The magic elixir of high-speed rail

Fix the economy?  High-speed rail.  Cure transportation gridlock?  High-speed rail.  Restore American entrepreneurship?  High-speed rail.  Solve America’s health-care problems?  High-speed rail.  Hearing President Barack Obama extol the virtues of high-speed rail is like listening to a 19th Century carnival hawker claim a single bottle of Dr. Goode’s Magic Elixir will cure all that ails you.

Just as those foul-tasting nostrums failed to cure patients’ maladies, high-speed rail will solve none of our pressing national problems; in fact, it will make them worse by increasing our deficit and draining money from more productive endeavors.

The fact of the matter is, not since World War II has America been a country in which its people travel by rail.  Yes, there are a few transportation corridors in which commuter rail serves as a popular means of transportation; the rail link between New York City and Washington, D.C., for example.  But beyond those few examples, Americans overwhelmingly prefer to travel by car or plane.  Environmentalists, train buffs, and President Obama may wish it were otherwise; but it just ain’t so.

Yet, in his State-of-the-Union address last month, and in his recently unveiled FY 2011 budget, Obama persists in proposing to throw money – lots of money — at the myth that is high-speed rail; as if following a magical formula, “if you fund it, they will come.”

Sure, high-speed rail works in other countries – Japan and Europe, for example — and the trains themselves are really cool-looking.  But the economies and geography of such countries are far different from ours.  High-speed rail is not a one-size-fits-all solution that performs identically in one country or region as in another.  If built here with taxpayer dollars (which is the only way they will be built) – such projects inevitably will become black holes into which countless billions of dollars will disappear.

I heard the sales pitch repeatedly during the years I served in the Congress.  One time, it was an Atlanta-to-Chattanooga high-speed rail line; another time, Atlanta-Birmingham, or maybe Charlotte.  All these proposals lacked one thing – a basis in reality.

Yet, here we are again, in 2011, debating high-speed rail; this one weighing in at an initial cost of a half-trillion dollars, exclusive of the inevitably massive operating costs, over the next 25 years. During his State of the Union address last month, Obama claimed his plans would “give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail” — to which one might ask, “so what?”  Access to a costly rail system means nothing if people won’t use it.

At least one state governor – Florida’s Rick Scott – has seen through the smoke and mirrors of Obama’s proposal, and already turned down $2.4 billion in federal funds for a proposed, Orlando-Tampa high-speed rail line. Scott knows the initial dollars are the tip of the iceberg, and the system would wind up costing Florida taxpayers many times that figure over the long run.

Other states that have taken the high-speed rail plunge are feeling the bite that is fiscal reality.  California, for example, is in the initial phases of a vast high-speed rail network. But costs are expected to run between $65 and $81 billion – far beyond the early estimate of $45 billion.

Vice President Biden boldly declared early last year that the administration’s high-speed rail proposal would be the key to “taking cars off congested highways, reducing carbon emissions, and saving billions of dollars in human productivity.”  To the vice president, this may be  – to quote his whispered note to his boss at last year’s health care news conference – another “big, f—ing deal.”  However, with our country facing a staggering, $14 trillion debt and a projected $1.7 trillion budget deficit, let’s hope cooler minds than Biden’s prevail on this one. High-speed rail is an idea whose time has not come; and probably never will.

by – Bob Barr, The Barr Code

162 comments Add your comment

LA

February 28th, 2011
12:29 pm

“I’m for a system which requires less security.”

Good, ride your magic unicorn.

“You seem wedded to the one where you’re groped and scanned. ”

You brought up groping and scanning, low IQ. Again, retake remedial English.

“I don’t think it takes Freud to figure out who gets wet at the idea of the TSA sexing you up.”

Then again, you are the moron who brought up sex, groping, scanning, fondling, sexing, crotch-grabbing, and jewels.

Yep, it doesn’t take Freud to figure out that you aren’t getting any.

Heather

February 28th, 2011
12:38 pm

From since I last checked,this is America,the land of opportunity,or is it the lack of opportunity?Is this the 21st. century or the 19th. century?The US is known as a land that takes risks.It appears that people like you are not willing to take risks to spend billions that the government is giving us in exchange for creating jobs that can help Americans spend to put back into the US Treasury.As you may have forgotten,Mr. Barr,is the US holds the biggest carbon footprint because of excessive carbon emmisions which pollutes the air.Europe is a continent made up of 22 countries and they found a way to make it work for a small continent.With a big country like the US,we can make high speed rails work.Or are you afraid that it will work and Americans will lose their love for automobiles?It’s easy to say coming from you who probably drives to work conveniently and does have a comfortable job by writing blogs like these.You’ll never know until it happens to you.I’ll be praying for people like you.God Bless.

