New York

End of the Line for the Bullet Train

High-Speed Rail is Coasting to a Stop, and Not Just in California

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The way high-speed rail projects have been collapsing around the world, you'd think they were corrupt, outrageously expensive, fiscally ruinous, poorly planned government efforts to build a 19th century means of transportation for which there's no demand. 

The Obama Administration's bullet-train dream is dead. Florida Gov. Rick Scott last year rejected $2 billion in federal funds rather than commit the Sunshine State to such an expensive project. California's high-speed rail effort is in turmoil, recently suffered a purge of top management, and is unlikely to meet its September deadline to break ground on a federally mandated leg universally termed the "train to nowhere." 

New York State's effort to build a Buffalo-New York City line is also stalling out. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) trekked out to the village of Bergen in Genesee County the other day only to face hostile questioning from reporters and the local mayor. Schumer's photo opp by the side of an existing CSX track highlighted a trait the Empire State's project shares with California's: It proposes to destroy a proven business – freight rail – to make room for a bullet train that would not be self-supporting even according to the rosiest estimates. 

Don't trust SEIU colors.

Bullet trains are having even less luck outside the United States – where, the cognoscenti never tire of reminding us, international sophisticates are way ahead of us Yankee bumpkins. Spain's high-speed rail system, until recently a model for new bullet train construction (and, to be fair, a line that replaced one of the slowest railways in Europe), is sinking under low ridership and dragging that kingdom even deeper into a swamp of bad public debt. 

The unkindest cuts of all are occurring in China, whose bullet train once drew hosannas from California governors and bully-worshipping toadies like New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. Rail minister Liu Zhijun, the putative "Father of High-Speed Rail," was removed from office and arrested last year; Liu's deputy, "Grand Designer" (and owner of a five-bedroom home on 30,000 square feet in Los Angeles County) Zhang Shuguang, is also facing corruption charges. An early investigation by the Ministry of Rail revealed that the Chinese bullet train's budgeting is extremely murky (with some parts of the initiative costing two or three times as much as projected); its ridership is low (after only two months of operation, the Beijing-Fuzhou line was quietly shut in 2010); and ticket prices are beyond the means of lower-income people who actually use mass transit. HSR-related debt increased by a factor of 22 over only three years, from 77.1 billion yuan in 2007 to 1.68 trillion in 2010. In July a bullet-train crash in Zhejiang killed 32 people and injured more than 200. 

Railroads have always been favorites of dictators. (Note that nobody was ever brought to a concentration camp on a bus.) But they somehow retain their fascination for popularly elected politicians as well. Here's California Gov. Jerry Brown in yesterday's State of the State address

Just as bold is our plan to build a high-speed rail system, connecting the Northern and Southern parts of our state. This is not a new idea. As governor the last time, I signed legislation to study the concept. Now thirty years later, we are within weeks of a revised business plan that will enable us to begin initial construction before the year is out.

President Obama strongly supports the project and has provided the majority of funds for this first phase. It is now your decision to evaluate the plan and decide what action to take. Without any hesitation, I urge your approval.

If you believe that California will continue to grow, as I do, and that millions more people will be living in our state, this is a wise investment. Building new runways and expanding our airports and highways is the only alternative. That is not cheaper and will face even more political opposition.

Those who believe that California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking. I understand that feeling but I don't share it, because I know this state and the spirit of the people who choose to live here. California is still the Gold Mountain that Chinese immigrants in 1848 came across the Pacific to find. The wealth is different, derived as it is, not from mining the Sierras but from the creative imagination of those who invent and build and generate the ideas that drive our economy forward.  

Critics of the high-speed rail project abound as they often do when something of this magnitude is proposed. During the 1930s, the Central Valley Water Project was called a "fantastic dream" that "will not work." The Master Plan for the Interstate Highway System in 1939 was derided as "New Deal jitterbug economics." In 1966, then Mayor Johnson of Berkeley called BART a "billion-dollar potential fiasco." Similarly, the Panama Canal was for years thought to be impractical and Benjamin Disraeli himself said of the Suez Canal: "totally impossible to be carried out." The critics were wrong then and they're wrong now.

These arguments would be pathetic coming from any governor of a great state. From Jerry Brown, they are too stupid by half. His claim that, in January 2012, only declinists oppose the California High-Speed Rail project invites the obvious joke that that train has left the station. A substantial majority of Californians oppose the bullet-train in its current form.  

