Government Spending

PolitiFact Gets High-Speed Rail Facts in Florida Wrong

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High-speed rail supporters are still trying to turn back the clock on Gov. Rick Scott's decision to reject federal funding for the proposed Tampa-to-Orlando rail line. PolitiFact Florida writes:

Though Gov. Rick Scott killed the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail line months ago, he continues to get asked about the decision when he crisscrosses the state.

He says it wasn't quite the deal everyone thought it was.

"The federal government, (they said) I'm going to give you $2.4 billion — that sounds nice, right?" Scott told Tampa's local CBS affiliate WTSP this month.

But, "You've got to put up a billion dollars to finish the project."

To evaluate the "truthfulness" of Gov. Scott's statement, PolitiFact focuses almost exclusively on Reason Foundation's January study on the costs of the proposed Florida high-speed rail line, writing:

On Jan. 6, 2011, the Reason Foundation released an analysis about Florida's rail project, which concluded that capital costs to build the line would be higher than anticipated and that ridership would fall short or projections.

Scott relied on the Reason analysis in killing the high-speed rail project a month later.

While the federal government had committed $2.4 billion and the state $280 million, "This report assumes that any cost above $2.7 billion will be borne by Florida taxpayers."

The Reason analysis goes on to cite research by European academics who looked at 258 projects in various countries over 70 years and found that cost overruns occurred in 90 percent of the projects.

"If the Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail line experiences cost escalation typical of international high-speed rail projects, it will cost between $.54 billion and $2.7 billion more than projected," the Reason report states. "Based on averages, most likely the overrun would be about $1.2 billion, all of which would be the responsibility of Florida taxpayers."

The analysis is right to point out that many other rail projects experienced cost overruns. But there are reasons to question its methodology and objectiveness are suspect.

Here are PolitiFact's criticisms of the Reason study:

PolitiFact says: The author of the study, Wendell Cox, is a known rail skeptic, and Robert Poole, a Reason Foundation director whose name was on the report, served on Scott's transition team for transportation issues.

It is interesting that PolitiFact is basically suggesting that you can't be right about high-speed rail's costs if you are in anyway skeptical of the government's rosy predictions. Does advising the governor or preferring cost-effective transportation investments over boondoggles prevent one from being correct in PolitiFact's world? Apparently.

PolitiFact: Much of the expectation [in the Reason study] of cost overruns is based on a list of 258 projects studied by European academics. But those projects are not just rail projects. The study includes bridges, tunnels and highways. In fact, of the 258 projects, only 58 (or 22 percent) are actually rail projects.

PolitiFact's "European academics" point refers to research led by Bent Flyvbjerg, professor of major program management at the University of Oxford's Said Business School. Here is what Flyvbjerg's report (.pdf) found about rail:

"Rail projects incur the highest difference between actual and estimated costs with an average of no less than 44.7%, followed by fixed links averaging 33.8% and roads with 20.4%…. if we subdivide rail projects into high-speed rail, urban rail and conventional rail, we find that high-speed rail tops the list of cost escalation with an average of 52% , followed by urban rail with 45%  and conventional rail with 30%…We conclude that the question of whether there are significant differences in cost escalation for rail, fixed links and roads, respectively, must be answered in the affirmative. Average cost escalation for rail projects is substantially and signicantly higher than that of roads, with fixed links in a statistically non-significant middle position between rail and road. Cost escalation for rail is more than twice that of roads. For all three project types, the evidence shows that it is sound advice for policy and decision-makers as well as investors, bankers, media and the public to take any estimate of construction costs with a grain of salt, and especially for rail projects and fixed links."

If PolitiFact is just going to ignore the Flyvbjerg study's findings and suggest that Florida's fantasy cost estimates are correct, shouldn't they point us to a high-speed rail project that came in at, or under, budget, recouped its capital costs, and is currently financially supporting itself? They can't do that because no such high-speed rail project exists.

When Amtrak decided to study how those European trains make money, they instead found out European trains don't make money. Amtrak's Inspector General concluded: "European Passenger Train Operations operate at a financial loss and consequently require significant Public Subsidies."

But again that doesn't fit the PolitiFact narrative.

PolitiFact says: The $1.2 billion overrun estimate [in the Reason study] is created simply by assuming the Florida rail project will cost 45 percent more than anticipated. How is that assumption made? By calculating the average overrun in 258 transportation projects considered. There is no analysis to suggest Florida will experience an "average" cost overrun compared with the other projects.

