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Barone-y is Full of Baloney on High-Speed Rail Transportation

Bill Hutchison Bill Hutchison Barone-y is Full of Baloney on High-Speed Rail Transportation
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Bill Hutchison, President of All Aboard Ohio

Michael Barone and his elitist supporters are afraid of change that might upset their comfortable gravy train. (Article: “High-speed rail plan doesn’t make sense for U.S.“) Make no mistake about it: Big Oil and the billionaire Koch brothers want things just the way they are so they can continue reap huge profits from our overdependence on oil. They don’t want us to have any real choices in how we travel. Just shut up and drive.

Barone rants that “Passenger rail is particularly attractive to planners, the folks who want to force us out of our cars and into subways that travel only on the routes they design,” as social engineering. Excuse me, but we already had the greatest experiment in social engineering in our history. It was called the Interstate Highway System, and it caused profound and some not so good changes to our society.

After WWII we had the greatest rail and public transportation system in the world, all at virtually no cost to the taxpayers. Passenger trains routinely hit 100 mph and blanketed the country. However, we, as a nation, decided to junk privately owned and operated rail passenger service and transit in favor of publicly financed highways and aviation and now we are totally dependent on the auto and foreign oil. To be sure, some change was inevitable, but the auto should be a choice, not a necessity and that’s the crux of the problem: Lack of choice

Public transportation options such as passenger trains, regional or commuter trains, light rail, buses, bicycle and pedestrian facilities are an afterthought. It simply does not exist in too many places. What about those who don’t want to drive or can’t drive, or can’t afford to own a car? These people and others are now outcasts at the fringes of society because the system discriminates against them.

All of this disproportionately affects minorities and the working poor but everyone is negatively affected by our one-dimensional fixation on the auto. Barone says automobiles are like “emerging information technologies, which let us take whatever path…we want.”  That’s great if you can afford or want to drive everywhere but the young are not so enthused with autos and like to locate in areas where there is good transit and rail, so they can use the internet while traveling.

Then there is the Baby Boomer generation, whose members are starting to retire in large numbers. Many of them are well aware that their driving skills will deteriorate as time goes on and will tend to settle in areas that offer transportation choices. Retirement also means an end to commuting and business travel, all of which will only accelerate the current trend toward less driving, Barone’s assertions notwithstanding. In fact, over the past five years, driving has declined while transit and intercity passenger rail has boomed. Amtrak carried a record 30 million passengers this year and could carry far more if it had enough equipment to meet current demand and allow expansion of the current skeletal system.

Barone also complains about cost overruns for rail, while ignoring the same for highways. In fact, since 2008, $34.5 billion in federal general funds (from non-users) was transferred to the Highway Trust Fund to cover the deficit between the funds provided by the gasoline tax (from users) and the money actually spent on highways. This is almost as much as has been spent on Amtrak over its entire 40-year history. Cost overruns on individual projects is commonplace, witness the I-70/71 split here in Columbus, which was less than a billion dollars to start, but now is at least $1.5 billion. Where is Barone on this? Nowhere, of course.

So when Barone complains that the 160-mile high speed rail segment in the Central Valley will carry “virtually no riders,” a statement not based on fact, while ignoring far greater costs and problems of other modes, it’s time to start counting the spoons. People will ride, as they have in almost every other case and the line is going to be built exactly the same way the Interstates were built, a section at a time and he misses the fact that thousands of new jobs will be created. His opposition is based on illogical half-truths, distortions and outright lies and the question as to why he does this has to be: Why?

The obvious answer is that Barone is merely merely a paid mouthpiece for elitist oil-rich right wing types who are bent on killing all passenger trains (not just high speed) and transit, not only out of blind opposition to anything President Obama is for, but also to deny Americans any real choices. They also support a network of media, think tanks, lobbyists and favorably inclined politicians to deny us that choice.

