High Speed Rail

How Rail Screws the Poor

As Los Angeles spends billions on light rail, transit use declines.


The dirty secret of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is that it provides some of the finest public transit service in the country. With a network stretching over 1,513 square miles, the MTA runs a fleet of 2,723 buses every weekday, operates trains over 87 miles of track, and carries more than 1 million passengers a day. 

The authority's newest service, the long-aborning light-rail Expo Line from downtown L.A. to Culver City, rides like a dream along its eight-mile route. Shortly after the Expo Line opened in late April, my colleague Scott Shackford and I found Expo Line riders unanimously enthusiastic about the train. 

Unfortunately, we also found very few riders. Based on our counts and calculations, we estimated total daily ridership could not exceed 13,000 people. A few days after we rode the rails, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky came up with an even smaller figure of 9,000 daily riders. 

Here you begin to see how the MTA is simultaneously increasing operating costs, reducing operating revenue, cutting service for working-class and poor customers, and dismantling a functioning mass transit system, all in the service of a fantasy that was pushed on an unwilling L.A. by wealthy liberals. 

Since 2009 the MTA has added eight miles of train service, at a capital cost of about $2 billion. These new trains, the Expo Line and an extension of the east-county Gold Line, carry a total of about 39,000 people a day. 

In the meantime, the cash-strapped authority radically reduced bus service twice: It cut bus lines by 4 percent in 2010 and 12 percent in 2011. These cuts were made even though buses move more than four times as many Angelenos as trains do. In 2009 MTA buses carried about 1.2 million riders a day. Multiplying that by 16 percent, we can estimate more than 180,000 people had their service canceled while fewer than 40,000 had service introduced. 

Not surprisingly, the result is that fewer people are using mass transit overall in Los Angeles than in 2009 (about 5 percent fewer, according to MTA statistics). This is a continuation of a long-term trend. Since the MTA began rail construction in 1985, more than 80 miles of railroads have been built, but mass transit ridership as a percentage of county population is lower than it was in 1985. 

Bus riders get screwed in another important way: We have to pay for a ride, while train riders don't. Every MTA bus has an enforcer, a driver who collects the standard fare of $1.50. Trains operate on an "honor system" in which fares are not collected. Although the MTA claims to conduct occasional spot checks and lay heavy fines on fare cheats, its rail revenue numbers suggest very few train riders pay. (The MTA is planning to add gating at rail platforms later this year.) 

Why would a public transit authority want to reduce its number of paying customers while adding costly, inflexible capacity that is destined to be severely underused? Part of the answer lies in the nation's light rail obsession. New trains are being added or planned in Austin, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and other cities around the country. But L.A. train buffs have a special complex rooted in the legend of the Pacific Electric rail system. 

According to Bradford C. Snell's 1974 Senate Antitrust Committee report A Proposal for Restructuring the Automobile, Truck, Bus & Rail Industries, the evolution of modern car-friendly Los Angeles was not a matter of consumer choice or technological improvement but a plot by General Motors and Standard Oil to transform L.A. from a "beautiful city of lush palm trees, fragrant orange groves and ocean-clean air" into an "ecological wasteland" with "palm trees…dying from petrochemical smog" and air quality equal to that of "a septic tank." This remarkably popular if historically dubious anti-rail conspiracy theory informed the plot of the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 

Using transit policy to right alleged historical wrongs salves the consciences of well-heeled liberals, provides plenty of room for doling out political pork, and pleases planning utopians (including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) who want to remake Angelenos into hub-centered, vertically living New Yorkers. But L.A.'s further left recognizes something the Democratic donor base does not: Poor people get the short end of these grand schemes. 

Bus riders are overwhelmingly poor and working class. As a regular rider I can attest that often the only English spoken on an L.A. bus is the robotic voice that announces upcoming stops. In 1996 a coalition led by the left-wing Bus Riders Union successfully sued the MTA, alleging discrimination in transit decision making. The action was based on the questionable idea that subsidized public transit is a human right, but it had a good effect: Under a 10-year consent decree, the authority beefed up its bus service and saw ridership increase. That ended in 2006, and bus service since then has been declining. So has overall use of mass transit. 

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in April ordered the MTA to review its recent service cuts to find "unjustified disparate impacts, or justified disparate impacts that may be mitigated through an alternative." Bus Riders Union co-founder Eric Mann says the FTA instead should have ordered L.A. to undo its service cuts, adding that his group is launching "a national campaign to get President Obama to overturn the FTA and restore 1 million hours of bus service." 