Roelof van Ark, knew ye too well.

That's a remarkable turnaround in a state where 53 percent of voters approved $9.95 billion in high-speed rail bonds during the high-turnout 2008 election. It seems like just a month ago that the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) was an object of wonder for its reality-distorting public relations influence and political strength. Now even the left-leaning media treat with scorn the CHSRA and its plan to make a non-operational Bakersfield-Fresno run the great project's first phase. 

Meanwhile, the CHSRA's CEO and board chairman have both fled the collapsing project, in a move that neither the Brown nor the Obama Administration appears to have seen coming. The authority is in a dispute with its former PR firm, which was unable to distract public attention from the glaring truth that since 2008 the estimated cost of the project has more than doubled, from around $40 billion to $98.5 billion. (The suspiciously steep increase in projected costs has prompted calls for a new referendum on railway debt, on the grounds that the voters were hoodwinked the first time around.) The authority's own peer review group and the Legislative Analyst's Office have strongly recommended delaying and rethinking the project. A larger percentage of voters would now vote No on HSR bonds than voted for them in 2008. 

These are all steps in the right direction, but there's another intellectual hurdle for the populace to clear. These failing, costly high-speed rail catastrophes are not cases of a good idea poorly carried out. Failure is built into the concept. There is neither need nor demand nor real popular will to bring trains back in a spiffier form. In this respect, one part of Jerry Brown's speech was accurate: High-speed rail is not a new idea. Passenger railroads had their day. To pretend otherwise is truly to believe our civilization is in decline. 

Tim Cavanaugh is the managing editor of Reason.com. 

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  1. “To pretend otherwise is truly to believe our civilization is in decline.”

    Present!

  2. (Note that nobody was ever brought to a concentration camp on a bus.)

    Ok, now you’re just trolling, Tim. Still, I lol’d.

    1. Huh. I bet no one took a cab or drove to a concentration camp, either.

      1. I know someone who took a cab from Hamburg to Prague. He also took a cab from Prague to Hungary. That’s got to be a record or something.

        1. They have concentration camps in the Czech Republic? Strange, I they were more liberal than that.

          1. What’s more liberal than a concentration camp? This time it’ll work if we just have the right sort of guards and the right sort of ovens…

            1. Not that kind of liberal. Liberal in the “we’re a western republic” sense.

              1. Dagnabbit, I find it impossible to keep up with you young whippersnappers and your ever changing definitions of liberal.

                If you mean liberal in the sense of freedom, as in being free to take taxis to other countries provided you have enough money to waste because you missed your plane because you were hungover, then yes, very liberal.

    2. *Cough*

      “A young evacuee of Japanese ancestry waits with the family baggage before leaving by bus for an assembly center in the spring of 1942.”

      1. In Children of Men, they also used buses. But that was refugee camps and it didn’t happen yet.

    3. Airplanes have always been favorites of terrorists. (Note that nobody was ever flown into a building on a train.)

  3. Isn’t the SEIU color purple? That looks blue.

    1. The paint factory workers were SEIU, and they went on strike. No purple paint, dude.

      1. If SEIU was in manufacturing (is it?), I can imagine the infighting. It would be like farmers versus factory workers under the soviet regime.

  4. I bet this libertine Tim Cavanaugh fellow also believes we SHOULDN’T prohibit the internal combustion engine and personal transportation in order to save the environment? Hurumph. You damned capitalists, imperialist-ing the world with your liberties and other unnecessary, counter-productive crap!

  5. These failing, costly high-speed rail catastrophes are not cases of a good idea poorly carried out. Failure is built into the concept. There is neither need nor demand nor real popular will to bring trains back in a spiffier form.

    O RLY? Might wanna let JR Central, a private Japanese railroad, and their shareholders know that, because they’re building a maglev line (essentially HSR on steroids) without any government subsidies from Tokyo to Osaka.

    But yeah, I’m sure their world class managers and shareholders are just morons who are really only building the train to shuttle bodies off to the ovens.

    God, what a dumb article.