Actually, there is quite a bit of evidence that Florida could expect at least average overruns. The Reason Foundation projections were based in part on a detailed 11-point comparison between the Tampa-to-Orlando line's claimed construction costs and a segment of the proposed California rail line on similar flat and level terrain. And Florida appeared to be underestimating its costs significantly. Just last week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority revised its own cost projections for the first segment upwards by between approximately 40 and 100 percent. The AP reports:

Building tracks for the first section of California's proposed high-speed rail line will cost $2.9 billion to $6.8 billion more than originally estimated, raising questions about the affordability of the nation's most ambitious rail project at a time when its planning and finances are under fire.

A 2009 business plan developed for the California High-Speed Authority, the entity overseeing the project, estimated costs at about $7.1 billion for the equivalent stretch of tracks. Officials say those estimates were made before detailed engineering work and feedback from communities along the proposed route.

Had this updated cost information about California been available at the time of our Florida analysis, an even higher top range dollar figure for the Tampa-to-Orlando line's likely cost overruns would have been appropriate. PolitiFact might want to look at Reason's 2008 study of California's proposed high-speed rail system. Three years later, basically every point in that report challenging the High-Speed Rail Authority's low-ball cost estimates and outlandish ridership projections has been proven true.

Reason's Florida study also compared Amtrak's ridership levels to Florida's ridership projections, as well as Orlando-to-Tampa travel times to see how the rail line would have competed against driving by car or flying. The study evaluated trip times from residential areas, from downtown areas, from airports and more. It concluded that driving would usually be faster, which calls into serious question the state's very high ridership projections.

How unlikely were the off-the-chart ridership projections in Florida? When potential high-speed rail routes were ranked by the pro-rail group America 2050, the Tampa-to-Orlando rail line scored at the bottom of America's high-speed rail possibilities in terms of ridership potential and economic viability.

PolitiFact says: The [Reason] study fails to account for the current low price of construction and materials given the problems in Florida's economy.

PolitiFact is right that construction costs on infrastructure projects have fallen because of the recession and slow recovery. But the recession wasn't going to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars on this project. Additionally, the state and taxpayers didn't, and don't, have any guarantees that current cost levels would remain the same for the four-year duration of the project's construction.

PolitiFact says: And, most important, the [Reason] study assumed Florida taxpayers would assume the cost of all construction overruns, when that likely wasn't true…the study assumes that the state would pay for cost overruns. But it ignores that both the state official in charge of the rail project and the U.S. Department of Transportation secretary said that the state wouldn't be liable for overruns.

High-speed rail supporters believe the private sector would have agreed to a deal making it responsible for all cost overruns and ongoing operating subsidies. Taxpayers would be completely protected in this dream. If a company agreed to that deal, a huge if, and then the rail system experienced high levels of construction cost overruns and suffered operating losses into the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, the private company running the train system would have gone bankrupt. Private companies do not stay in business by taking big financial losses on every train ticket they sell.

So then what? Even if the state government has a contract that promises the private company will pick up the tab, what does the state do when that company goes out of business?

When Gov. Scott was making his rail decision, he knew that if Florida had taken federal money for the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail system, one of the federal government's rules clearly says that a state government can't take the construction money and then stop operating the project it has accepted the money for. Under long-standing federal rules, the state would have to repay the federal grant money—in this case, $2.4 billion. If it didn't repay the $2.4 billion, Florida's taxpayers would be forced to keep the train running —at a loss— and be on the hook for the future operating subsidies. The U.S. Department of Transportation did send notice that it would negotiate over its repayment rule, but only after Gov. Scott had already announced his decision to turn down the federal money. By offering to perhaps waive the rule, US DOT was saying they would be fine with risking, and losing, $2.4 billion in federal taxpayer money if it turned out that way. Gov. Scott was not so eager to gamble away taxpayers' money nor did he want to get stuck operating a system that would continually drain large amounts of taxpayer money.

The international and California experiences make it clear: substantial cost overruns have been the rule in rail projects, not the exception. Private companies are in business to make money, not to take losses just because politicians want high-speed rail. It is simply not credible to believe that a private builder-operator would be willing, much less able, to absorb huge construction cost overruns and tens or hundreds of millions in operating subsidies to operate a Tampa-to-Orlando rail line. The bills and debt would have been left to the taxpayers of Florida.