I wish the Bus Riders Union well, but this civil rights bean counting wouldn't be necessary if the MTA were even minimally responsive to market stimuli. To spend billions on infrastructure and end up with fewer people using mass transit is an absurd result on its face. Light rail does not reduce smog, fight global warming, or serve the taxpayers. It does not, as rail buffs claim, "get people out of their cars." It is just another perverse dream from the ivory tower, one that vanishes when it hits the street. 

Tim Cavanaugh is managing editor of reason online.

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  1. I hear those things are awfully loud

    1. It rides as quietly as a cloud!

      1. Is there a chance the track could bend?

        1. Not on your life my Hindu friend!

          1. I’ve mentioned PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) as the anti-monorail before, so won’t belabor the point here. I’ll just point out that there is a BIG PRT project in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, India.

        2. Not a chance my Hindu friend.

        3. Were you sent here by the Devil?

  2. That’s because you only have half the policy. Once we raise gas taxes to $5 a gallon or so and add a bit more track ridership will shoot up

    1. We should tax everyone for owning or using cars directly. A car tax mandate penalty law rule.

      1. Well, if it’s a tax, then I can’t see anything wrong with it.

        1. PENALTAX

          1. Lion, towed.

            Muchas gracias, Epi.

      2. Anyone who doesn’t ride a train or form of mass transit at least five times a week, will pay a tax. That should pass muster

      3. My reading of the Supreme Court ruling is that you must pay a public transportation tax. If you choose to use public transportation then you get a deduction on that tax.

      4. No, we should tax anyone who chooses not to ride the Monorail.

  3. My understanding is that brain-dead slobs actually benefit from rail.

    1. They often receive cushy jobs!

    2. Is that based on empirical data from Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook?

      1. By golly, I want to be on the map!

      2. Your data seems to be off somewhat. The woman running the Monorail Cafe in North Haverbrook told me that there ain’t no monorail there, and there never was.

        1. Excellent point. I’ll need additional funding so I can send some slack-jawed yokel to interview this woman.

    3. Were you sent here by the devil?

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

  4. I call the big one Bitey.


  5. Isn’t the whole reason they funded the Super Train because Obama and Pelosi promised a federal bailout next year?

  6. It is just another perverse dream from the ivory tower, one that vanishes when it hits the street.

    Unfortunately, the ones in the Ivory Towers never actually use public transit themselves, so they don’t see the mess they’ve created.

    And when someone brings it to their attention, they simply propose another coercive scheme to make the first one work.

    The Mass Transit True Believers will be here in a moment to demonstrate the truth of the above.

    1. The Mass Transit True Believers will be here in a moment to demonstrate the truth of the above.

      No, we ran joe off yesterday.

      1. Joe was here yesterday?

        1. “Apparently a ‘statist'” is joe. And of course, he ran away like the gigantic pussy he is. AGAIN.


          1. You knew he would come back. You watch, if Romney wins and he no longer has to defend Obama, he will show back up as Joe like nothing ever happened.

            1. No, as soon as he gets identified he runs, like the gigantic pussy he is.

              Hey, joe, since you’re probably reading this, how about you prove us wrong, short stuff?


              1. I thought we are all a bunch of hopeless racists an this board was beneath him. I guess it is okay to post on a racist board provided you use a fake handle?

                1. Fake handles are for the bravest among us, John. Didn’t you know that?

                  1. As one anonopussy to another, I salute you. Ironically, of course.

                  2. I still remember ole whats-his-face calling me a coward for not posting my name, address, phone number, SSN, DOB and shoe size here.


                  3. Fake handles are for the bravest among us, John.

                    I still remember when ole whats-his-face called me a coward for not posting my name, address, phone number, email, S-S-N, D-O-B, and shoe size.


                2. He just can’t resist monkeying around with us, I guess.

                  1. Racist~!!! I bet you don’t even have a PHD Warty.

                    1. Warty has a Doctorate in Urban Pillaging.

                    2. Excuse me, but my doctorate is in Comparative Rapine, thank you very much.

                    3. “Despoilation Studies”

                    4. Ironically enough JW, Joe claimed to be a city planner which is when you think about it a legalized form of urban pillaging.

                    5. I checked it out. Found a PDF from the city that listed him. He was the low man on the totem in a set of positions involving city planning, and for a short period of time. But close enough for gov time.