The Columbus Dispatch—a conservative newspaper that editorialized against rail—does nothing to advance the debate by showing only their side of the issue. This only further reinforces the “roads are good – rail is bad” orthodoxy of the Dispatch/Kasich Administration/Republicans/Ohio roadbuilders and their supporters. Meanwhile states such as Michigan advance toward 110 mph trains while we sleep, even though they also have a Republican governor and legislature. Our loss.

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18 Responses to Barone-y is Full of Baloney on High-Speed Rail Transportation

  1. Walker Evans
    Walker October 16, 2011 7:13 pm at 7:13 pm

    While not a whole lot of what was said here was new, it was worth repeating in response to that tired editorial (which also made no new points). Well said, Bill.

  2. tree_sketcher October 16, 2011 8:23 pm at 8:23 pm

    Thank you for posting this.  I couldn’t believe that junk editorial from the Washington Examiner of all places made its way into the Dispatch. i guess they still feel the need to provide cover for the Governor on this issue; especially with the barrage of recent press releases about the start of rail construction projects across the country.
    This was my favorite line ever about planning: “Passenger rail is particularly attractive to planners, the folks who want to force us out of our cars and into subways that travel only on the routes they design”.  So the article is about high speed rail and he says that planners want to make everyone take subways….aren’t those two different things???

  3. stephentszuter
    stephentszuter October 16, 2011 9:04 pm at 9:04 pm

    I can’t even read these articles anymore. I get so emotionally overwhelmed.
     
    We will get our trains one day. It will be a glorious day.

  4. Henry Porter October 16, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm

    Rail is never going to generate enough ridership to affect oil use in any appreciable way.
     
    Trust me. Passenger rail is never going to be a threat to the Koch brothers’ “huge profits from our overdependence on foreign oil”.  If they had as much clout as you suggest they have, and if they chose to use it to kill a perceived threat to their “huge profits”, there would be no such thing as a Toyota Prius…because the Prius will do more to reduce our dependence of foreign oil than passenger rail EVER will.
     
    Between that and your silly assertion that Americans abandoned rail and transit as a result of some conscious decision pretty much removes all doubt about your credibility.

  5. minguswaits
    minguswaits October 17, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm

    While I would love to see the light rail system come in, I don’t think Barone is wrong about the lack of riders. To really make something like this work, we would have to develop a public transportation infrastructure within the core cities as well as between them.
    Just a thought mind you, but what are the general public going to do once they arrive in Cincinnati or Cleveland from Columbus or any variation therein? If the trains travel about 60 mph, there isn’t much of a time savings benefit and at that point, it depends on the schedule of the trains. (that was what I had last heard was the speed of the system.) Once in the city, the traveler would have to find transportation (rental car, taxi, bus, etc..) increasing cost of travel and time spent travelling.
    At what point does the train become a benefit? Traffic in these cities is not like NY or DC so the business commute isn’t too frustrating. Are there enough companies willing to send their employees from one city to the other over train? Will this be primarily for tourists?
    These are actual questions by the way, not rhetorical. I want to understand why this would work because looking at it from my perspective, I can’t see how it would.
    I look forward to the day I can finally get rid of my car altogether, but I don’t see it happening in a mid-west city outside Chicago.
     

  6. bossdaley October 17, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm

    Thanks Bill- here’s my comment as posted on Barone’s article:
     
    “Actually Mike, only Ohio and Wisconsin sent their money back in the Midwest. The High Speed Rail plan is alive and well in Illinois and Michigan. This whole editorial sounds like buyer’s remorse to me (as far as the Kasich election). If you convince Ohioans that high or higher speed rail is dead everywhere (which it is most-certainly not), Buckeye state residents won’t have to believe they’re being left off the map….”

  7. Bill Hutchison
    Bill Hutchison October 17, 2011 7:19 pm at 7:19 pm

    @Henry Porter: True, the Prius might have more of an impact on oil consumption than passenger rail, but does that mean we thow away another tool to reduce oil dependence? As far as the Koch brothers’ influence goes, you need only look at the “kill-rail” mindset of the Republicans and their Tea party allies, all of whom are supported by the Koch brothers. It isn’t just the Koch brothers, either. The highway contractors in this state are paranoid about rail and worked behind the scenes—and publically–to kill the 3C plan.

    You are also missing a key point of my agument: that not everyone can or should drive and still other don’t want to drive everywhere. Yet we have no choice in Ohio for the most part, except for a few emaciated transit systems. Better than a million Ohioans—8.5% of Ohio households—do not own a motor vehicle. based on that percentage, Ohio should be spending about $250 million dollars a year of public transportation instead of the $5-10 mil we now see.

    Finally, my assertion is anything but silly. Read “Getting There” by Stephen Goddard and watch “Taken For A Ride” and you’ll get the picture. Road building might have started innocently enough and there was a demand for more roads, but powerful players soon emerged that managed to gin the political process for ever more roads without a thought as to the consequences.

    GM, Firestone, Chevron oil and Mack Truck joined to form National City Lines in the 1930′s to buy up streetcar operations and convert them to buses. Read about how Robert Moses hacked his way through New York City.

    The Interstate Highway System was created with a massive $25 billion in 1955 dollars straight out of the US Treasury, again without a though as to how that would distort the transportation marketplace. A favorite quote of mine is when the President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad told President Eisenhower: “You just killed the American passenger train,” following passage of the Interstate Highway bill. Ike’s absent-minded reply was: “We’ll see.” By 1970, the passenger train was near extinction.

    People who should have considered the ramifications of what they were doing did not or did not care.

    BTW, you come across a bit pompous. Try opening your eyes.

  8. Bill Hutchison
    Bill Hutchison October 17, 2011 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm

    BTW, I learned that Michael Barone’s employer, The Washingon Examiner, is owned by billionaire oil man Philip Anschutz. Gee, could this possibly affect Barone’s objectivity? Imagine that.

  9. lifeontwowheels October 18, 2011 2:46 am at 2:46 am

    Mingus:
    Once in the city, the traveler would have to find transportation (rental car, taxi, bus, etc..) increasing cost of travel and time spent travelling.
     
    Does this currently stop you from flying? As the 3C was designed, it brought visitors into the downtown areas of the cities served, providing far more reasonable options for travel to a final destination, be it by foot, bike, cheap taxi ride or bus. You can’t get that currently flying into CMH, where a taxi ride will cost $40 or more to reach a destination and bus service is largely non-existent.

    At what point does the train become a benefit?
     
    It depends on who is using it. A business traveler gains a benefit by utilizing the time in transit to review notes, prepare paperwork, relax before a meeting or presentation or work on business that would otherwise not get done on a travel day.
     
    A college student benefits in the same way: productivity on the way home and the additional benefit of not needing the expense of a vehicle while in school.
     
    Older adults stand to benefit as their physical ability to drive or drive longer distances diminishes. Having an alternative allows them to visit family and friends in other cities, while remaining largely independent.
     
    I want to understand why this would work because looking at it from my perspective, I can’t see how it would.
     
    I think if you focus on the larger picture, beyond just business travelers, there is a lot that makes sense and a lot of benefit. As to the question of ridership, does it matter? We continue to spend billions to improve roadways-expand roadways-yet all the arguments I see against rail talk about how easy it is to drive. If it’s so easy, why do we need more capacity? Easy seems to imply the current road conditions are perfectly suited to existing volume. Seems we can always justify another expenditure based on future modeling of anticipated road volume but when studies are released on the same model for rail projects they are discredited or dismissed outright.
     

  10. Bill Hutchison
    Bill Hutchison October 18, 2011 7:49 am at 7:49 am

    @Minguswaits: Speed is only one consideration. Others include frequency, on-board amenities, cost, and other considerations. AAA says average door-to-door speed for motorists is about 55 mph. Once trans start to average that speed and higher, they become very competitive, especially if operated frequently thru the day.

