ve got a trolley between Channelside and downtown (might go to Ybor, too, don’t know).

          There was a monorail to Harbor Island from downtown, but it closed over ten years ago.

          1. Yes, the monorail in Tampa was from a downtown parking garage, across a canal, to Harbor Island. At that time, Harbor Island was a high-end retail area. The retail center eventually morphed into a high-end housing development, and the monorail was removed.

            The current trolley in Tampa is a money pit. It runs from Centro Ybor in Ybor City, past the Aquarium, to the Channelside district. Probably total run is 2 miles. I see it several times a day, and have never seen more that a driver and 2 or 3 confused tourists.

            Yes, the trolley was brought to the citizens by the very same politicians/players that want to build an 84 mile long high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando. These people should be kept as far away from the public purse stings as humanly possible.

            1. “The current trolley in Tampa is a money pit. It runs from Centro Ybor in Ybor City, past the Aquarium, to the Channelside district. Probably total run is 2 miles. I see it several times a day, and have never seen more that a driver and 2 or 3 confused tourists.”

              Disregarding the building delays (damn Garter Snakes!), the SF bay area got BART running to SFO some years back.
              As a research project, you are welcome to survey air travelers to find those who really want to schlep their luggage from their homes, to the parking lot (open), thence to a public transit vehicle, tranferring at least once, and finally from the ‘depot’ to the airline ticket counter. And repeat on return. Hint: start with college students with one bag. All three of them who don’t have friends with cars.
              In an effort to build ‘ridership’ beyond the two or three folks, BART started offering deep discounts to those who work at the airport. And got some who didn’t have to stop for milk on the way home.
              You can check all you please, but I can’t find use/capacity to SFO; BART stopped talking about it.

    2. RSN, we’ve still got Sunrail (see above) to contend with.

  18. What is this place Florida with it’s Sunshine and Monorails and Rodents? I hear of Giant Lizzards that eat dogs. Could this be Paradise?

    1. It’s a magic, magic land.

    2. And now we have giant snakes that eat the giant lizards that eat dogs. Genetically-engineered mongeese are in the planning stages.

  19. My understanding is that this money was specifically supposed to go to high-speed rail. That is, without a new bill from Congress saying “spend it on freeways”, LaHood couldn’t spend it on freeways even if he wanted to. His only choice, legally, is to give it to other states with active high speed rail programs (like California).

    Basically, much ado about nothing.

    1. states with active high speed rail programs (like California)


  20. For the win, winning the future, bi-winning (as always) by mixing all the fun and social restrictions of puritanism with all of the unsustainable public expenditures and corporatism of the economic left…ladies and gentlemen, the great! State! Of Connecticut!

    Twitter from GovMalloyOffice: Governor Malloy Seeks High-Speed Rail Money That Florida Rejected


  21. Mental defective Governor rejects the project because it generates union jobs to which he is allergic. What a jerk/moron: paid the largest fine in the history of health care–$1.3 Billion. He belongs in jail.

  22. So how long until Reason writes an article calling Gov Rick Scott a ‘pro-rail mole’ when pro-rail liberals start turning up the rhetorical heat? I really think we should use this as an opportunity to stress-test Cavanaugh’s glass jaw.

    1. The ‘glass jaw bit’ is a ref to Cavanaugh’s laughably weak commitment to cut spending in the face of political adversity, not a physical threat.

  23. How Deep and how long will you lame pathetic libertarians suck on the Kochs pipe??. You’re such a bunch of fake hypocrites.. how libertarian of you… I want to pay nothing in taxes I want everything to support myself no wonder you assholes are such misfits.. nevermind your spokesperson is Drew Carey.. From Cleveland that should explain everything why you’re so cutting-edge and forward thinking.. as lame as you people are do you believe that Robert Poole understands transportation outside of the gas pedal of his SUV up his ass??

    1. Punctuation is not something that must be used sparsely.

    2. Love your use of ellipses, though in some spots you are one dot short. Clever use of the double question mark — thought-provoking.

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