                  2. Go figure!?

          2. That was my guess as soon as someone mentioned he was around, though I don’t remember him being so full of hatred.

            1. joe was always an enormously hateful little man.

            2. joe has only hatred. But it’s actually for himself, though he probably doesn’t realize that. Being horrifically short and obnoxious does that to you.

              1. But he didn’t used to direct so much of it towards libertarianism…

                1. Sure he did. He just did it obliquely because he had a “real” handle and therefore needed to try and seem “reasonable”, so that he could argue eristically all day.

                  Give someone anonymity, and their true selves come out. Anonymity is something like alcohol.

            3. Auric:

              joe|9.3.08 @ 12:13PM|#|
              Actually, SugarFree, I won statewide medals when I captained my debate team. But had somebody spoken to me like you did, I would have punched him in the mouth and walked out of the room.

              Hiding behind the internet, you don’t have to worry about the first part, pussy, but I can still blow you off as beneath my notice.

              So short. And so angry.

              1. And so hiding behind the internet. And so, so incapable of blowing us off.


              2. Oh the days of unthreaded comments. Sweet sweet unthreaded comments.

                1. We were all so young back then. And so thin!

                  1. You know, I did weigh about 20 pounds left before comments got threaded… Coincidence?

                2. This kind of thing never happened when Postrel was in charge.

              3. And so hiding behind the internet. And so unable to blow us off. Obsess much?

              4. Say what you want about Tony and Shreek. But they didn’t run away when their guy got in power and they would have to defend something. Joe really is the worst. He talked so much shit for basically the entire Bush administration. And not a month after his guy got in office, he made up some bullshit offense and ran off. What a pathetic human being he is.

          3. That was him!.

            Man, he declined during his exile.

            1. joe|12.11.08 @ 7:36PM|#|


              You really are kinda slow aren’t you?

              No, I’m frequently complimented as being one of the more intelligent commenters here, unlike you. In case you didn’t notice, nobody understood what the hell you were talking about.

          4. Ya know, when people started hinting around that joe was back, the idea had never entered my mind, but I immediately though “Apparently. Its got to be Apparently”.

            1. Listen, Foghorn Leghorn, you’re being pretty fucking unamerican right now.

            2. It had been so long, I had forgotten just how smug he was.

              1. HE LOOMS SHORT

            3. Same here.

          5. Apparently a “statist” is not joe, according to that person’s registration info. And you know everybody tells the truth when registering.

            Furthermore, while joe may have been a contrarian in these parts, he always (afaik) argued straight, did not grief or troll, and on a few occasions raised points that had not occurred to me.

            Joe abandoned the Reason comment boards while I was still at the L.A. Times because he was “getting five times as much vacuous abuse as thoughtful replies.”

            There is no evidence that joe has ever returned under any alias (and given that he didn’t use an alias in the first place, that would be out of character). I considered joe a credit to the Hit Run threads and was saddened though unsurprised that he finally left.

            Play nice.

            1. A joe sympathizer! BURN HIM!

            2. And as soon as we outed “Apparently a ‘statist'” as joe, who had the exact same tone and argument style as joe, he completely disappeared.

              Oops. Wow, what a coincidence.

              Credit my ass. He was a mendacious fuck. You need to go revisit many, many threads if you think that piece of shit was any kind of credit to HR.

              1. Now Episiarch it was just a coincidence that Joe ran off and hid a month after Obama was elected.

              2. I miss Joe. He was a credit to HR who argued in good faith most of the time.

            3. Come on Tim. Joe ran off because he knew Obama was going to be a fraud and he didn’t have the guts to admit he was wrong about Obama or take the beating defending the indefensible.

              And don’t tell me about how thoughtful he was. This is the jerk who said lied about my military service and then when I e-mailed him from my then work account accused me of spoofing the email address.

              Joe was Mr. reasonable when he had a decent point, which was rare but did happen. The moment he started to lose an argument he turned into the worst troll imaginable.

              No one argued with that guy more than I did. And I speak with authority when I say he was one of the worst and most dishonest posters ever to come on here. Just because he wasn’t an outright griefer doesn’t mean he was anything other than what he was.

            4. joe|9.3.08 @ 11:51AM|#|
              Wow, SugarFree, those hemorrhoids are really acting up today, huh?

              Why the fuck would I discuss something with you if you’re going to behave like that?

              Kindly fuck off, child.

              Note “behave like that” was “arguing against the way he tried to twist my words.”