    1. You mean the private sector only builds trains in locations where they are economical?

      1. Where they’re economical and where they haven’t been regulated out of existence by, say, the Federal Railroad Administration. (Of course there are also lots of other gov’t policies standing in the way of profitable rail in the US ? the biggest one being that building densely without parking is literally illegal in 99.9999% of American land outside of downtown Chicago, NYC, etc.)

        1. OK, that I’ll buy. You make good points there.

        2. Gee, I didn’t realize that the Federal Railroad Administration had any authority in Japan, where only two HSR lines have EVER shown a profit, and only one year each.

    2. Uh-oh. Get ready Steve if you don’t know what you are in for.

      Also, there are about 100 things about Japan that make trains make a lot more sense there than they do anywhere in the US. I think the author was talking about places where trains have already been in decline (such as in the US).

      1. The author seemed to be implying that trains are dead everywhere. Or… maybe he was just trolling.

      2. I believe this is actually a different STEVE SMITH who comments on the same lines of planning as the sasquatch.

    3. Get back to me after they get that puppy of the test track, Steve old buddy.

      I worked on a pilot project for maglev over thiry years ago. It doesn’t seem to have gotten anywhere since.

      I’ll believe that meg-lev isn’t a scam the day it’s anything other that than a theme park ride.

      1. Wait, are there maglevs in amusement parks now? I didn’t think it had gotten THAT far.

        1. If an airport is an amusement park, then I heard about one somewhere.

          1. So, I looked it up. Kinda interesting — the Shanghai Maglev Train is actually pretty cool. Gets up to a nice solid 268 mph, has been running for years now, covers 18 miles, which is a lot more than the only two other commercial maglev trains.

            Now, the bad news is that it cost $70 million per mile, in China. And, at least a while ago, it was operating at 20% capacity. Can’t find any more recent data.

            Still! That’s a lot further along than I thought it was!

            1. There is an image on the Wikipedia page captioned “Shanghai Maglev Driver”. Look closely, tell me, what do you see?

              1. This one?
                http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi…..anghai.jpg
                I give up; what should I see?

                1. No, this one:
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…..Driver.jpg
                  Shanghai Maglev Driver
                  Look at the train’s state of the art air conditioning and electrical system.

                  1. Brix shat.

            2. I rode the Shanghai maglev a couple years ago. Fun ride, fastest I’ve ever been that close to the ground – didn’t last long, though. As mentioned, it’s a short route with (at that time) only Point A and Point B.

              1. The Shanghai maglev is also incredibly poorly planned ? by the time you connect to the subway to get into the actual city, it would have been faster (and MUCH cheaper) for them to just have run a regular (read: faster than anything that exists in the US but still not technically high speed rail) mainline train directly from the airport to downtown.

          2. At this point, maglev is limited to a handful of demonstration projects very few of which serve anything bigger than Disney’s monorail.

            Considering the meager returns the billions in public subsidies that its proponents have been able to extract from various governments over the last fifty years or so have gotten I think it’s time to pull the plug on this scam.

    4. I took a look at Stephen Smith’s blog over at Forbes. I found it to be fairly interesting and informative look at the way market prices and urban environments interact.

      I almost did not go look because of the tone of his posting. Some of his criticisms have some merit but they are not very professional in presentation.

      1. lol, did you really just comment on an article that calls train supporters genocidal dictators to say that you found my writing not very professional in presentation??

        1. Using the statement “Railroads have always been favorites of dictators.” as a segway between discussing railroads in China and railroads in the US might be a little over the top, but it is hardly “calling train supporters genocidal dictators”.

          This is exactly what I’m talking about. The writing on your blog is fine to read, your posted comments make you come off like an asshole. I mean, I’m familiar with John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory, but one of the critical elements was anonymity. By linking to your own blog, you’re proudly stating you want us to associate this persona with your professional one.

          1. Fair enough. It just makes my blood boil to see a magazine I used to work for (okay, okay, intern for…) spout such nonsense. And plus, it’s the Hit & Run comment section ? I just assume no one will listen to me unless there’s a high ratio of snark to content.

            (Then again, Reason writers have always tended to lose all sense of objectivity when talking about choo-choos…I remember Nick telling some whoppers about HSR profitability [or lack thereof, according to him] when I was there.)

            1. I can understand your position. I’m actually fairly favorable to the idea that absent the distortion of cheap/free parking by zoning regulation, cheaper than market price street parking, etc, more people would choose mass transit than they do now.