    Also, from day one, the 3C trains would have connected with transit in the cities it served. An example would have been a stop at W 150th St in Cleveland, conneting with RTA trains and buses. The RTA’s Red Line would have connected you to Hopkins Int’l Airport as well. Trains would have connected with COTA’s busiest routes in Columbus as well.

  11. Henry Porter October 18, 2011 9:46 am at 9:46 am

    Bill Hutchinson,

    To say that high speed rail is a tool to reduce oil dependence, is to say that peeing in the ocean is a tool to increase mean sea levels.  Today, passenger rail in the USA attracts a mere 30 million trips per year out of a total of 411 billion trips per year.  And, it’s done at at cost to the public that averages $50 per trip over and above the cost to the traveler.

    You’re going to have to tell me how spending hundreds of billions of dollars we don’t have on the HSR boondoggle is going to change that equation.  In order for HSR to have any meaningful impact of oil dependence, it’s going to have to attract far, far more than seven one thousandths of one percent (0.007%) of person-trips.

    Your assertion that any Ohioan who doesn’t own a car is *entitled* to publicly subsidized transportation, is debatable.  But, to suggest that high speed rail is the answer is ignorant beyond belief.

    Assuming for a moment that it somehow IS the responsibility of government to provide a second, competing mode of transportation (a “choice”, as you say, to highways), then the government should be obligated to provide the most economical second choice available.  In this case, Big Brother could buy and operate an entire fleet of buses that would take those people to and from a myriad of places (not just to another train station) for a fraction of the cost of passenger rail.  HSR is the poster child for the gold plated turd.

    You rationalize HSR on the basis of providing a service for the young, the old and the poor…the three demographics who make up the largest portion of the population of people without cars.  Yet, only a fool would suggest that those are the people who would ride high speed rail.  That would be like justifying the construction of a government subsidized Neiman Marcus because poor people can’t afford to buy clothes … or a government subsidized Hyatt Regency because some people are living in tents.

    HSR is a rich man’s toy, provided as a transportation “choice” for well-to-do business travelers, at the expense of ordinary taxpayers, who are given no “choice”.  It is not basic transportation for maids and laborers commuting to their jobs or elderly people going to their doctors’ appointments.

    From your perspective, Bill, I wonder….  Does everybody who has a more logical argument than yours, in support of a point of view that differs from yours, always come off as pompous?

  12. minguswaits
    minguswaits October 18, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm

    Lifeontwowheels:
    Yes this does stop me from flying. If the cost of transportation is equal (taking into account fuel, wear and tear, driving time, departure and arrival times, security and boarding, public transportation availability and convenience) I will drive.
     
    As to the options of using the time wisely, this is gained through MegaBus and Greyhound as well but how many people use this option regularly? Especially those with automobiles. I have no doubt that some people may use this option, but again it is a matter of economics. If it takes more than 2 hours to get to Cincinatti or Cleveland from Columbus and the cost of the train AND public transportation together is comparable to two tanks of fuel round trip, I’d venture most people (with automobiles) won’t bother.
     
    I started thinking about the train option as a method of going to concerts, but then you have to look at the cost for several people traveling.
     
    The question of ridership is all that matters here. If you build it, will riders come. The rail projects are discredited and/or dismissed on the basis that the builders don’t want empty trains going back and forth on rails that can’t be used for anything else. These rails will create costs in right of way, maintenance, security, etc. The trains themselves will have all these costs and more. At some point the people will want a return on their investment.
     
    So, how do we deal with this? Dis-incentivize driving is the only answer to the public transportation issue. The problem with this is that in doing this, the poor are going to suffer the most. Especially if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to take over for those that won’t be able to afford to drive to work. The next problem is that when you dis-incentivize driving you reduce the number of cars on the road. This is good for the environment but terrible for the UAW. These costs have be be added to the cost of the HSR as well.
    The HSR will not exist in a vacuum. There will be implications on many other things than just the use of oil or the cost to maintain roads. Unfortunately, these real implications outweigh the potential benefits of the HSR, which is more probably the reason the HSR programs get dismissed.
     

