A reader became as irritated, as I often do, with some of the grain of truth but generally misleading opinion pieces we so often encounter The column under consideration came from the Boston Herald. It’s a real piece of work form a guy named Guy Darst (clever play on words, aye?). His technique is to use a scatter gun approach with half-truths, unimportant factoids, and confusion.
Since I am tied up with an academic paper these days, I have a plan to keep you people out of my hair.
OK. Settle down. Can’t anybody take a joke anymore?
Your exam is open-book. Deal with one issue raised by the column. Identify the issue properly and state your response using whatever sources you may wish to cite. Cite two for extra “points”
By the way, points are worth nothing, but everybody will know that you REALLY know your stuff. Here is the email that raises the questions/issues.
I get mad when I see stupid stuff going unchallenged.
Here are the contentious points in his article, as I see them:
“It’s doubtful there are many like that.” He says there aren’t many “shovel-ready” projects. Well, from what I’ve seen, there are many of them, even on the California HSR plan. Agree? How could I substantiate it?
“the European trains so praised by the president all eat large subsidies (about $88 billion per year overall).” I live near the current eastern end of the TGV Est line in France. From what I’ve heard, the SNCF makes an operating profit on its TGV operations, enough to cross-subsidize the rest of the network. But it’s not unusual for public transit to require an operating subsidy, much as do cars and planes, which get concealed subsidies. But this figure sounds silly and extreme. How to attack it?
“Despite their splendid trains, Europeans drive almost as much as we do.” Well, sure, but that’s specious. If there weren’t all these filled to capacity (try to buy a ticket from Luxembourg to Paris less than a week an advance and you run the risk of it being sold out) trains, where would the excess go? Back into planes and cars, in that order.
“This is hard to believe – unless the trains are to be powered by electricity generated from nuclear reactors and hydroelectric plants.” Or how about windmills or geothermic or solar? Isn’t Spain committing to drive all of its high speed trains from wind power? Has anyone written about this?
“Amtrak and private automobiles emit about the same amount of carbon dioxide per passenger mile.” This strikes me as either wrong or misleading. First of all, Amtrak uses diesels, and operates them inefficiently. But even so, I’ve heard figures of 1/3 less CO2. Am I right?
“Remember the claims for Acela?” What is he talking about? The Acela runs over barely upgraded tracks from the early 20th century. The only money spent on it went into getting trains that can go faster where possible, and keeping the electrical overhead from falling down. What is his point, anyway? There has never been multi-billion investment into the NEC. Maybe $1 billion?
My problem in dealing with this stuff is I know when it’s wrong, but I don’t have a set of facts close to hand that I’m sure of to tackle these fellow. Maybe one day.
Anyway, thanks for listening.
Filed under: Administration, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail