This is from Wednesday, but it’s so good that it merits playing catchup on. Some of you have perhaps been following Edward L. Glaesar’s economic analysis of high-speed rail prospects in the New York Times economics blog over the past few weeks. The last post in the series (although he says he might revisit the topic later) appeared on Tuesday and purports to address misconceptions that high-speed rail would have a signficant effect on land-use patterns. Now, of course, we here at TFA believe in challenging ones own viewpoints, and Glaesar provides some very readable points against HSR investment. But thankfully, Ryan Avent from Streetsblog has gone to the trouble of going a little more in-depth and refuting Glaesar’s dodgy economic logic. The post speaks for itself, but I quote its conclusion as a nice summation:
If we instead build new highway and airport capacity, then that will influence future development patterns and mode share. I challenge Glaeser to demonstrate that that future is greener and better off economically than one in which rail is built.
This is the principle shortcoming of Glaeser’s analysis — that it fails to take into consideration the alternatives.
I believe that increasing metropolitan congestion, rising energy costs, changing demographics, and new transit investments will generate a shift in housing and transportation preferences in coming decades. I think it’s wise to accommodate this shift by building high-speed rail.
Glaeser seems to believe that in coming decades congestion costs will cease rising; otherwise he’d build future increases into his model. He seems to think that the addition of over 100 million new Americans need not lead to any new infrastructure investment; otherwise he’d compare the economic benefits and life-cycle emissions of rail investments to alternative investment plans.
I think those beliefs are daft and indefensible. And four posts into his high-speed rail series, Glaeser hasn’t given any of us reason to think that his analysis is worth taking seriously.