  13. tdziemia October 18, 2011 5:45 pm at 5:45 pm

    I would question the logic of “if you build it, they will come.”  Aren’t we talking about a simple population  density problem here?  Most countries that are successfully served by passenger rail have significantly higher population densities than any part of the US but the Northeast corridor (500 to 1,000 per square mile; France is the main exception).  They also have tremendously higher taxes on gasoline as a disincentive to drive; gasoline is typically twice the price as in the U.S.  

    Absent changing either of these two in the US, I am guessing the figures just don’t add up for the kind of rail here that’s being discussed.

      

  14. Henry Porter October 18, 2011 6:52 pm at 6:52 pm

    tdziemia says, “…I am guessing the figures just don’t add up….”
    It’s amazing how many seemingly intelligent people totally overlook this simple fact.  The figures just don’t add up.

  15. Bill Hutchison
    Bill Hutchison October 18, 2011 8:26 pm at 8:26 pm

    @Henry Porter: Pompous? Yes, when others are preachy and arrogant and show a smug, disrespectful attitude they are pompous. You can make your arguments without all the airs. You don’t have all the answers and others have a right to their views, whether you agree with them or not.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

    Henry Porter: “Today, passenger rail in the USA attracts a mere 30 million trips per year out of a total of 411 billion trips per year.  And, it’s done at at cost to the public that averages $50 per trip over and above the cost to the traveler.”

    Passenger rail in the US is not true 220 mph high speed rail. Amtrak carries that 30 million on a sub-skeletal system that omits many key markets. Many routes only run once a day and two run just three times a week and yet Amtrak can’t meet current demand on existing trains due to a shortage of equipment. This shortage also prevents any additional frequencies or new routes. That 30 million could easily double.

    And let’s say that 411 billion trips (source, please) is factual. How many of these are commuter or local? How much of that is really intercity? I’d bet that about 80% of that number is indeed “local.” If that’s true, we are talking about somewhere around 8-10 billion for all intercity travel. The auto probably accounts for about 80% of that because it has enjoyed huge support for decades and a LOT of it does not come from users. 

    Only in a few places has Intercity rail in this country has intercity rail been given a real chance to show what it can do. Critics might pooh-pooh all they want, but in Illinois, North Carolina, California and elsewhere people are riding in droves. Rail is now the fastest growing of all modes even tho what we have is not a truly national system.

    Critics like to complain about a $50 (reference?) per trip subsidy, yet are curiously silent about far higher subsidies for other modes. Highway users only account for about 60% of the costs of highways, ditto for aviation. As I said in my article non-users have had to bail out the US highway trust fund to the tune of $34.5 billion since 2008, with more to come. Closer to home, the Federal Highway Administration says that in 2008, $1.2 billion in general fund money (i.e., non-users) was spent to subsidize Ohio roads.

    ALL forms or transportation are subsidized one way or another and rail subsdized at a far lower level than other modes.

    The late Paul Weyrich, a prominent conservative, said that our transportation system is not a free market outcome, but the result of massive government support in favor of the automobile. Critics should pay attention to this.

    Henry Porter: “You’re going to have to tell me how spending hundreds of billions of dollars we don’t have on the HSR boondoggle is going to change that equation.  In order for HSR to have any meaningful impact of oil dependence, it’s going to have to attract far, far more than seven one thousandths of one percent (0.007%) of person-trips.”

    First off, you are generalizing. That 0.007% represents things as they are and is skewed, because local trips are included, which is definitely not an intercity market, either for conventional or high speed trains. And we are, again, talking about a rail system that is woefully short of where we need to be in terms of size, speed and frequency. How many people would ride a truly NATIONAL system that might also include a high speed component. Hundreds of millions, I’d bet.

    Secondly, how will continuing to build more roads help cut energy costs? We continue to spend on roads to the near exclusion of all else when other countries and states are investing in other modes. Germany spends more on rail than it does on highways. Why do you suppose they do that? Maybe it’s because they realize the folly of puting all of their eggs in one basket?