              1. MNG was just annoying. Joe is a legitimately bad guy. Reason’s love for the guy is worse than their lover for Venneman.

                1. MNG was just annoying.

                  You’re only saying that because worrying about how much more money he makes than you is ruining your enjoyment of the tractor pull you are watching.

                  1. MNG and Joe both shared the delusion that no one on here could ever have more credentials or make more money than they did. Joe didn’t drop the “I make so much money” bomb. But he loved credentials.

                    I never got that. It is a pretty good bet that any internet board has some people with surprising positions or credentials.

                    1. He loved credentials because he had some and he thought it might make up for his lack of inches.

                2. “Reason’s love for the guy is worse than their lover for Venneman.”

                  Say what you will about Anal Vanneman, but the man can toss one hell of a salad.

              2. What? Goalpost moving? Changing the terms of the debate when it wasn’t going his way? Declaring a victory and pulling out? Being a vicious little twerp in general?

                Not our joe, no way.

            5. Consider yourself legally covered.

            6. I considered joe a credit to the Hit Run threads and was saddened though unsurprised that he finally left.

              Ampersanded!! It even happens to them…

            7. “Apparently a “statist” is not joe, according to that person’s registration info.”

              Fucking privacy, how does it work, assclown?

          6. I’m surprised by that.

            Joe was a stupid, progressive, defensive, bad-faith-arguin, mendacious shit stain. But I never really considered him a griefer.

            1. He wasn’t a griefer. He as exactly as you describe him.

        2. He’s been around for a while under a different handle. He scurried away as soon as we outed him, of course.

          1. Why not just come back and admit that obama was a fraud?

            1. Because he’s 5’4″ and a huge pussy. Hey, maybe if I insult him enough, he’ll come back and threaten to punch me in the face.

              1. You mean the mid-to-lower chest?

              2. You bashing Tom Cruise again?

              3. I thought Epi said the other day he was 5’6″. Y’all are so heightist. I’m only 5’2″, so fuck right off.

                1. Yeah, but I’m sure you can bench press more than joe, so there’s nothing to worry about.

                2. But you are girl. That makes you little and adorable.

                  1. And thank you, John. Always the gentleman.

                3. It’s ok for chicks, nicole. But would you date a guy shorter than you? Granted, that would be one short dude, but…would you?

                  Hey, wait! You’re shorter than joe! You want us to set you up with him?

                  1. My current squeeze is just a tad shorter than me, when I’m not in heels. But he’s wide, so that makes up for it. Tall and wide is a really hard combo to come by, I’ve found.

                    1. How wide counts as wide? I have gotten my shoulders stuck in narrow doorways.

                    2. Remember those Pontiac commericals from about 6-7 years ago?

                    3. “Wider is better”

                    4. You want a man who’s stable while cornering?

                    5. You want a man who’s stable while cornering?

                      I’m sorry – doesn’t everybody?

                    6. Oversteer, baby! Oversteer!

                    7. The WideTrack Grand Prix/GM has given up commercials?

                  2. No, thank you very much. And I definitely have to say someone shorter would be weird. Although I have discovered I like my men “to scale” rather than like, a foot and change taller than me. Less neck pain.

                    1. My wife is a about your height and a full foot shorter than me. It hasn’t presented too many problems.

                    2. A girl I knew in college was 5’1″ and married a guy who’s 6’7″ or something. I always wondered how that worked mechanically.

                    3. I’m thinking that some body parts aren’t always proportional to one’s height.

                    4. Well, she did have outlandishly outsized tits.

                    5. It’s entirely possible that he had a pecker the size of a baby carrot.

                    6. I see those couples and always wonder what is going to happen when she gets pregnant with his soon to be 10 lbs at birth baby.

                    7. C-section

                    8. Yeah–my mom is 4’10” and my dad 6’3″ and she had three C-sections; no other way to do it. (And I was not far off 10 lbs!)

                      Anyway it’s not really a “problem” with the differential heights, I just eventually discovered that 5’8″+ is still a lot taller than me but not a lot taller. There are nice things about being similar heights but they’re mostly nonsexual–e.g., my parents have a terrible time buying cars that they can both fit in to drive, while me and a shorter dude can agree that seating lower to the ground is preferable in home furniture.

                      My personal fave part with my parents is that you’d never know it from their wedding pictures, because my ridiculous 70s mom got married in–no joke, no exaggeration, I have seen them–7″ heels.