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. Report abuses.

103 responses to “PolitiFact Gets High-Speed Rail Facts in Florida Wrong

  1. This might be more convincing Mr.Poole if it wasn’t said by someone who disagrees with us.

    1. Did anyone read the whole thing?

      1. did any one read between the lines…
        they will make fuel cost so much you will be forced to ride the train, you will be demanding to ride the train…

    2. “This might be more convincing Mr.Poole if it wasn’t said by someone who disagrees with us.”
      I hope this is sarcasm.

      1. 10-year-old lemonade entrepreneur learns about capitalism, monopolies, competition

        In the first hour after she and her friend opened for business, Nina had earned a little over ten dollars selling lemonade ? for the bargain price of fifty cents a glass ? to neighbors walking and driving by their stand.

        Business was going so well that, by the time the second hour rolled around, Nina and her friend suddenly found themselves competing with a second lemonade stand other kids had set up on the opposite corner, much to her chagrin.

        Nothing else happened.

        http://lenpenzo.com/blog/id1373-monopolies.html

        1. Bomb dropped by a military plane in Iraq.

          No innocent civilians killed.

          Sometimes these things happen. Unfortunately, civilians are killed by dropped bombs and people should not be criticized for reporting this when it happens.

          Also there are nanny-state busybodies who shut down lemonade stands and people should not be criticized for reporting it when it happens.

          1. Ive tried to communicate to this guy, but he seems to have gone full retard.

            Still, I think its useful to illustrate how absurd his blater is.

  2. J sub D|3.31.11 @ 3:58PM|#
    I just assume the passenger rail supporters in the US are just trying to work out the anguish of not finding a Lionel set under the tree on Xmas morning by spending other people’s money on real one.

    1. Where did you dig up that post from?

  3. Why won’t anyone cite my study on how many times passengers on trains are forced to solve a murder mystery before the killer can exit at the next stop. My findings suggested that high speed rail is just going to make that task more difficult, not less.

  4. Monorail!

    1. Is there a chance the track will bend?

      1. Not on your life, my Hindu friend!

        1. What about us brain-dead slobs?

          1. You’ll be given cushy jobs!

          2. You’ll be given cushy jobs!

            1. Were you sent here by the devil?

              1. No good sir I’m on the level.

                1. Monorail!

  5. Excellent post. Unfortunately, rail construction projects are now being looked at as jobs initiatives first, and transportation systems second.

    Meaning, let’s just build it to get people back to work, then we’ll figure out whether it actually, you know, transports people.

    High speed rails are to transportation what single payer healthcare systems are to sick people:

    Give them access first, then figure out how to actually provide it.

    1. ^ “Excellent post.”

    2. It’s like a space program without the space!

  6. When I think of “trains”, I think of serial-fucking steaming-hot girls at the sorority houses in college.

    Based on that, I just can’t not support “trains”. Sorry I’m off the reservation on this one.

    1. Sure, but high-speed trains?

      1. are there any other kind?

  7. But there are reasons to question its methodology and objectiveness are suspect.

    There are reasons to question PolitiFact’s grammar is mistaken.

  8. Please send your response (above) to the PolitiFact Florida author (Amy Sherman/asherman@miamiherald.com) … and publish her response here.

    Ms Sherman is merely a reporter for the Miami Herald newspaper… and obviously has a political agenda that should be directly challenged.

    1. Cooper,
      Just did, and simply asked questions; no ‘challenges’.
      We’ll see if I get a response.

  9. Always good to see Poole get out of Reason’s think tank and dive into the fire of Hit and Run.

    1. Dive in and straight up kick ass, too.

  10. “””””Building tracks for the first section of California’s proposed high-speed rail line will cost $2.9 billion to $6.8 billion more than originally estimated””””

    Wow, the closest numbers they can come up with are somewhere between 2.9 and 6.8 billion dollars over budget, what did they use to come up with these figures, a dartboard or did they just pull numbers out of a hat?

    1. …or did they just pull numbers out of a hat?

