Well, that was certainly a fair and even-handed treatment of high speed rail. I am sure all the proponents of HSR are shocked to learn that the $10 billion will not immediately connect all the urban centers with European-style trains. Reason.TV certainly knows, as do transportation planners and politicians, that HSR is expensive. It demands dedicated right-of-way, high-tech signals, and special equipment. This can, however, translate into American jobs for those will build the equipments and roadbeds, and keep up the railway infrastructure.
I am sure some of our readers enjoyed the vintage steam locomotives and hand cars. No, we’re a bunch of brainless fools, so don’t worry about the insult. Don’t let it cross your mind.
The environmental question is a good one and HSR would, in my opinion, bring real environmental gains if it were running at almost full occupancy. However, even my weak argument overlooks the tremendous harm that would be done by more highway construction. That is exactly what Reason.TV suggests without batting an eye.
Who would be surprised that the Reason.TV answer to transportation needs is more highways and airports. Now, where have we heard that before? Is it now the mantra of the past 20 years?
And that $35 billion to Amtrak? The Reason folks conveniently forgot to tell hapless viewers that this was the total Amtrak subsidy since 1972. Heck, that tough young guy on the film was probably not born in 1972. Amtrak pays property taxes, payroll taxes, and makes al sorts of contributions to Railroad Retirement.
Don’t get me wrong. Amtrak has plenty of failings and some of those might be corrected by some stable management. Amtrak has been a favorite whipping boy since the day it was created by Richard Nixon. Amtrak provides good transportation service to many places that really need it with very little subsidy of support. How would you like to hear that your company was going to be run out of business every year? Well, that is what Amtrak employees live with, so lighten up.
Realistically, the country needs a mix of improved fast conventional trains and European style trains on the shorter corridor runs. This would require planning and cooperation. What was I thinking?