                    9. Nicole, when my wife forgets to put the seat back to my setting in the car, it is brutal. I literally sit on the steering wheel. The only time I want to be her size is when we fly.

                    10. Haha, yes, that is when my dad accuses her of “trying to kill [him].”

                      And flying short is awesome.

                    11. John: I’ve learned how to manipulate the seat lever in my wife’s car with my foot. It’s pretty much the only option.

                    12. Romantic advice, Reason: How bad is a 10 inch height difference?

                      The girl I am kind of internet dating is 5’2″, I am 6′. Will that be super awkward?

                    13. My wife is five feet one and I am six feet. I have never found it to be awkward.

                    14. I’m 6’2″, the womern is 5’2″ (I think). It’s not a problem whatsoever.

                    15. No Goldwater, not at all awkward. I’m sure she is totally used to it.

                    16. No. I’m 6’0 and my wife is 5’3″, it works out fine. If you have good upper body strength, you can actually have a lot of fun with it.

                    17. Done it before. Didn’t have an issue, though the possibilities in regards to sex switch around. You lose some things, but you do get to pick her up very easily.

                    18. Y’all petiteophiles are othering me!

                    19. But there are other things that you can do with 6′ girls!

                    20. Seriously? I’m 6′ and my wife’s 5’2″ and I’ve never thought of it as being that unusual. If this is seriously a concern for you, I’m thinking maybe you’re just looking for an excuse to bolt.

                    21. I’m 6’5, the woman I’m with is 5’1 (rounding up). It makes pictures together awkward, but most everything else is fine.

                    22. Technically speaking, there IS another way to do it. My wife is 5’2″ and had two babies at and above 10 lbs. naturally. She’s a hell of a lot tougher than I am.

                    23. Dammit… These “threaded” comments get all confusing once you get this far into a discussion. My last comment was in response to nicole|7.11.12 @ 2:41PM.

                    24. Club Med, I am in no way looking to bolt. Just worried that long periods of making out will hurt my back.

                      Guess I gotta start hitting the weights a little harder- sounds like the solution.

                    25. Why are you making out while standing for so long?

                    26. My sister is 5’4″ and her husband is 6’8″. I’m not about to ask how their sex life works, however.

                    27. “A girl I knew in college was 5’1″ and married a guy who’s 6’7″ or something. I always wondered how that worked mechanically.”

                      I know a Penn State woman gymnast who married an NFL linebacker. They had two kids last I heard, so I guess it works out fine.

                    28. Well, probably not for you….. but for her…. better ask.

              4. He’d do pretty good in a fight against me. I can’t even see people who are that far away from me.

      2. What thread did I miss the fun on?

        1. Yeah, inquiring minds, annat.

          I get the feeling all the good stuff goes down in the global temperature trend threads.

        2. Voter ID on Monday.

    2. Obviously, we need to use zoning to implement transit-friendly smart growth. How’m I doing?

      1. Terribly. You didn’t subtly imply that anyone who disagrees with you is racist at all.

    3. The schadenfreude of the imminent failure of Metro’s Silver Line boondoggle will be delicious. Rich folks fly out of IAD, and they’re not gonna take the fucking Metro, for dog’s sake.

    4. Believers in PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) often support the approach because it is the only one they know that could lure THEM out of their own cars. Sort of a Most Interesting Man in the World thing: “I don’t often use mass transit, but when I do, it’s PRT.” Actually, I personally would use PRT a lot, provided the route system were well-selected.

      1. That sounds even worse/more awkward than being on at train car with 100 other people.

        1. You appear to speak in euphemism. What’s worse or awkward about a very cheap cab that doesn’t have to deal with street traffic?

          1. No euphemisms. Wouldn’t you have to share the other seats in the car with strangers? When there are fewer people, things like yapping on a cell phone, farting, playing music loud enough to leak out of headphones become much more magnified and unpleasant.

            I ride the train 4 days a week. I have also ridden in a gondola full of strangers at a ski resort. If you told me the gondola would now be my daily commute, I would start driving.

      2. No doubt that’s behind a lot of the support for rail, too.

  7. Ever so slightly off topic… dinosaur sex!


    1. The O-face on the male Sauroposeidon had me laughing out loud.

      1. my new phone wall paper

    2. Whoever drew those pictures is essentially the reptilian equivalent of a Furry. What would that be called? A Scaly?

      1. A lizzie?

      2. I thought they had feathers now. There’s totally feathers in the pictures.

        1. Now they were warm blooded and related more closely to birds than to reptiles.

          1. Fine. Avian equivalent to a Furry. A Chirpie?

            Happy now? You too, nicole?