      Not a hat, exactly…

      1. I think Poole wrote an article on this, and yes, the ‘budget’ was pretty much dart-boarded.
        A couple of years ago, I had the ‘pleasure’ of sitting at the next restaurant table when Willie Brown (who seemed to have been hired as a fixer) discussed the matter with Ron Diridon (member of the California High Speed Rail Authority). From what I heard, the numbers seemed to be picked off the menu items with the appropriate number of ciphers added to the right side.

        1. I believe the overruns relate to land acquisition cost increases.

          Apparently the only real estate in California that hasn’t dropped in value is exactly where they intend to put the rail line.

          1. “I believe the overruns relate to land acquisition cost increases.”

            Uh, the numbers had nothing to do with land prices or any other real costs to begin with.

  11. Politi”fact”‘s ongoing liberal bias is rather embarrassing. Sometimes they’re interested in the truth, but often enough they’re just blue axe-grinders.

  12. Poole actually left out another response that he could have made, in its summary of why the reason report was wrong they say:

    “And, most important, the study assumed Florida taxpayers would assume the cost of all construction overruns, when that likely wasn’t true.”

    The reason study does, and says so up front, but the dates on Polifact’s counter-arguments work against it here:

    “On Jan. 6, 2011, the Reason Foundation released an analysis of Florida’s rail project”

    “To satisfy state legislators, who were unwilling to spend additional state taxpayer dollars on the high-speed project, Florida transportation officials promised in early 2011 that any contract to build the rail line would include a guarantee that Florida wouldn’t pay for construction overruns.

    Kevin Thibault, the Florida Rail Enterprise’s executive director, said in a Jan. 11 Senate committee meeting that private companies ? not state taxpayers ? would be responsible for overruns.

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also said that private companies, not the state, would be required to pay for cost overruns in a Feb. 16 statement.”

    With the possible exception of “early 2011”, all of those things happened after the reason report was already published. Polifact declares that the reason report was wrong yet cites as evidence events that hadnt even happened yet.

    1. “”””that private companies ? not state taxpayers ? would be responsible for overruns.””‘

      And if they require this then those same companies will just raise their prices to cover the extra risk. Or more likely the companies will be limited liability corps which will not have the assets to cover the cost overruns and just go out of business with the State trying to cover the costs with auctions of used construction equipment which generally don’t get you much.

    2. “Kevin Thibault, the Florida Rail Enterprise’s executive director, said in a Jan. 11 Senate committee meeting that private companies ? not state taxpayers ? would be responsible for overruns.”

      And how does Mr. Thibault propose to get ‘private companies’ to put themselves at this risk?

      1. Commerce Clause bitchez! They’ll just mandate it!

    3. Note the stunning absence of executives of any private companies stating “We will cover cost overruns.”

      A bunch of government officials saying someone else will pay for something is not terribly impressive.

      1. “Note the stunning absence of executives of any private companies stating “We will cover cost overruns.”

        In the case of CA, every one of the apologias for HSR continues to mention that the ‘authorities expect’ private investment.
        And not a single one mentions that in the three or four years of its existence, not a single private investor has stepped forward.
        Hey, Buffett! Here’s your deal!

        1. Sorry, after giving all my money to charity and the trying to figure out a way to pay more taxes (these forms are hard!), I won’t have anything left for rail projects. Plus, I like to make money.

      2. Neither impressive, nor surprising.

  13. Politifaxt is a joint venture between the Miami Herald and the St Pete Times. I’m not as familiar with the Herald’s editorial board, but the Times is colsrf to the NYT than the average Floridian in political outlook.

    1. Wow. Smartphone fail. Trying again on a real keyboard:

      Politifact is a joint venture between the Miami Herald and the St Pete Times. I’m not as familiar with the Herald’s editorial board, but the Times is closer to the NYT than the average Floridian in political outlook.

  14. I was waiting for you guys to tear Politi”fact” to shreds on this the moment I heard their BS take on it on NPR. Nice work!

  15. “It is interesting that PolitiFact is basically suggesting that you can’t be right about high-speed rail’s costs if you are in anyway skeptical of the government’s rosy predictions.”

    If you don’t agree with me, you must be biased!
    Works for Obama.

  16. Who factchecks the factcheckers?

  17. Politifact got pwned.

  18. If you disagree with me, you can’t disagree with me!

    1. You’re wrong!

  19. It is interesting that PolitiFact is basically suggesting that you can’t be right about high-speed rail’s costs if you are in anyway skeptical of the government’s rosy predictions. Does advising the governor or preferring cost-effective transportation investments over boondoggles prevent one from being correct in PolitiFact’s world? Apparently.