              A bit of flair to get people’s attention is great. But we get so many sock puppet trolls here that too much flair can cause people to write you off, or filter your username out with reasonable, pretty quickly. Also, as a mostly libertarian bunch we’re more likely to be persuaded with well laid out arguments than fiery rhetoric. At least I hope so, otherwise most of my life is a lie.

    5. I’m craving Jack Links.

    6. I remember reading somewhere that the city of Tokyo strongly encourages(subsidizes) train usage?

      1. Yes, some trains in Japan receive some subsidies (although more so in the countryside than in Tokyo ? even the metro in Tokyo is now profitable). But then again, that’s true with literally every good and service on earth. Certainly they receive fewer subsidies than roads in America get.

        1. Okay,that’s a good point.

        2. Certainly they receive fewer subsidies than roads in America get.

          Is it proper to call roads in America “subsidized” when federal and state governments claim ownership over most all of them?

          1. “Subsidized” is a good general term to refer to everything that is taxpayer funded. Federal, state, county, and local governments subsidize the roads that they claim to own.

    7. Stephen,

      So you’re arguing in favor of HSR provided it’s not subsidized by taxpayers?

      Because I don’t believe anyone here would have a problem with a private venture building one. But to compare Japan and the US in terms of population density and available land for corridor infrastructure is pretty ridiculous. They aren’t even remotely comparable.

      And to ask another question, do you believe that taxpayers -in particular California residents who are already economically screwed budget wise- should pay for the Cal HSR?

  6. We’ve known for the last 20 years that light and highspeed rail aren’t economical. Liberals don’t care. They like trains. That other people use. But it’s ok, because they own a Prius.

    1. “Economics” is dictated by regulation, which is defined by public policy, which is shaped by prevailing culture. In America you have a culture of cars. Your public policy favors (read: subsidizes) roads and transport fuel. The free market doesn’t exist in transport, and economics has almost nothing to do with this debate. So let’s cut the bull: libertarians prefer cars to trains for reasons of ideology. Next subject.

      1. “So let’s cut the bull: libertarians prefer cars to trains for reasons of ideology.”

        Well, thank you for the unsupported bullshit.

      2. libertarians prefer cars to trains for reasons of ideology

        Not quite. Libertarians want to see what the market would provide without pervasive government interventions.

        The thing about mass transit in the U.S. is that drivers do pay gasoline tax which is supposed to go toward highways, while mass transit projects always come in way over budget and serve relatively few riders while being heavily subsidized.

        1. Sam, that’s a red herring. Whether the gas taxes go directly to highways and are diverted to education (teachers’ unions) and the money comes from somewhere else (federal money), the issue is whether the road costs match the vehicle/gasoline taxes. I would be surprised if they did.

          Another factor to consider would be all the injuries in highway accidents compared to the relative safety of rail. It’s no surprise that “dictators” prefer rail if only because it’s cheaper. Why do Americans love cars? The elitist attitude partly but also because when public transportation is rarely used, it becomes a haven for the extreme poor and crazy. In western Europe which doesn’t have, yet, America’s demographic issues public transportation is quite popular (and the people a lot thinner!)

          Since roads have to be publically funded including the highway patrol then it’s reasonable that bus/tram/trains should also be publically funded and then even run off of electricity helping to wean us off of foreign oil.

          In any case, it doesn’t matter since the libertarian ideology is almost dead since they welcome illegal immigrations who vote marxist the second they get citizenship.

          1. (Another factor to consider would be all the injuries in highway accidents compared to the relative safety of rail.)

            I see in this the same false comparison that I see in the either or trade off for more highways and airports if hsr isn’t built. Hsr would replace only a part of a auto trip the long highway part and arguably the safest. Do the hsr advocates really believe that building the hsr will significantly reduce the need to improve roads and air infrastructure?

  7. The main advantage I see now of rail over air travel is that flying sucks now. But I am sure the TSA woudl do their best to make high speed rail suck just as much.

    Personally, I am a little disappointed that rail can’t make a better go of it. But that certainly is not an argument for shoveling tax money down a hole.

  8. Oh, also, Tim, could you please provide a citation for this:

    It proposes to destroy a proven business ? freight rail ? to make room for a bullet train that would not be self-supporting even according to the rosiest estimates.