Aquagirl

February 28th, 2011
12:41 pm

Youtube and natural news? That’s evidence? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

The youtube video has no context at all, aside from the ranting of the dimwit who posted it. Whoop-de-doo. I can find youtube videos on how the earth is gonna end in a couple of months. Somehow I have neglected to sell all my belongings and throw an end of the world party. Call me a skeptic.

Naturalnews has articles on anti-vax nuttery, the miracles of coconut milk, and how to treat herpes with tansy. So, Patriot, how was your glass of organic non-GMO wheatgrass this morning? Did it help wash down the uncooked glandular supplements that are awesome, according to this website? Otherwise you’re selectively picking crap from a crap website, and simply flinging the poo like a caged monkey.

I do bother to read, thanks. I also bother to think while I read, and even after I read. I understand this is too mentally taxing for you. My condolences.

LA

February 28th, 2011
12:42 pm

“the US holds the biggest carbon footprint”

LOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Europe is a continent made up of 22 countries and they found a way to make it work for a small continent.”

LOLOL!!!!!!!!

Heather

You are funny!

LA

February 28th, 2011
12:47 pm

“Call me a skeptic.”

Nah, I’d call you septic.

“how to treat herpes with tansy.”

Guess that made your year, huh.

“Otherwise you’re selectively picking crap from a crap website”

Interesting remark considering the fact that I posted THREE different links and you didn’t bother to comment on one link.

Wired to hard for you?

“Otherwise you’re selectively picking crap from a crap website”

Oh, that’s right, left wing morons only consider HuffPo and Media Matters “real” news sources.

“I do bother to read, thanks.”

No, no you don’t and your comments are proof of that.

“I understand this is too mentally taxing for you. ”

You wrote the book on that, ma’am.

retiredds

February 28th, 2011
12:52 pm

so Bob, when gas hits $10.00/gal., which it will, what form of transportation will you recommend? Mule, elephant, camel, or horse?

LA

February 28th, 2011
12:56 pm

“when gas hits $10.00/gal., which it will, what form of transportation will you recommend?’

If that happens, Obama will be impeached and we’ll be drilling all over the US.

Transpro

February 28th, 2011
1:10 pm

Bob, maybe your lack of innovation is why you are not in Congress anymore!Bring back the John Birch Society !

Jan David Jubon, PE

February 28th, 2011
1:39 pm

Bob Barr is right: “High speed rail is a false remedy” … but incomplete.

The complete message which our local, state, and federal leadership should be carrying to the populace is …

Successful High Speed Rail does not stand-alone. All passenger rail service decisions, whether for high, medium, commuter, etc., speeds, at any level of government, each have national as well as local and regional impact upon those economic and quality of life equilibriums needed for sustaining the regional identity, and national mobility so highly desired by all of the electorate.

Given the above, it is incumbent upon each of our local, county, state, and federal leaders to understand and honestly evolve one singular, flexible, but cohesive public passenger transportation policy/program for the nation, covering all levels of government, optimizing use of all technologies and operating speeds of all forms of public passenger transport, and which sets aside petty partisan politics.

By: Jan David Jubon, P. E.

2389 Saint Kennedy Lane
Buford, Georgia 30518-7334

Telephone: 770-831-5788
Fax: 770-904-5894
E-mail: jan.jubon@jubon.net

NNNN

Bryan

February 28th, 2011
1:51 pm

Just talking out of my rear end, but it seems to me that high speed rail works well where three things are true:

1. People frequently fly from one place to another and might like another option,
2. The two locations are close enough that high speed rail would be viable, and
3. The two places have adequate local transit options.

So, for example, New York to D.C. is a prime corridor for high speed rail (such as the Acela). People frequently travel from one to another, a train trip takes only about as long as a plane trip (once you factor in the hour-long groping you’ll get after traveling out to JFK), and both cities have public transportation. New York and Chicago might be another strong possibility — if the train were fast enough.

Atlanta and Orlando, by contrast, are terrible choices for high speed rail. The number of plane trips between Atlanta and Orlando is relatively low in the grand scheme of things — most people drive instead. And they do so because when you get to either place, you’re going to need a car. NYC and LA are likewise bad choices to link up — people frequently travel by plane between the two, and can use public transport once they arive…but they’re just too far apart.

So I hear you when you say that high speed rail is not a panacea — it’s not. But also stop with the sniggering “high speed rail is ALWAYS a boondoggle” stuff. Where it works, it works. Where it doesn’t…it doesn’t. We just have to be wise enough to know which is which.

