Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Biden the right pick for rail

Joe Biden is officially Barack Obama’s running mate for the November election… but although we know Obama’s position on rail, where does Biden stand? Our friend Robert Cruickshank over at the California High Speed Blog has clearly done a lot of research on the subject and has an excellent post up that includes a number of direct quotes from the man himself. The short answer? Rail advocates have a friend in Joe Biden. Just a few exciting excerpts from what CAHSR has collected:

A lead author of the legislation, Senator Joseph Biden, Jr. (DE) said, “Every advanced economy in the world invests more than the United States in high-speed inter-city service. We like to think of ourselves as the most advanced country in the world, and I believe we are, but for years we have nickel-and-dimed passenger rail service in this country.”

Biden proposes an interstate high-speed rail service similar to the interstate highway system.

“One mile of one lane of I-80 costs $22 million,” Biden said. “One mile of I-95 (on the East Coast) holds more traffic and costs $41 million.” By contrast, “One mile of high-speed rail costs $1 million.

“You can fit more people on a rail car and you’ll be taking 50 automobiles off the road. Rail uses 1/50th of the cost (of a car) in terms of energy consumption.”

Biden said the reason why railroads haven’t been used more in the past is because of special interest groups, most notably the airline industry. “They get $350 million a year to go where no one wants to go,” Biden said, qualifying that by saying that there is not enough business to support a commercial flight. He said people don’t like the idea of subsidizing railroads, yet the airline industry gets subsidies to fly to sparse locations.

John McCain will be picking his running mate soon as well. However, it hardly matters, as he has long made his regrettable position on passenger rail quite clear. There are some transit moderates in that field of options though, so we’ll be keeping track just in case.

Edit: I don’t know how I forgot to point out what the Obama campaign has been making a big fuss over… that during the time Biden works in Washington, he rides “a lonely Amtrak train” every night back to Delaware to be with his family.

And about the $1 million per mile of high-speed rail thing… I can’t really find the specifics of what he was referring to. Perhaps, as the Overhead Wire editor suggested, he was talking about semi-HSR upgrades or something. Or, well, he is a politician after all. They’re not known for always being informed/honest with their facts.

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August 2008