        2. A fluffy!

      3. A Warty?

      1. Do you suppose T. Rex had a penis, or did they just French-kiss their cloacas? I’m not sure which is the more horrifying.

        1. FTA: The penis of a tyrannosaur is estimated to be around 12 feet long.

          1. So approximately 2.25 joes.

        2. Just to add to the horror – lizards risk prolapse from that as well.

          1. Which is worse: anal prolapse or cloacal prolapse? THINK WISELY.

            1. The word “cloacal” is infinitely more horrifying than “anal”. So I’ll go with the all-in-one orifice.

    3. That first T-Rex picture is a like a dirty Far Side comic just waiting to be captioned.

      1. Or just a Simpsons quote:

        “It’s like he’s trying to jump over her, but he can’t quite make it! Come on, boy! You can do it!”

    4. Close the Internet, we have a winner.

  8. … the ones in the Ivory Towers never actually use public transit themselves…

    That’s not true. They always take that first ride when the train line opens.

    1. There is a distinction between joyriding and using something on a day-to-day basis.

      1. Check your snarkometer.

  9. Hasn’t this article been posted to Hit and Run at least two other times already?

    1. But Tim had to put up a Simpsons photo without alt-text.

      1. The late Phil Hartman wouldn’t have approved of light rail.

      2. For some reason links to Reason articles (as opposed to Hit Run posts) never have alt-text. The Jacket really needs to look into that.

        1. It’s because you didn’t donate enough during the last drive.

  10. Do you know who else had a declining rail ridership?

    1. Almost every married male?

      1. Q: What’s the difference between a wife and a job?

        A: After five years the job still sucks.

    2. Mussolini? But they told me the trains ran on time!

    3. Springfield?

  11. But the San Fernando Valley is still all cracked and broken!

    1. Sorry, Sudden, the mob has spoken.

  12. OMG, not another zero-sum bus vs. rail debate! But I guess asking “Reason’s” opinion on this subject is like asking cattle ranchers for their views on vegetarianism.

    1. Who the fuck are you? Go away, unless you want to talk about joe.

    2. Scare quotes on reason? INGENIOUS!

      1. I’m gonna need a judge’s decision on this:

        Is scare quoting “Reason” a drinking offense?

        1. Yes. Section 68: Article 6: Item 3

        2. Not that anything I say counts as official, but the quotes definitely imply for a magazine named reason.

          1. Office scotch it is!

    3. Unlike actual economics, government funding is actually a zero-sum game, because when you create nothing, there’s only so much you can steal from others. And according to your analogy, you seem to think that Reason has some sort of vested interest in Buses. Where do you get that? Do you have a citation of Reason’s bus ownership? Or are you just too stupid to actually consider your clever-sounding-in-your-own-head comments?

    4. Don’t let actual data get in the way of an emotion-based argument!

      1. You can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.

  13. L.A.’s further left recognizes something the Democratic donor base does not: Poor people get the short end of these grand schemes.

    Hint: who benefited and who suffered as a result of Chavez Ravine?

    Also, since we’re mentioning joe in this thread, who benefited and who suffered as a result of Chavez?

    1. Look, you have to trust democracy.

      1. All you have to do is give up all principles and any sense of morality, agree with the majority all the time, and democracy rocks!

        1. You want to be on the winning team don’t you?

          1. I’ve never been much of a team player. No respect for authority and I failed “Plays well with others” back in zeroeth grade.

            1. Tea Bagging moron!!

              1. Alas, my wife ain’t into that.

                1. Ah, a classy Halo victor.

                2. Well, if you would just trim your pubes once in a while….

                  1. Well, if you would just trim your pubes once in a while….

                    Ha ha ha. Funny. No, I keep things neat and tidy down there. Otherwise hairs get all tangled up with each other and pull themselves out.. That hurts like a sonofabitch.
                    Nope. My face is shaved and my beard trimmer gets used fairly regularly.

                    1. We really didn’t need to know that sarcasmic. Just saying.

                    2. John, there’s a 50/50 chance that that comment was bullshit.

                      Flip a coin.

                    3. But the image is still in my head. And that is all that matters.

                    4. You could imagine me in the winter time with a well trimmed beard…

                    5. You could imagine me in the winter time with a well trimmed beard…

                      You washed the trimmer, right?

