Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

High speed rail: why should taxpayers pay?

I probably should leave this one alone, but here goes anyway. The Gwinnett Gazette runs an item headlined “Go Slow on High Speed Rail.” The opening line was too good.

With wide-eyed naivete, proponents of high-speed rail are pointing to service in Europe and Asia as reasons that such networks are the next great thing in transportation for the United States. But Americans will travel a lot further on the hype over President Obama’s pledge of $8 billion in economic stimulus funds for high-speed rail than any money will go.

But, at the core of this essay is a rather cogent question.

The first question, however, is, “Why?” Why would the hard-working taxpayers of Georgia and North Carolina – indeed, any taxpayer – want to foot the estimated $1.4 billion bill on a 244-mile project between Atlanta and Charlotte? Georgia already struggles to meet the entire state’s transportation needs with a $2 billion annual budget.

Good question. Let’s see.

  • What does it cost to build 2 lanes of interstate highways and why should motorists pay for truckers and their damage?
  • Why should driving or flying be the only choices?
  • Why not improve rail capacity for freight?
  • Why not do a little something to protect the environment?
  • Why must transportation policy always be directed to automobiles?
  • Why should smaller cities get some of the benefits enjoyed by big cities like Atlanta?

Of all the transportation coridors in a growth area, Atlanta to the northeast is prime country. Faster trains, maybe not European HST, make perfect sense in the transportation mix.

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

4 Responses

  1. Deacon says:

    Great Blog Keep up the good work!

    One reason that could pretty much be the only reason is…

    Our dependance on oil from other countries puts them in control of our daily lives. We send out the same amount of money to these countries that it would cost to get us a good rail system that could compete with any in across the globe. Everything in the USA depends at one point or another on a drop of oil, form transport of food to transport for our kids to get to school.

    Having an Electrified rail system, both freight and passenger, gives us more control over our lives. It gives us a viable alternative for travel that we can turn to should we experience $140 oil again.

    When the price of oil goes up so does our food, our gas, our utilities, our everything.

    For them to be asking such a question is sheer ignorance.

  2. Paz says:

    God I hate pieces like that. To be fair, it’s got a few redeeming parts, like where she talks about planning for future commuter lines. But to look at this from a purely economic (or “market-oriented”, as her policy group prefers), is to only see a portion of the picture.

  3. Allan says:

    Pat-“why should motorists pay for truckers and their damage?”

    So that they can use the same stretch of highway in their own cars.

    So that goods and services can continued to be delivered to them.

    Pat-“Why should driving or flying be the only choices?”

    They aren’t. There a real so buses … and we do have train service in some parts of the nation.We’d probably have more if Amtrak had better management.

    Pat-“Why not improve rail capacity for freight?”

    It is being improved … by the railroad companies themselves. Remember, they own the track.

    Pat-“Why not do a little something to protect the environment?”

    I, and many other taxpayers, do so every day. Why do we need a gov’t boondoggle to protect the environment? And, unless you plan on building nuclear plants to provide the electricity, one could argue that you may be doing as much or more damage to the environment.

    Pat-Why must transportation policy always be directed to automobiles?”

    Because most taxpayers own one!

    Pat-“Why should smaller cities get some of the benefits enjoyed by big cities like Atlanta?”

    Did you mean shouldn’t? Regardless, I’m still not sure of your point on this one.

  4. patlynch says:


    Great post, as always. You should go on Leno.


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