    Wow. They’re saying the source isn’t exactly scientific. Or are you pretending there is no political agenda? You can be dismissed out of hand because of the built-in confirmation bias in your “research.”

    But that’s okay. Thanks for keeping up the valiant effort to penny pinch the country into irrelevance. Those taxes have remained low thanks to your help, and now we all have so much money!

    1. Tony, why should we listen to you? You disagree with us, thus you are biased. The opposite of what you say is probably true.

    2. Those taxes have remained low thanks to your help, and now we all have so much money!

      The United States has the highest per capita disposable income of the OECD countries. So yeah we do have alot of money. We would have alot more if your fucktard politicians didn’t screw the economy up though.

    3. In the future, all arguments will be ad hominem.

      1. In the future Throughout human history, all most arguments will be ad hominem logically invalid.

        Mostly ad-hominem and appeals to emotion, because for whatever reason, we’re not wired to satisfy ARG conditions before we believe something. Or, we do it so poorly it doesn’t matter.

    4. “Wow. They’re saying the source isn’t exactly scientific.”

      Shithead thinks this means something.
      Hint, shithead: It means you’re an ignoramus.

    5. So basically anyone who has an opinion on HSR is unfit to produce a study on it.

      And of course the “facts” against which PF “checks” the Reason analysis are the statements of the SecTrans in an administration desperate to get HSR projects started, and state “High Speed Rail authority” officials whose jobs depend on the rail project going forward. If there’s any conflict of interest, it’s not on Reason’s side.

    6. Right, they’re SAYING it’s not exactly scientific, when in reality it’s 100% factual. They’re cherry-picking examples of numbers in the original study that water down the already overwhelming proof that public works cost projections are routinely underestimated. If they’d bother to take off the blinders and examine the smaller, HSR figures, then their case would be even more foolish.
      Politifact is embarrassing themselves and exposing the partisan hand on the wheel here (as they usually do). Their name is typical media false advertising.

    7. Yeah, Reason is just shilling for big… um… not-highspeed-rail. Or something.

      1. Big taxpayer? Big citizen?

        1. Big Taxpayer = The Devil.

    8. What ARE you talking about? Not being exactly scientific doesn’t make it untrue nor should it be dismissed out of hand for confirmational bias without proof. Beyond the unscientific hand waving of rail supporters based on rider and cost guesstimates, where is your proof? The “unscientific” report shows actual cost overruns of rail lines that have been built and are in operation. Show me similar data on high speed rail systems that met their budget, ridership, and operational expense goals and you might have a point.

    9. “Thanks for keeping up the valiant effort to penny pinch the country into irrelevance”

      So much wrongness: is high-speed rail really the ticket to “relevance”? Is “relevance” a worthy goal for public works projects? Please, do something less expensive to make yourself all “hip and groove”, man.

  20. Let me tell you, China is stealing our technology.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make our own products?

  21. Damn it, Poole. Use some lube next time. This fucking hurts.

  22. Conveniently the SPT did not include a comment section on that article. Of course this is the same paper that printed a new pro-rail article every day for the 90 day light rail/HSR doubleheader smack down. Currently they’ve been providing political life support to the idea. Regardless they make a strong case that they are taking kick backs from both the rail component manufacturers and the political overlords.

    1. They do have a comments section. Scroll all the way to the bottom and click “Join the Discussion”

      1. Their comments section never seems to work – cant submit one and can never read what’s been submitted.

        Must work only on a single browser…

        1. Try Chrome.

          1. Chrome, FF…no luck. It doesnt matter. They probably forward it directly to the trash.

            If numbers and data dont persuade them, then I’m sure any comments would be discounted as “hate-filled, Tea-Party rhetoric”…

  23. Cooper4|8.17.11 @ 7:13PM|#
    “Please send your response (above) to the PolitiFact Florida author (Amy Sherman/asherman@miamiherald.com) … and publish her response here.”

    The response to an email (subject: “Your Politifact article”) was rejected.
    Hey, if you only accept known fan mail….

  24. Politifact Texas is equally bullshit. They almost exclusively pick on Republicans and when Democrats lie they usually assign them the “half true” rating, usually with an explanation like “economy is actually a word in the english language, so for that we determine this claim to be half-true.” Yet when a republican makes a rounding error or doesn’t use the correct amount of significant digits, it’s nothing but “pants on fire.”