                    6. Did you learn the importance of keeping trimmed at the gay bar, sarcasmic?

                    7. I’m just going to say it came up heads.


    1. You will never see this, but I love you.

  15. Oh, I dunno. Building rail systems in Minecraft is fun. Well, until you want to build a switching yard, and realize you’ll have to hollow out 1/4 of the world map just to construct the logic circuits from blocks and electric torches.

    Maybe the government officials who like this stuff can be forced to persoanlly mine for the materials.

  16. For those who want to know more about the plot, you can read this. The author quotes Snell, which is a little fraud perpetrated against the Reason-reading community. Snell is (generally) debunked, but he’s not the only voice.

    Quinby’s prophetic words extended to the following: “You will realize too late that the electric railway is unquestionably more comfortable, more reliable, safer and cheaper to use than the bus system. But what can you do about it once you have permitted the tracks to be torn up? Who do you think you can find to finance another deluxe transit system for your city??”

    With almost sixty years of hindsight, we can now answer that question. The taxpayers of the Bay Area funded billions for BART. The Feds (and locals) funded billions and billions for new electric transit systems in San Jose, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Denver, Portland, and others?all cities whose systems had been unwisely removed. Quinby was right. And more than being right, he tried to do something about it and nearly succeeded.

    1. Every city in the country had street cars. And they were a loot better than buses.

    2. Good think the top men got rid of those things.

    3. Even were Quinby right in every respect, in every case, the street cars, light rail, and even BART (at 33 MPH average system speed) are agonizingly SLOW, when compared with private autos or cabs, and even given a fair amount of street traffic congestion or stoplight delay.

      I worked at a satellite office of a company that was headquartered around 20 miles away. Both buildings were next door to light-rail stations. If I drove to mandatory meetings at HQ, even in pretty bad traffic, and after having to deal with parking, I would spend no more than 35-40 minutes, one-way, door-to-door. If I took the light rail, the same trip was a guaranteed 90 minutes, even without having to find parking. In terms of placement of source and destination, that was about the best possible case for light rail. But the dismal trip time never improved, and was never likely to do so. So I never used light rail for what would have otherwise appeared to be a “natural” trip.

      1. This is exactly the problem. Unfortunately, ivory-tower leftists seem to think that what works in Europe works here.

        In Europe (Madrid in particular springs to mind as having arguably the world’s greatest public transit system), the cities are generally small, densely packed, and (due to their age) have very poorly designed road systems. Even European suburbs are much denser than many American cities. This means that public light rail transit (especially underground) is very efficient. You don’t need to cover much ground and you don’t need many stops. Driving, on the other hand, is foolish, because the road systems are so bad, and traffic congestion greatly multiplies any trip length. Even in more planned cities, roads just aren’t that good.

        Now, the US is exactly the opposite (LA in particular). Our cities are full of space, and people spread way out. Therefore, public transit (like light rail) has to cover lots of ground, and have lots of stations (and even then, people are so spread out you can’t really convenience but a few). This makes it slow and inconvenient to use. Also, since our cities are newer, the road systems are much more intelligently designed, and can handle much more traffic. This means that even with road congestion in the worst of times, is still faster to drive.

  17. Interesting subject. China, Japan, and Europe have embraced high speed trains. Why should th

  18. Interesting subject. China, Japan, and Europe have embraced high speed trains. Why should the U.S. be left behind? Trains offer offer many advantages which you fail to mention – see this article.

    I don’t view this as a liberal or satist subject, unlike some of the other colorful comments.

    1. Rail works in Europe, Japan, and China, because their cities are fundamentally different then ours. Where they have highly dense cities with relatively dense suburbs, we have urban sprawl on steroids.

      Furthermore, we have a much better road network than they do. One advantage of our urban sprawl is that we have the space for large roads with high traffic bandwidth, all the way to city centers.

      Put together, traveling from Paris to Amsterdam is like traveling from point to point. The Paris Region, one of the largest CSAs in Europe, is only 5600 sq. mi. Amsterdam is less than 1000 sq. mi. On the other hand, SF to LA is going from region to region. The LA CSA is almost 34,000 sq. mi., and the SF CSA (one of the smallest “big city” CSAs in the US) is approximately 7500 sq. mi. Because of the size, it’s much less appealing to take a train, when you’ll be at the mercy of public transit when you arrive, knowing that public transit across such a large area is not efficient. Cars just make so much more sense in this country.

