Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

UPDATEED: CQ Weekly comments on political and economic challents for high speed rail

Mark Stencel has a column in CQ Weekly well worth your read, even if he does start off recounting the poor ratings performance of the NBC TV network bomb of all time “Supertrain.” Come on, Mark, give us a break over here!

He further observes, accurately, the failure of all efforts to improve rail transportation in the United States of America.  Stencel’s political observations are quite on target. To sustain transportation improvements demands long term thinking and cooperation.

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

He makes a point, and this is going to be a long hard fight. Considering a recent GAO report, one wonders how they do it “over there.”

Given the challenges, how do Asian and European countries pay for their high-speed trains? The GAO found that fast rail systems in France, Spain and Japan are generating sufficient passenger revenue to cover ongoing expenses but not the cost of building the systems in the first place — an expense officials in those countries justify for environmental or other societal reasons. “In the countries we visited, the central government generally funds the majority of up-front costs . . . without the expectation that their investment will be recouped through ticket revenues,” the agency’s report said.

UPDATE: Mark Stencel is a good guy. He kindly mentioned my post and we have Tweeted. He is on Twitter @markstencel

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

One Response

  1. Mark Stencel says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Pat — and the Twitter plug.

    In case anyone here is looking for the March GAO report on which much of my CQ column was based, you’ll find it here…

    Click to access d09317.pdf

    It’s a good, balanced economic reality check on all aspects of the U.S. high-speed rail discussion, with interesting findings on current proposals, past efforts in this country, and existing projects in France, Japan and Spain. The report helpfully sums up and, to the extend possible, enumerates the fiscal challenges while also acknowledging that there are potential societal benefits that policy makers might well decide justify the investments, even if they are not entirely offset by potential revenue.

    Susan Fleming, GAO’s director of physical infrastructure issues, summarized the report’s findings succinctly in her prepared testimony for an April 1 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on high-speed rail. “In summary,” she wrote, “high speed rail does not offer a quick or simple solution to relieving congestion on our nation’s highways and airways. High speed rail projects are costly, risky, take years to develop and build, and require substantial up-front public investment as well as potentially long-term operating subsidies. Yet the potential benefits of high speed rail — both to riders and nonriders — are many.”

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