    All this would be fine, but don’t call yourself a non-partisan group and put the word “fact” in your title if neither are even remotely true. Pants-on-fire Politifact, pants-on-fire.

    1. Plus they never actually produce any original thought or analysis or display any critical thinking at all. Rather they re-spew the opinion of some liberal policy analyst. If you’re going to join the debate, at least add to it. We can all read Paul Krugman’s column on our own and don’t need you trumpeting everything he says as “fact.”

    2. Maybe it’s a portmanteau of “artifact” rather than “fact”.

  25. From the Latin factum ‘made, done’ (in the most pedantic and technical sense a fact is simply something that has happened vs. an interpretation, which is an explanation or attribution of causality). So perhaps Politifact = ‘made by politi(cians)’?

  26. It is interesting that PolitiFact is basically suggesting that you can’t be right about high-speed rail’s costs if you are in anyway skeptical of the government’s rosy predictions
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  27. Nice fisking…

  28. I thought I read that Scott caved into the socialists on this one?

    1. Sorry, I had that wrong. I was thinking of Mike Haridopolos who apparently came OUR way and sided against the socialists and is now supporting Scott.

      http://www.freerepublic.com/fo…..6400/posts

    2. AFAIK, Scott has not. Thank God. I think there was talk of the inevitable lawsuit by people who stood to profit from the land grab and the construction, but once he killed the idea I think Ray LaHood and the rest of the Trans-Dept figured they could go burn through a few billion dollars on a trolley line or some other crap. Although there’s supposedly another rail line that’s burning up public funding somewhere in the state – maybe Orlando to Miami?
      The St. Pete Times is usually a great paper, but they are distressingly like California editorial boards in respect to spending public dollars. They want to waste millions on rail or a goddamned “public” baseball stadium, but then they faint and run half-ass, smear jobs on the governor when he tries to make the public employees start contributing a pittance of their own money to the pension funds. When we’re all broke, they can keep pointing their finger and explaining how to fix everything.

      1. Your comment made me think of this.

        Hedley Lamarr: Wait a minute… there might be legal precedent. Of course! Land-snatching!
        [grabs a law book]
        Hedley Lamarr: Land, land… “Land: see Snatch.”
        [flips back several pages]
        Hedley Lamarr: Ah, Haley vs. United States. Haley: 7, United States: nothing. You see, it can be done!

    3. “I thought I read that Scott caved into the socialists on this one?”

      You’re probably thinking of the commuter rail deal that he signed for the Orlando area. A lot of people got the reports on those two projects confused, but they were actually completely seperate deals.

  29. Put your money where your mouth is Polifacts. Put up a bond agreeing to pay all overruns of any project you deem is correctly priced and just being bad-mouthed by skeptics. Capitalist entrepreneurs do this all the time.

  30. The hard-on that socialists have for trains just boggles the mind. I’ll bet they’d ban bicycles if they could; “too individualistic and selfish”.

    1. What about pedal-powered trains? They’d like those!

  31. China just recalled theirs, and their topography and distance between cities better parallels any proposed America-wide system than dinky little Europe.

    Hi-speed rail is now like communism apparently. When it fails we can only blame the execution, not question the concept.

  32. So I assume the principals of PoltiFact are willing to issue personal guarantees, binding their entire families for the next 5 generations, on any cost over-runs? In my experience, once you require personal liability rosy estimates (and their supporters) disappear. I’ve often thought we could cure a lot of Federal mis-spending by requiring that Congressman and their families personally guarantee anticipated costs of projects.

  33. There are two major high-speed rail projects under consideration. Tampa to Orlando, and Los Angeles to San Francisco. Am I the only one who sees the connection?

    Orlando is home to Walt Disney World, and Los Angeles (more properly, Anaheim) is home to Disneyland. So these are both trains to bring tourists to Disney properties.

    Frankly, let’s let Disney build and finance the trains; after all, Disney has more experience with monorails than anybody else!

    1. There was serious talk back in the 80s about Disney extending the monorail from the park to Orlando Internatinal airport. They weren’t willing to pay the full freight though; it would have to be a “partnership” with orange County.

      Disney baulked when the county insisted that any project the county participated in would have to have stops at Sea World and Universal Studios.