    …’cause last I checked, CAHSR in its present form wouldn’t impact the freight railroads one iota. The tracks will be totally separate (which is actually not international best practice). But please, don’t let me stop you from your evidence-free rants. Trains ? they’re basically Nazis!

    1. That particular section was in reference to another hsr line.

      1. And which HSR line was that? Yes, Europe doesn’t have as good freight networks as the US, but that has much more to do with the fact that the EU has not yet forcibly liberalized/deregulated international freight the way that it has with international trucking. (That is, while truck drivers can literally drive from Slovenia to Spain without seeing a border guard, railroads have to do all sorts of ridiculous things to cross borders, since the EU has not harmonized regulations among its constituent countries like the US did for its constituent states.) It has little to nothing to do with high-speed rail.

        1. Actually, at an earlier time at least, Union Pacific was pissed about a proposal that routed the California system on some existing freight tracks due to space constraints in a certain location in a city.

          1. Class I RRs like to pretend they’re unhappy about passenger projects because in a lot of cases, they can get the feds to pay for improvements if they make a loud enough fuss. See, for example, SunRail in Florida, which is basically a gigantic handout to CSX.

            The truth is, outside of Chicago (which is a huge freight hub), there’s actually very little freight traffic in dense areas like the Northeast Corridor and California which have the best shot at passenger rail. This is despite the claims of the Class I’s, who are out looking for subsidies, and the FRA, which is trying to cover for the fact that it’s too incompetent to set modern regulations that would allow freight and passenger rail to mingle like they do in the rest of the developed world. (Switzerland, Sweden, and Australia, for example, all have good amounts of both freight and passenger traffic, without huge conflicts between the two.)

            1. “The truth is, outside of Chicago (which is a huge freight hub), there’s actually very little freight traffic in dense areas like the Northeast Corridor and California which have the best shot at passenger rail.”

              Sniff, sniff; not passing the smell test:
              If these areas are such great places for passenger rail, why is it that none of the carriers offers it commercially?

              1. If these areas are such great places for passenger rail, why is it that none of the carriers offers it commercially?

                FRA regulations, passenger rail union rules, and local land use policy that ban dense development (which is a strong complementary good to mass transit), mostly.

                1. Goverment making rules and regulations that end up making harder to do the things it wants to do? I find that plausible.

        2. I did a brief search. It was Fresno and maybe some other areas.

        3. Which Cavanaw mentioned in the comment below that I didn’t read.

    2. The New York dispute with CSX is discussed in the article by Howard Owens. Follow the link. CHSRA (not CAHSR) according to its master plan will run down the peninsula and use Union Pacific rights of way. The railroad is also fighting to keep HSR off its Fresno-Merced corridor.

      1. CSX and UPRR and all the other Class I’s have a history of bitching about passenger rail projects in order to get the feds to pony up for improvements, as they often do. The fact is, the tracks will be separated, and only the right-of-way will be infringed on. This would matter if the rails were bursting with traffic and the RRs were looking to double/quad-track some areas, but the traffic volumes are so light (like, literally one or two movements a day on some tracks) that they’re certainly not doing that. They’re complaining loudly in the press to increase their likelihood of being given goodies later on, not because their business is actually being harmed.

        1. “CSX and UPRR and all the other Class I’s have a history of bitching about passenger rail projects in order to get the feds to pony up for improvements, as they often do.”

          Again, you’re suggesting that passenger rail offers a profit, but no one is taking that opportunity?

          1. No ? there is no opportunity for passenger rail profits in the US. But if you took away FRA regs and union rules (on the transport side of the equation) and local policies that almost universally ban dense, transit-oriented development (on the land use side), then yes, I believe that it would be both profitable, and entrepreneurs would take the opportunity to invest in it.

            1. I agree, these are some things, but not everything.

            2. “But if you took away FRA regs and union rules (on the transport side of the equation) and local policies that almost universally ban dense, transit-oriented development (on the land use side), then yes, I believe that it would be both profitable, and entrepreneurs would take the opportunity to invest in it.”

              Well, OK, but do you see any of that happening?
              I mean it sounds like a business plan where if we had eggs, we could have ham and eggs if we had some ham.

              1. Good point. Also, a lot of these rail lines in California are quite heavily used. I work for a railroad in the midwest, and hundreds of trains pass through every day to and from California on what is called the “transcon”. Two passenger trains per day use this track Chicago to LA, and they cause a huge disruption.