Cekker

February 28th, 2011
1:58 pm

‘Bob, maybe your lack of innovation is why you are not in Congress anymore!Bring back the John Birch Society !’

What the heck is so innovative about high-speed rail? Trains have been around for 200 years and their operation gets faster and more efficient every decade. That doesn’t mean they make economic sense in every situation.

All the train romantics keep bringing up how great they work in Europe and the Northeast US. Really? How much in government subsidies and payoff does it take to keep them running? Untold billions is my guess.

The real reason Obama is pushing high-speed rail — union jobs. Period.

Supreme Being

February 28th, 2011
2:02 pm

Wow, they might even let colored folks ride in the same cars as white people. I can see how this would upset you greatly.

Race is not the issue here. Just like MARTA … this system would not be self sustaining without government subsidies because it will be too expensive to build. MARTA was ill conceived and those who need it most…black or white… are being priced out or the tax payer picks up the slack for the operating deficits. Show me something the government does well. Quit beign racist Aquagirl.

Dga

February 28th, 2011
2:04 pm

“Sure, high-speed rail works in other countries – Japan and Europe, for example — and the trains themselves are really cool-looking.”

Europe is a country?

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:05 pm

“The real reason Obama is pushing high-speed rail — union jobs. Period.’

That, and he has nothing else to push. His economic plan failed MISERABLY. He has NOTHING to run on in 2012.

“All the train romantics keep bringing up how great they work in Europe and the Northeast US.”

Yep, and Europe is going bankrupt faster than we are.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:06 pm

“Race is not the issue here. ”

AquaShrill is an absolute nut job.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:07 pm

“Quit beign racist Aquagirl.”

That’s like asking a Democrat to stop pandering for votes at a funeral.

EJ Moosa

February 28th, 2011
2:08 pm

Not only is AMTRAK highly subsidized, but high speed rail will be as is all other aspects of the rail business.

In fact, most of us do not realize that there are subsidies for rail at every turn.Have a look at a few of these stories:

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/prdailynews/news.asp?id=25870

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/prdailynews/news.asp?id=25875

http://myprogressiverailroading.com/blogs/railwayist/archive/2011/02/18/it-is-rumoured-that-florida-governor-rick-scott.aspx

I thought Atlas Shrugged would not be timely today until I did a little digging. Modern day American Railroads are the poster child for what’s wrong with the system today.

GasMeNowOrGasMeLater

February 28th, 2011
2:13 pm

Sooner or later we’ll be gassed at the pump ($5, $7, $10 or more a gallon). So Bob, what do we do then? $150 for a fill up? Get real. Get rail.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:15 pm

“Get real. Get rail.”

You gotta drive to the train, ma’am.

Aquagirl

February 28th, 2011
2:20 pm

@ not-so supreme: well, then what is the difference? Air travel is a subsidized system that relies on taxpayers. MARTA is a subsidized system that relies on taxpayers. When you freak out about MARTA subsidies and not airline subsidies—well, I’ll be charitable and let you explain why one is so horrible and the other is not really a problem. Good luck with that.

Cekker

February 28th, 2011
2:24 pm

‘The US is known as a land that takes risks.It appears that people like you are not willing to take risks to spend billions that the government is giving us in exchange for creating jobs that can help Americans spend to put back into the US Treasury.’

Spoken like someone who pays no taxes.

We tried stimulus already — remember the all the shovel-ready jobs Obama promised before he realized there is no such thing.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:25 pm

“Air travel is a subsidized system that relies on taxpayers.’

LOL

“MARTA is a subsidized system that relies on taxpayers.’

Which is a huge waste of money/time.

“When you freak out about MARTA subsidies and not airline subsidies’

What in the world are you talking about?

“I’ll be charitable and let you explain why one is so horrible and the other is not really a problem.”

MARTA is run/operated by the state/city government. Airlines are private companies that compete for business.

Make sense, Shrill?

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:27 pm

“Spoken like someone who pays no taxes.

Most people who cry “MORE GOVERNMENT” are people who don’t pay income taxes.

“We tried stimulus already — remember the all the shovel-ready jobs Obama promised before he realized there is no such thing.

Yep, and not one brain dead left winger can explain what happened to that debacle. Unemployment is 10% and real unemployment is hovering around 19%.

Remember, NO President has ever gotten re-elected with unemployment over 8%.

