Posted by: Rational Voice | January 25, 2011

High Speed Rail

I somehow managed to watch the entire State of the Union tonight but I wasn’t able to stop from yelling at the TV for the vast majority of it. While I could sit here and dissect every lie, falsehood, and just plain misinformation in President Obama’s speech, I simply don’t have the time for it. One thing he did bring up that I want to address is the notion that high speed rail lines are the wave of the future. They’re not and I’ll explain. I originally wasn’t going to write anything at all in response to the speech but after my colleague sent me a text regarding what he saw his wife’s friend post regarding the rail issue, I had to respond.

He said his wife’s friend posted something along the lines that Republicans won’t support high speed rail projects because it’s “too progressive.” What crap. We reject the idea of high speed rail because it is a bad idea and there are many reasons why.

It is a bad idea because it is unnecessary. If there was a need for them, private companies would have already built them. They cost too much and will never be able to pay for themselves because not enough people will ever ride them. People won’t ride them because many of the lines that are being proposed are over short distances. Why would people drive to the train station, find a place to park, pay for a train ticket (which in many cases would probably cost more than the gas it would take you to drive to the next town), wait for a train, ride the train, get to the next town, get off, wait for a bus/cab/friend/etc., so you can get to where you need to go in the city and then repeat the process on the way back? It’s stupid and creates more hassle than just driving yourself. For example, one of the proposed lines that  the new governor of Wisconsin thankfully killed was between Madison and Milwaukee, roughly 70-80 miles by freeway. Why would you take all that extra time and money when you could just drive it yourself? You’d spend less time overall on the trip and I guarantee you that you’d save money.

So tell me, what’s so progressive about this flawed rail plan? How is failure progressive? And if you don’t believe that it would fail, take a look a Amtrak. They have never posted a profit and this rail lines will be the same way. Oh, and just for your reference, this “high speed” rail will only average about 80-90 mph. When you count in the wait times, that cuts that down even more. I’m pretty sure I’d rather average 70-75 mph on the freeway and have the freedom of movement my own vehicle provides while I’m at my destination than ride the damn train.

That brings me to another point. Mass transit works within large cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, D.C., etc., but not between them and not in cities that are much more spread out and this has a lot to do with the American mindset. We like being able to do what we want, when we want to do it. We don’t want to be confined to a rail line, bus route, or their schedules. If we have something come up, we like being able to deviate from our plans and go where we need to go. We have had freedom of motion ever since we invented the car and that’s something mass transit can’t provide.

I will admit there are some places where putting these in would make sense but those are limited. I’m thinking between places like LA and San Francisco but not many other places. It makes sense here because, having lived in California, I can tell you that they’re far apart, too far (probably about 7-8 hours) to to make a short, say weekend trip, by car. While it is far, it’s probably not far enough where it’s worth the cost of flying. And this is where a high speed train may work, considering the amount of people that probably commute there to for business, vacations, or to see family.

Lastly, these rail lines aren’t meant to help people. They’re meant to line the pockets of union bosses who have contributed ro Democratic campaigns with your hard-earned money. Why else would unions so fervently support such things and why is it only Democratic politicians that support such programs in spite of the overwhelming evidence that they’ll fail?  There is nothing “progressive” about supporting and encouraging failure. If anything, it’s progressive to recognize your mistakes, admit them, and cut your losses, especially at a time when we simply don’t have the money to support such idiotic ideas.

I don’t know how the president can call for freezing spending and cutting waste in one breath and then support the new spending of high speed rail in the next. I simply can’t understand how he doesn’t see his own non-sequitur or how nobody is willing to call him out on it.

Update: My partner has just sent me a link to another great piece on why high speed rail is a terrible idea.

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