    Third, we will need to have all options on the table in the years to come. The US military (and Germany’s) projects shortages of oil within the next five years. What then? Remember, trains can run on electricity at speeds up to 220 mph in every day service. The auto can’t do that and until they invent coal fired airplanes, aviation will depend on oil.

    Henry Porter: “Your assertion that any Ohioan who doesn’t own a car is *entitled* to publicly subsidized transportation, is debatable.  But, to suggest that high speed rail is the answer is ignorant beyond belief.”

    Why is that debatable? Is it a constitutional mandate that we must drive, whether we want to or not? Whether we can or not? Whether we can afford to or not? Are you sayng that it’s OK to disenfranchise these people? Why are highway users **entitled** to have highways everywhere, while 40% of the streets in Columbus are without sidewalks? While transit systems are a shadow of what once existed, or while rail and bus service between our cities is nearly nonexistant? Seems pretty unequal to me and that’s what this is all about.

    One more thing: High speed rail is AN answer, not THE answer, an important distinction. I’m NOT saying it should be built everywhere. It might work in some places, but not others and I happen to believe we could do a LOT with conventional trains that might hit 90 mph and operate frequently at far less cost. HSR makes sense in high density markets, such as California, maybe not so much between Cleveland and Cincinnati. Barone was indirectly attacking all forms of rail, not just high speed. We have to be prudent.

    We will need ALL forms of transportation if we are to advance. That means we will have to invest heavily in transit, commuter/regional rail and bus services, intercity rail (conventional and high speed), a well as bicycle and pedestrian facilities. We need it all.  

  16. Henry Porter October 19, 2011 1:50 pm at 1:50 pm

    Boy, you are one stubborn guy, aren’t you Bill?  But, I must admit I’m enjoying this, so I’ll pick some low hanging fruit from your defensive diatribe and show readers where you’re wrong.  And, since you have labeled me as pompous, after only my first message, I’ll try not to let you down.  One who has the facts and the ability to process them on his side, can afford to be pompous….

    You go on and on, making excuses for why Amtrak is a miserable failure but you don’t even try to give me reason to believe that high speed rail has even the slightest potential for reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

    You say 30 million a year could easily double.  Whoopdedooo!  That would take rail’s share from 0.007% all the way to 0.014%.  Remember what I said about peeing in the ocean?  Now you’re suggesting we both of us peeing in the ocean.  It ain’t gonna make a difference Bill.

    If rail’s share of transportation were increased tenfold, it would only represent .07%, 100-fold, .7%, 1000-fold, 7%.  Do you see how ridiculous it is to assert passenger rail would make a difference?  To bring passenger rail all the way up to 10% of market share, you’d have to increase annual trips from 30 million a year to 45 BILLION.

    Look, for HSR (or medium speed rail or slow speed rail) to have any measurable effect on national oil consumption, it would have to attract a huge portion of travel…like 10-20% or more.  Don’t you see that?  It would be like you trying to impact your annual family budget by reducing your annual consumption of Tic Tacs from 2 a year to 1 a year.

    You would have been better off to just admit you pulled a conclusion our of your butt (or, rather, you fabricated an accusation without any basis) when you suggested that the Koch brothers are backing Barone because they’re scared of high speed rail impacting their profits.  When you look at the numbers, you see (well, anybody else can see) that it is a ludicrous conclusion and a baseless accusation.

    You say, “Critics like to complain about a $50 (reference?) per trip subsidy, yet are curiously silent about far higher subsidies for other modes.”

    I ask:  What other modes of transportation enjoy higher than a $50 per ride subsidy, Bill?  (And, since we’re into questioning sources, if you answer that question, please give me yours.)  Per your request, my source is below.

    You say, “That 0.007% represents things as they are….”

    I say:  Yes, I know that.  I’ve asked you to convince me that things would be different if we waste billions on trains.  I’m still waiting.

    You ask, “How many people would ride a truly NATIONAL system that might also include a high speed component. Hundreds of millions, I’d bet.”