Buh bye Obozo.

mike

February 28th, 2011
2:37 pm

HSR let’s forget it simply because this President brought it up. We will keep driving our cars no matter that we are being gouged more and more each day by the oil companies. By the middle of the summer gas should be pretty close to 5 bucks a gallon. That should make all the repubs happy since their concern has always been more money and breaks business and to hoodwink the people.

Aquagirl

February 28th, 2011
2:38 pm

Yes, LA, it makes perfect sense. Airlines are taking taxes to subsidize their private business. Thanks for clearing that up.

Are you and your sockpuppet buddy really ignorant that air travel is subsidized? Although you do seem to think our oil problems could be solved by the mythical Drill Baby, Drill! solution. You really could be that clueless.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:45 pm

“it makes perfect sense. ‘

No it doesn’t. In fact, NOTHING you write makes any sense.

“Are you and your sockpuppet buddy really ignorant that air travel is subsidized?’

Wow, way to debate there, low IQ. I’m amazed that you can even spell words like “subsidized.” Not sure where or what a sock puppet buddy is, but I’m sure you do.

“Although you do seem to think our oil problems could be solved by the mythical Drill Baby, Drill! solution. ”

Well, seeing as Obozo and the left haven’t come up with any solutions……..

“You really could be that clueless.’

You wrote the book on cluelessness, troglodyte.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:46 pm

“Although you do seem to think our oil problems could be solved by the mythical Drill Baby, Drill! solution. ”

It’s better than anything you or the left has come up with. Hey, whatever happened to corn ethanol? Oh yeah, it drove up food prices.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:47 pm

“That should make all the repubs happy since their concern has always been more money and breaks business and to hoodwink the people.’

So when is your cult leader gonna fix the gas problem?

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:49 pm

Aquagirl

What proof do you have that people would ride the high-speed train?

Who’s gonna pay for this train?

Aquagirl

February 28th, 2011
2:52 pm

LA, that’s a lotta blabbering to convey that yes, you really are ignorant enough to believe airline travel is not subsidized by taxpayers. Or that you can convince others that’s the truth.

You’re not getting paid by the word, hon.

Honestly, you’ve reached what I thought was an unachievable goal: to be a *boring* troll. Oh, hey, LOLcat called and said U R doin’ it rong. Zzzzzzzz…..

Steve Anderson

February 28th, 2011
2:52 pm

Aquagirl

@@ once said that you were banned from Jay Bookmans blog because you got caught trying to hack her e-mail address through the AJC server. I’m surprised that no charges were pressed against you.

Dan

February 28th, 2011
2:53 pm

Whether or not people would use it is besides the point, even if all the people who reasonably have a need for such transportation op for it, they popoulation density in this country simply won’t support it, except as Barr points out, in a couple of corridors, pesky little facts, you know those little things that always puts the kibosh on liberal pipe dreams

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:55 pm

“that’s a lotta blabbering to convey that yes, you really are ignorant enough to believe airline travel is not subsidized by taxpayers. Or that you can convince others that’s the truth.’

Interesting because you haven’t posted one single shred of evidence to back up your claim. Just because you say it’s true doesn’t mean it is.

I also find it interesting that you didn’t write anything about my three links about TSA blunders. Stupid much? YES YOU CAN!

“Or that you can convince others that’s the truth.’

So where’s your proof?

“You’re not getting paid by the word, hon. ”

??????????????

“Honestly, you’ve reached what I thought was an unachievable goal: to be a *boring* troll.’

Yet you keep responding, monkey.

“Oh, hey, LOLcat called and said U R doin’ it rong. ”

Guess you’re English is as bad as your come backs.

LA

February 28th, 2011
2:57 pm

Hey AquaShrill

The defender of the environment now admits ethanol was a mistake. Will Congress heed his advice and end the corn industry’s $7 billion subsidy when it expires this month?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-11-30/al-gores-alcohol-problem-admits-ethanol-subsidies-a-mistake/

So where’s your solution to the gas problem? Oh that’s right, YOU DON’T HAVE ONE.

Aquagirl

February 28th, 2011
3:00 pm

Steve sockpuppet, nope, and I’m calling BS on your, well, BS.

FUNNY

February 28th, 2011
3:00 pm

LA

February 28th, 2011
3:03 pm

“Steve sockpuppet, nope, and I’m calling BS on your, well, BS.”

Funny thing about Aquashrill is the fact that she can’t back anything up with facts. No, instead she resorts to throwing out insults at people who just ask her questions.

Steve Anderson

February 28th, 2011
3:04 pm

Aquagirl

You can call me any name you like but it won’t change the fact that you are a thief, a liar and a loser.