      There was even talk at one point of Disney running the monorail to port Canaveral to whisk passengers back and forth between the parks and the cruise ships.

      I wonder, if Disney isn’t willing to put up its own cash for these deals, maybe they’re not that great an idea.

  34. Another terrible “fact-check” from Politifact. They also got the analysis of Ryan’s statement about a 100% marginal tax rate on income over $100K not closing the deficit wrong, which is even more egregious since anyone can just look at the tax tables on the IRS site and easily see Ryan is correct.

  35. So if polifact disagrees that HS rail is a boondoggle, they are free to invest their money, start a corporation, and start trying to buy land on which to build a high speed rail. If they are right, and it will make money they make money. If they are wrong, they lose their investment.

    If they don’t even try, then they agree with the asessment that HS rail is a costly boondoggle.

    1. Actually, the land costs for the Orlando-Tampa corridor are not that high.

      The design of I-4 already made allowance for a rail line in the median.

      Besides some purchases for stations, connector lines and marshalling and maintenance facilities, land costs would have been relatively low.

      Even if the construction could be brought in on budget theough, passenger rail has a huge appetite for operating subsidies. That’s reason enough to shy away from it.

      1. I’m not really sure that any train could run in the median of I4. I4 may be an interstate highway, but it is much too curvy and hilly for even conventional rail, let alone high-speed. With some of the recent lane expansion, there are places where the grass median is no more, and there is just a 12 foot concrete strip with a guardrail. Not a great place to travel at 300 mph.

  36. Recent developments in California where capital costs have skyrocketed bear out Rick Scott’s concerns.

    I have never understood why the federal government is pushing the states to create high sped rail networks. The country will be left with a patchwork of systems that can never be integrated into a national system.

    Florida’s 186 mph (300 kph) system would be incompatible with anything north of Orlando (all 79-110 mph systems where they are planned and there plennty of gaps). It would be a hodge podge of state systems. Even if you could get to an interconnect, you would have to change trains 4 or 5 times to get from Tampa to Washington DC.

    If Obama and LaHood really want this and not just shove unfunded libilities onto the states, they would have Amtrak design a coordinated system and have them build it. But they are trying to protect what they have not get mired down in a $80 billion Florida to Boston capital project.

    Florida doesn’t need high speed rail. Unlike th DC-NYC-BOS corridor, none of our airports are slotted. There are minimal delays and tons of flights between Tampa and Lauderdale/Miami. They take and hour to an hour and 10 minutes. That’s less than half the time of high speed rail.

    HS rail wouldn’t save much time over the private auto. Cars go portal to portal. With trains you have to drive or be driven from your home to the station. You must plan to be at the station early and park your car. Most of the cities had planned to co-locate rail stations with existing airports so there is no center city time advantage of trains over air.

    Florida is primarily a vacation market with families with children traveling together. Price is important. Vacationers can ill afford to pay the minimum Acela DC-NY fare of $139 per passenger. Most either drive to Florida or fly and rent a car here. Very few go much beyond the destination city. There is more than enough to do in Orlando. To spend $556 (family of 4) to go to Miami for a day or so just won’t happen.

    HS rail is nothing but a vanity project that wastes money. Other than the NE corridor where airport congestion limits and delays flights, planes and autos can do a far better job at less cost. HS rail’s only use is to enhance the image af a wasteful adminstration that is woefully ignorant of economic realities.

  37. Another problem is, once you get off the train you need to rent a car to get anywhere. So most people would just rent the car to begin with and skip the train. Stupid idea.

  38. Grew up in NYC. Father worked for the LIRR (railroad). Moved to FL when I was 20 and lived there 15 years before I left 2 years ago. I’m absolutely certain rail is a waste there. Technocrats always forget that people aren’t little chess pieces they can push around a board. Not only is the population density not there, the people have a different mindset too. The drive from Tampa to Orlando is just over an hour. You get to do that in your own car, privacy. Or you can spend more time than that driving to a station and riding with a bunch of strangers. NOT going to happen. Nobody is going to commute from one city to another for work. That leaves the only reason to go as fun. If you can’t afford a car you can’t afford a train to disney for a mini vacation.

    The only reason I see behind these things is to try and increase union membership. Whether it’s initial or comes later, those projects can be unionized and more money funneled into the hands of the pols who force these white elephants on us.

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