      2. …and to the extent that there are genuine conflicts between passenger and freight rail, it’s Federal Railroad Administration regulations, not actual safety issues, that are standing in the way of proper integration. That is to say, “Failure is not built into the concept.”

  9. a 19th century means of transportation

    It was a successful means for the first five or six decades of the 20th century, until it was eventually superseded by jet air travel.

    Not to ruin your snark, Tim.

  10. I don’t know why the people on this site are so opposed to railroads! It’s ridiculous. And, who cares if they’re not profitable? Are roads profitable? Are locks and dams profitable? This site is like a propaganda machine for the anti-rail message.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/…..-rail.html

    1. “And, who cares if they’re not profitable? ”
      I do. As a taxpayer, it’s my damn money.

      “Are roads profitable?”
      Yes, some are and more could be.

      “Are locks and dams profitable?”
      If not, the lockage fees and water/power rates should be raised. BTW, the Golden Gate Bridge tolls paid off the construction costs years ago, and it should be profitable if the Bridge board didn’t decide to embrace mission-creep.

      Besides which, given that some infrastructure isn’t profitable is hardly an argument for adding more.

    2. Who’s opposed to railroads?
      Cite please.

    3. TycheSD, do a little more reseach. In North Georgia, state road GA400 was built as a toll road. The construction cost was paid off years ago. All the profits from the tolls are supposed to used for maintenance, but our crooked ex-Governor Roy Barnes, took a good bit of it to build the Atlanta Olympic Park in Downtown Atlanta.

      Oh yeah. He is a Democrat. But I already said crook, so I’m being redundant.

  11. Dang if there ain’t a ton of STEVESMITHS out there. I’ll never hike again.

    1. Never mind, it’s the Stephen Smith that used to work at Reason.

      Jeeze Smith, you really got it in for Cavanaugh. Do you own a piece of the LA Times, or something?

      1. DIFFERENT STEVE SMITH BUT STEVE SMITH SURE DO LIKE PULLING TRAINS IF YOU GET STEVE SMITHS MEANING.

  12. Are roads profitable? Not profitable but their costs are covered by fuel taxes (or would be if fuel taxes were not being used to cover so many things that are not related to cars).

    Are locks and dams profitable? If user fees do not cover the costs of locks and dams they either need to be raised or the faciltities shold be closed.

  13. We had high speed rail in this country, during the thirties, forties, and fifties. It failed miserably in the sixties and seventies, due to very poor ridership. Why would this time be any different? I mean, even though there are more cars on the road, we still haven’t been strangled by that imaginary concrete noose that High Speed rail promoters were claiming was going to ruin us in the sixties.

    1. The passenger rail we had in this country in the thirties, forties, and fifties was not exactly high speed.

      1. It was pretty much the same technology and standards that Amtrak still uses, but they actually operated at slightly faster speeds until the government imposed an arbitrary speed limit.

        1. 80-100MPH at the time. If it had decent ridership. there’s no reason that by now it wouldn’t be “HSR”.

          1. Nothing in the fifties ever came close to modern (read: non-US) definitions of HSR.

  14. “Building new runways and expanding our airports and highways is the only alternative. That is not cheaper and will face even more political opposition.”

    The only alternative? All government proposals include studies of alternatives including a no action alternative. Just because we are opposed to government doing rail, does not mean we are not also opposed to government doing roads and air instead.

    1. And no one ‘studies’ the fact that people change behaviors based on incentives.
      All the CA propaganda was based on travel increasing by X amount; none of it suggested that if travel gets to be a pain, not so many people will travel, or that they will move closer to where they are currently traveling.

  15. If ever, and that’s a very big IF, let us have state-owned rail lines with privately owned and operated trains, making the playing field even with roads/buses, airports and air traffic control/airlines. Let’s face it, the idea of a train ride for less than a flight, or a light rail commute for less than fighting traffic, won’t go away. But until it’s seriously proposed by private interests, and not by vote seeking pandering politicians, I won’t buy it.

