High-Speed Rail: Going Nowhere, Very Fast

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California has a huge state debt and Washington has a huge national debt. But that does not discourage either Governor Jerry Brown or President Barack Obama from wanting to launch a very costly high-speed rail system.

Most of us might be a little skittish about spending money if we were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. But the beauty of politics is that it is all other people’s money, including among those other people generations yet unborn.

The high-speed rail system proposed for California has been envisioned as a model for similar systems elsewhere in the United States. A recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle used the high-speed rail system in Spain as an analogy for California.

Spain is about the same size as California, and has a similar population density — and population density is the key to the economic viability of mass transportation, from subways to high-speed rail.

It so happens that I have ridden on Spain’s high-speed rail system. It was very nice, especially since I did not have to pay the full costs, which were subsidized by the Spanish taxpayers.

While the Spanish government has been subsidizing the passengers on its high-speed rail system, the European Union has been subsidizing the Spanish government. Someone once said that government is the illusion that we can all live off somebody else. Spain’s high-speed rail system is not even covering its operating costs, never mind the enormous costs of setting up the system in the first place. One reason is that half the seats are empty in the high-speed trains in Spain.

That is what happens when you don’t have the population density required for passengers to cover the operating costs. You would need the hordes of Genghis Khan riding the high-speed rail system to cover the additional costs of the rails and the trains.

An economics professor at the University of Barcelona says that Spain “has not recovered one single euro from the infrastructure investment.”

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  • theleastthreat

    The train in Spain throws money down the drain… Fa la la la

  • Steve Chavez

    BILL RICHARDSON, the former gov of New Mexico, built the Railrunner train from south of Albuquerque to Santa Fe sixty miles away and the cost was $600 MILLION which was $200 over budget AND THIS WAS ON EXISTING TRACK except for a ten mile stretch. There were tracks already in Santa Fe and when it was time to repair or maintain the track for start-up, THE CITY OF SANTA FE REFUSED THE TRAIN. BILL DIDN'T GET PERMISSION FIRST SO NOW THE CITY WAS FORCED INTO APPROVING IT SINCE MILLIONS HAD ALREADY BEEN SPENT.

    Now the train, whose executives ARE DEMOCRAT CRONIES, WHO THEN HIRED DEMOCRATS TO RUN IT, is $40 million a year IN THE HOLE! RIDERSHIP IS LOW and afternoon trains are almost empty. I rode it and it was 2 1/2 hours late and when we went to return, the train was canceled leaving us to wait four hours for the next train. The train was advertised as for state employees from Albuquerque to get to their jobs in Santa Fe BUT THEY DON'T USE IS SINCE IT IS ALWAYS LATE OR THEY WOULD HAVE TO LEAVE HOME AT 5:00AM FOR THE 6:15 DEPARTURE. Some have to drive to the train station since buses don't start till 6:00am. IT TAKES FIFTY MINUTES TO DRIVE TO SANTA FE so what worker would add SIX HOURS TO THEIR DAY GETTING THERE AND BACK?

    BUT the Railrunner is adding new stops at a cost of millions and adding to the travel time since the train has to slow down, stop, and then crawl up to speed again. WHAT TO DO? END IT AND TAKE THE LOSS OR KEEP IT GOING AND LOSE MORE?

    • http://www.okcteaparty.org DMW

      "But, but, but Virginia. New Mexico has a commuter train!" Steve, as a former resident of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque (graduate of Highland HS and NMSU) I feel for you all. In 2003, I deliberately moved from NM to Oklahoma (where all 77 counties voted against Obama in 2008). But we have a similar rail problem with the federally subsidized AMTRAK (so-called) 'Heartland Flyer' which is basically a "turista" promoting endeavor (i.e. for only $26 travel to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and spend the weekend and your OKLAHOMA money in Texas!!!!). Originally from California, I also feel for Oakland and that State which used to be at the cutting edge. Now, it's becoming more and more a husk of a State — devastatingly corny but just a husk of its former self thanks to the Demo-Covets.

    • sedoanman

      Where is Benito when you need him?

    • Jim Loomis

      Let me guess: You don't ride it, right?

  • sedoanman

    This is not a new idea. The Southern Pacific Railroad operated a high-speed rail during the 1940s and into the '50s. It was called the Daylight Express. There were two trains leaving in the morning, one from San Francisco and the other from Los Angeles. They would cross somewhere near Paso Robles, about half-way. There was another line between Oakland and Portland. I don't know if there was more than one departure per day, which is also key to a successful train. As it is, there are many flights each hour between SF and LA, so you can travel just about any time you wish. How many departures will there be per day for this proposed high speed train? If it is only one, it is doomed, for the next consideration:

    Another problem with mass transit vs automobile is time. By the time you drive to the airport, check in, go through security, wait for your flight, actually travel to your destination, disembark, get your luggage, get local transportation, and drive to your final destination, you've pretty well shot 8 hours, the time to drive the whole distance between SF and LA. And that doesn't even count delays.

  • Ghostwriter

    Why do I have a feeling this isn't going to work?

  • sedoanman

    To you and me, "work" means it will at least not lose money. If there was an economic need, private investment would have moved in [or not left, as in the case of the Daylight Express]. To obama, "work" undoubtedly means something entirely different, like it takes the focus off his failed stimulus packages. "Work" also has the secondary benefit of placating his greenies.

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