  19. Real “Rail Buffs” as opposed to the money bleeding leeches of the public transit rail lobby recognize the MTA for what it is, a failed bureaucracy using public transportation as a means of bleeding a gullible public.
    The original Pacific Electric System was the largest part of one of the largest interurban systems in the United states in the early 20th century. It is a primary force for the pre-freeway development of Southern California. It was a private enterprise, developed and operated for a profit by men of vision.
    By the late 1940s the increased use of private automobiles was eating heavily into the systems profitability. Freight revenue [a major revenue source] was also disappearing to trucking companies.
    The MTA we see today was the outgrowth of multiple decades of “studies” that were never implimented until the public could be persuaded to provide lavish subsidies that went to provide even more studies.

    1. The only pedestrian mass transit system in So-Cal that has shown a profit since the end of the P.E. is the Disneyland-Alweig Monorail.
      There was at one time an offer on the table to extend the line to LAX as the anchor route for a new public transit system. Bureaucrat fat cats characterized the system as a “toy” and the offer was eventually withdrawn as Disney’s interests turned to “the Florida Project” that became Walt Disney World. It should be noted that WDW uses a well developed system of monorail transit to link the various parks and hotels, demonstrating the validity of the idea for regional transit.
      The MTA will never provide the sort of public transit services that LA needs until the fosil-deadwood and bureaucratic sycophants are removed from control.

  20. Can we clarify that it’s not rail itself that’s screwing people, it’s government policy. The mix of being run and built by unions, which makes it that much more expensive to build and run, the barring of competitors from simply using existing lines, and the requirement for environmental studies to do something as simple as putting a train on the tracks and running it.

    If all this shit were privatized, we wouldn’t even need government money. Here in New Jersey, we’ve got hundreds of miles of UNUSED track. It’s just sitting there. Any shmuck could easily just put a train on them, drive it, and charge for tickets. Or the state could do it. But the former is illegal and the latter is too expensive because of unionized fat ass public employees. And it’s illegal to do period because of the requirement for environemntal studies.

    some simple solutions would be, get rid of the enviro study thing. You’re running a train, which displaces cars; I’m pretty sure it’s better for the environment! Ain’t much to study! Any impact to local wildlife would be more than offset by the value of saving carbon expenditure, if the environmentalists are to be believed about their screeching about global warming.

  21. Some form of privatization could easily be imagined. Let private companies make the investment in locomotives and cars and run them on the unused lines. If there’s only profitability on the morning and evening rush hour times, which would limit the ability of the companies to run more times throughout the day, the state could chip in some money per ticket for those off times. And the there would be a requirement that Secaucus station (here in NJ) take the trains, within reason. If the station needs to be expanded, the private companies could make the investment.

    New lines could be built with private investment with the help of the government’s eminent domain power. this could be done by making the lines built actually be public property even if the intention is to use them by private companies. They’d be public because the state would reserve the right to use them in case of emergency, and be in charge in case the private company goes bankrupt, and there would be a requirement that other comp[anies could build lines connecting, making such expansions easier for other companies, and in general the state would try to keep the line running.

    All this could be done, but one of the biggest hurdles is getting rid of the unions, both the public workers, and the companies that build stuff either for the state or for private investors.

  22. And all that could be done if every state actually had some effective referendums. The problem with this country is it’s too much republic and not enough democracy. I met this African guy once and he complained to me “This is not a democracy”, well yeah, because it literally isn’t.
    We need referendums with low petition thresholds to get something on the ballot. Something like 30,000 signatures gets a law on the ballot box (here in NJ, a state of 8 million people).

  23. Light rail transit has been needlessly forced upon us here in the Twin Cities.
    They are currently building a needless line down a main thoroughfare that runs between Mpls and St Paul, areas of which are populated by some of the poorest citizens. The construction has been devestating to those that own small businesses in the area.
    Before construction began, you could drive from one end of this thoroughfare from just outside downtown St Paul, to Mpls in under 15 minutes even if stop lights were against you. It is estimated the trip by train will take 45 minutes.
    Of course once running, the train will disrupt automotive traffic, which is what they want. They want to force us out of our cars.

  24. Tim when you say the bus system “carries more than 1 million passengers a day”, you mean, what, that 1 million times a day, somebody walks onto a bus? So if it takes 2 transfers to get where you are going, you are 3 people, each way? This doesn’t seem like a very important metric, and not really comparable to rail passengers. Rail trips tend to be longer. Passenger miles or even unique passengers would be better metrics.

  25. recognition for all mega updates you can provide.

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