  16. As bullet trains fizzle overseas and public support dwindles at home, the next step is for voters and politicians to realize that high-speed rail is not a good idea poorly executed underfunded, and will be a huge success if we just spend some more money on it

    1. We could use some “Top Men” too I’d wager.

  17. Sir,

    Ignoring the success and safety of high speed trains (Specially in China, EU and Japan) in this article is so strange, I can only imagine such an article to be written by someone from a big carmaker’s PR department. (Or someone who never traveled outside US). I know perhaps it’s not the case.

    The death rate part was real amazing.What about road trip accidents? What about environmental impact of cars? If the author don’t recommend high speed trains and calls them old fashioned, what is the authors solution for “21 century” transport? flying saucers ? or maybe Cadillac Eldorado 1955? Perhaps you would liked the idea of high speed rains, if only they ran on coal? “America’s Power”? 😉 If trains are old, why coal never sound so backward to you?

    Isn’t it time for be less selfish and stand in line (yes) for public transportation solutions that damages our planet less than cars or jets, specially in distances that flexibility of cars or speed of jets is not needed?

    1. I thought you had an argument worth listening to until you got to the ‘be less selfish and stand in line’ part. We should just shut up and be good little sheep?

      Fuck you.

      1. Who told you should shut up? Enjoy your right to free speech. Audience is enjoying your “sharp reasoning” skills and “eloquence”.

    2. “Ignoring the success and safety of high speed trains (Specially in China, EU and Japan) in this article is so strange,”

      Hint:
      It’s a good idea to read the article, since it’s far easier to keep your foot out of your mouth rather having to remove it later.

      1. What makes you think I should re-read the article? The author called the high speed train a thing of the past, while subways and high speed trains are being implemented in the world every day except in the U.S, that sticks to SUV’s and highways. The America’s addiction to cars (and fuel) and rejecting every public transport solution as “socialist and communist” is a cultural phenomenon Americans are famous of, like apple pie, jazz and baseball.

        I’m not American and don’t mean to insult American people at all. The car problem is a mixture of geography, history, policy and culture. But isn’t it time that Americans show the world one more time they are responsive to challenges?

    3. China People Republic high speed falace train number one long time.

  18. Debating the merits and demerits of rail is pointless. The whole point of this boondoggle is the same as the green boondoggle. Obama shifts oceans of tax money into subsidies for bullshit, go-nowhere, ‘industries’ that will be owned and run by his supporters and friends. They are just looting the treasury, thats all.
    This is banana republic crony capitalism, plain and simple.

    1. I prefer to call it crony socialism, but you’re right on the money.

  19. “Railroads have always been favorites of dictators.”

    Why did this make me think of Ayn Rand?

    1. Yeah? What do you think of this with regards to Rand?

      Six reasonable Democrats in the House (please excuse the redundancy) want a Reasonable Profits Board (RPB) to impose additional taxes on sellers of oil and gas.

      http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2012…..board-reb/

  20. Note that nobody was ever brought to a concentration camp on a bus.

    Are you kidding me? We had a big orange one that picked us up every morning and took us to a concentration camp when I was a kid. I still see plenty of them on the road.

  21. A road system that made sense for a nation of 150 million people is going to look pretty silly when you try to put 450 million people on it.

    The problem is not one of viability, they are not focusing on projects that will succeed.

    Imagine New York without a subway system. It wouldn’t work. Population density forces the rail system.

    Saying that China’s highly successful rail system is a failure because of official corruption is nothing more than sleight-of-hand. Here is a country with a population density that demands an efficient rail system.

    Focus on projects that can succeed. And those of you who wonder at rail’s profitability, how many roads do you drive on that turn a profit?

    1. “Imagine New York without a subway system. It wouldn’t work. Population density forces the rail system.”

      Nice post hoc ergo propter hoc.
      Did you have a point other than admitting you’re an ignoramus?

    2. “And those of you who wonder at rail’s profitability, how many roads do you drive on that turn a profit?”

      Ah, yes. You must be a brain-dead liberal:
      “Hey, we’re losing money here! Let’s lose money there, too!
      What a jack-off….

    3. Ab, read my previous post about GA400. I drove it to work everyday for 5 years. It is a toll road that was paid off years ago and now part of the tolls go to maintenance and the rest into the state treasury.

  22. Subsidizing transportation of any kind encourages people to live farther from work thus reducing overall efficiency.

    1. Subsidizing nearly anything is a clear admission that it is a BAD idea.

  23. I’m wondering, is this Gov. Brown related to the one back in the 70s? Because that Gov. Brown was all into “small is beautiful” and “era of limits”?