    I answer:  Of course you would lose that bet but, let’s suppose you’re right…  Hundreds of millions divided by hundreds of billions is still in the order of magnitude of one in a thousand.

    You say, “…trains can run on electricity….”

    I say:  I don’t care if you run your trains on pixie dust, Bill.  The point you keep overlooking is that there aren’t enough of them to make a difference…and there never will be.

    You ask, “Is it a constitutional mandate that we must drive?”

    I respond:  No.  You got me there, Bill.  Where does it say in the Constitution that the Government shall provide two or more competing forms of subsidized transportation?  (Or, for that matter, one?)

    One final note, Bill:  Trying to rationalize a $50/trip rail subsidy (It would be much, much more for HSR!) on the basis of some kind of perceived fairness, because highways get a subsidy that amounts to less than a penny a trip, is nutty.  Only somebody who is already a supporter of trains is going to fall for that one.

    This has been a ball, Bill.  But, I think I can go back to what I was doing now that the grownups are back in charge in DC.  Taxpayers dodged a bullet on the Obama Choo Choo Thingie.

    Source for 411 billion trips: http://www.bts.gov/programs/national_household_travel_survey/daily_travel.html (2001-2002, undoubtedly higher now).

    Source for $50:
    $1,500 million per year Amtrak subsidy divided by 30 million Amtrak trips per year = $50 Amtrak subsidy per Amtrak trip  (http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation/amtrak/subsidies  “In 2010, Amtrak received $563 million in operating subsidies and $1 billion in capital and debt service grants.  The 30 million riders comes from your original post.”

  17. Bill Hutchison
    Bill Hutchison October 19, 2011 8:20 pm at 8:20 pm

    Dude, you need to start drinking decaf. Stubborn??? Look who’s talking! You’re a trip, but you are right: It’s been fun, even if we disagree. Grownups in Washington??? Surely you jest.

    I won’t go thru your last message point by point, except to say that the Commerce Clause in the Constitution says that a role of the federal government is to promote commerce. That’s why the government is involved with highways, airports, the air traffic control system, ports, harbors, waterways, transit, bike paths, pedestrian access and yes, railroads.

    That’s as it should be. The problem I have is when government starts to favor one mode over another. That’s a BIG problem.

    Ever hear of the wealth of nations, by Adam Smith? here’s a quote:

    “According to the system of natural liberty, the sovereign has only three duties to attend to . . . First, the duty of protecting the society from violence and invasion . . . secondly, the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it . . . and, thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions, which it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small number of individuals, to erect and maintain; because the profit would never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals, though it may frequently do much more than repay it to a great society…..”

    Interesting…

  18. minguswaits
    minguswaits October 20, 2011 12:46 am at 12:46 am

    Bill, I don’t see how the Commerce Clause makes the government responsible for creating an industry. The exact quote you have used illustrates the need for demonstrating how funding a railway would benefit society more than burden. The monies spent on such a railway could hypothetically be used for other, more beneficial social programs.
    The highway system began as a method for the department of defense to have the ability to transport personnel and equipment from one part of the country to the other in a rapid and efficient manner. This was because the trains have fixed paths and were too easy to block. This is still true today. The money spent on the highway system is not because there is a conspiracy to stop the railroad. It is because roads and highways are still the most efficient and reliable method of transportation for the most people. I would concede that the amounts spent on highways are much higher than the subsidies paid to private companies like Amtrak to maintain the national railway, and even the money spent on air travel is more than the national railway. That said, the numbers of people using air travel, or road/highway travel are considerably higher than the numbers using railways.
    The other groups you should look at for the amount of spending on highways should be the UAW and the LIUNA. It behooves each of them to see that money is spent on roads and highways.
    If there were a way to show how rail can make a profit and not remain a burden to the taxpayer over the long run, I would be behind you all the way.
    FWIW, Outside of Columbus, my favorite cities are DC, Chicago, Seattle and Portland Or. mostly because of their public transportation systems.

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