LA

February 28th, 2011
3:04 pm

“You can call me any name you like but it won’t change the fact that you are a thief, a liar and a loser.”

OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!

Aquagirl

February 28th, 2011
3:16 pm

Hmmm…first LA, who sounds like one of the freaks who has been banned from bookman’s blog, starts baying at the moon. Then “Steve” drops by with moonbat accusations, not too ironically, that I’ve been banned from bookman. Then another ho-hum sockpuppet posts more blather.

Poor Bob. Not only is he stuck in the 1890’s, he’s so disinterested and phoning it in, his blog is like a weedy overgrown lot, infested by the LA blatant troll virus. I’d say the prognosis is really poor.

Well, I guess I’ll head over to Bookman’s, Gee, I’m so scared I’m blocked there—NOT. Or Jim’s, where the dude actually earns his paycheck.

Supreme Being

February 28th, 2011
3:17 pm

Aquagirl….Airlines are companies owned by shareholders that are in business to make a profit or they fail or get absorbed…ever heard of Eastern Airlines or Pan Am? Probably not since they are airlines that went out of business. My guess is that you like being on the dole and expect the government to solve all your problems. You probaly get section 8 supplements and use your food stamps and unemployment to buy your blue tooth and flat screen TV while the rest of us foot the bill.

Aquagirl

February 28th, 2011
3:18 pm

But please, LA, continue the conversation with yourself.

Common Sense

February 28th, 2011
3:30 pm

Anatomy of a False justification:

We should subsidize rail because we subsidize other methods of transportation.

No, we actually should stop subsidizing the other forms. If those utilizing do not want to pay for the services they are receiving, they should not be using them.

LA

February 28th, 2011
3:36 pm

“first LA, who sounds like one of the freaks who has been banned from bookman’s blog, starts baying at the moon. ”

Speaking of freaks, you really are crazy.

“Then “Steve” drops by with moonbat accusations, not too ironically, that I’ve been banned from bookman. Then another ho-hum sockpuppet posts more blather.’

Yeah, Shrill, that’s how blogs work. People drop by, post their opinions and debate. Sounds like you’re angry about getting banned on Bookman’s blog. Sucks for you.

“infested by the LA blatant troll virus. ‘

I love how you can’t debate or post any facts to back up your mindless rants.

“But please, LA, continue the conversation with yourself.”

You are bat-$hit crazy, Shrill. Now I fully understand why you were banned from Bookman’s blog.

LA

February 28th, 2011
3:37 pm

“Poor Bob. Not only is he stuck in the 1890’s, he’s so disinterested and phoning it in, his blog is like a weedy overgrown lot,”

Why are you hear, troll? If you don’t like his opinion, LEAVE!!!!!!

Mike

February 28th, 2011
3:42 pm

Aquagirl, you’re wasting your time with these Einsteins. Bet these idiots don’t know that back in the 50’s the oil companies bought the rights to trolley car operations and took them out of service. Heavy lobbying by the oil, automobile and airline industries over the past sixty years have effectively killed high speed rail in this country. It works in every other industrialized nation but the Neanderthals, particularly here in GA, refer to it as a ‘choo choo train’. We’re well on our way to becoming a third world country. By the way, read the other day that South Korea’s internet speeds are over two hundred times faster than ours, but we’ve got more bombs than they do!

Steve Anderson

February 28th, 2011
3:46 pm

Aquagirl

You are a very sad human being.

Supreme Being

February 28th, 2011
3:49 pm

Common Sense you make Common Sense

LA

February 28th, 2011
3:49 pm

“Bet these idiots don’t know that back in the 50’s the oil companies bought the rights to trolley car operations and took them out of service.”

Please post a link to back up that claim.

“Heavy lobbying by the oil, automobile and airline industries over the past sixty years have effectively killed high speed rail in this country.”

Explain Amtrak.

“It works in every other industrialized nation”

Other industrialized nations have higher gas prices than we do, less people and are going bankrupt.

“We’re well on our way to becoming a third world country.”

You can think Obama for that.

“By the way, read the other day that South Korea’s internet speeds are over two hundred times faster than ours, but we’ve got more bombs than they do!’

We supply S Korea with bombs, bozo. Also, please post a link for your claim of SK and internet speeds.

thanks

THOMAS PAINE II

February 28th, 2011
3:49 pm

TO: Aquagirl, et al: “Big Sis” Janet has already said that it is her plan to have TSA agents involved with “security” in ALL public transport systems. This will include the rapid rail sytem that is wished for by everyone who has absolutely no idea just what it will cost to upgrade our thousands of miles of old track.