    1. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

      Yes, this is the very same Jerry Brown that stood in the way of highway construction and other improvements to transportation forms where people went anywhere they wanted, any time they wanted.

      Politicians love rail for the same reason they love anything that makes people easier to control: they like control.

      We built plenty of new highways in Brown’s absence and guess what? Some trips got a lot better. LA to Las Vegas is far less of a hassle than it used to be, when there wasn’t a simple route that kept you on freeway throughout. And speaking of the LA-Las Vegas route, if HSR is such a grand and effective thing, why don’t we have a fast, cheap line running this route? They talked about it for decades but the guys building $Billion+ resorts in LV never found it worth the money.

      That should be a huge clue.

  24. “…and its plan to make a non-operational Bakersfield-Fresno run the great project’s first phase…”

    Well, it could work…….everybody in Fresno sure as hell wants to leave, and everybody in Bakersfield sure as hell wants to leave even more…..

    1. Yes, but do the people in Fresno want to go to Bakersfield, and those in Bakersfield want to go to Fresno? And do they want to go that fast, enough to pay for the ticket and be on foot at the other end?

      I’ve been to Fresno and Bakersfield. I don’t see any reason to go back to either.

  25. I know this must be an obvious point, but roads go everywhere I want to go and I don’t need someone else to drive me. If I want to go to the store at 2AM, I just go!

  26. Actually, thousands of people were taken to concentration camps on buses. That’s the only thing in the article that I can find to argue with.

    1. “…concentration camps on buses…”

      Manzanar comes to mind.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manzanar

      That’s the only thing….I can find to argue with.

      Lot’s to argue with! The Eisenhower-Interstate-Highway-System is the largest public-works project in the history of the human race —all subsidized. I’d say that makes the US the biggest socialist country in the history of the world. The US train system (private sector) included passenger trains until DDE built an expensive highway system specifically designed to eliminate the train system (and succeeded in all but freight). The expensive highway system from DDE is designed substantially from a war perspective. The problems we (US) have from an auto-dependent infrastructure comes to us from our government, which knows better than the private sector (railroads) on how to deliver cost-effective transportion.

      1. Ooops. -comment above-
        …forget to put punctuation marks around the words knows and better…should read ‘knows better’…(sarcasm involved)

      2. Passenger rail was in decline before they poured the first mile of the Interstates, it was killed by passenger air, as was the passenger liner. Now, each is primarily used by those who have time to enjoy taking days to make the trip that an airliner makes in hours. It costs $120 to take Amtrak from LA to San Fran, but only $59 to make the trip on Southwest Airlines, which takes a fraction of the time and goes 10 times every day. When you can cross the entire continent in 6 hours, why would you make the same trip in five days? The only place that heavy passenger rail is a better way to travel is in the Northeast Corridor. Otherwise, only commuter rail has more than 30% ridership.

        1. “Passenger rail was in decline before they poured the first mile of the Interstates” ….KW6

          The interstate highway system in the US predates the Eisenhower-Interstate-Highway system. Very little of the interstate system was ‘poured’ (concrete) prior to the 60’s. Do you infer paving being ‘poured’?
          The private-sector passenger rail system was a very good system in this country until DDE decided to replace the train system with a highway system. None of the presidents that have served in my lifetime have been honest in funding the Interstate-Highway-System. It’s not affordable to maintain. Congress routinely uses ‘highway funding’ to blackmail the states in submission to federal programs.

          When you compare private-sector passenger trains with Amtrak, you’re comparing apples-to-oranges. Amtrak is a government ‘quasi-corporation’ that runs engines and cars on private-sector railroads. It now takes Congressional involvement to improve the rail system.

          “Otherwise, only commuter rail has more than 30% ridership.” …….KW6

          The original HSR (High-Speed-Rail) in Japan was called the ‘Trunk-line’ (in Japanese). They did not use bizarre or fancy technology, but simply built a separate line for commuter/passenger trains which did not interfer with freight. The result was not only successful, but sustantially changes the concept of ‘population-density’ with more folks living in rural areas than in the US. Affordability is more than the cost of transportation. The cost of housing for a auto-dependant infrastructure is radically different. The cost of an automobile, maintenance & insurance changes the numbers.

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