Obama’s high-speed rail plans

This is something that is a longtime coming.  And if you look at the connected routes, the cities clustered together, the project makes sense to alleviate air traffic between close cities. 

According to Business Insider, “Barack Obama just announced his plan to spend $13 billion to build a vast high speed rail network across the nation. The stimulus will provide $8 billion initially, after that it will require $1 billion each year for the next five years.”


Knowing full well that this is a government project means that those figures will probably balloon to twice those amounts.  Yes, as exciting and potentially transformative as this project could be there are plenty of questions surrounding it. 

Unfortunately, the questions being asked by Jay Yarrow in his article, are completely irrelevant. 

For example, why does the administration insist upon high speed rail, as opposed to just standard commuter railways? High speed is obviously very cool, and fun to say, but it’s not like the government is telling GM to build a bunch of cars like the Tesla Roadster. It’s saying it wants cars more like the Prius. Repairing the suffering commuter rails might provider greater benefit to riders over building a massive high speed network.

There’s a difference between automotive and railway transportation that isn’t comparable.  One industry is concerned with increasing mpgs to decrease reliance on foreign oil.  The intention of high-speed rail is to alleviate air traffic congestion at airports, especially between cities of close proximation. 

It’s not about commuting to work, it’s about travel.  Which ties into the next hypothetical.  How in the world would Amtrak (or whomever) turn this into a profitable business? 

The current rail business is terrible, so how will this change?  If we want to go from New York to Philadelphia we could spend $20 for a round trip ticket on a Chinatown bus or spend $129 to make the same trip on the Amtrak Acela, or on regular speed trains at $64. Even at those high prices, Amtrak’s not profitable.

True.  But one of the factors determining Amtrak’s profitability is not how much they are charging for a ticket, but the quantity of people using their service.  Currently, there is no point to taking Amtrak.  I doubt many people use it’s services. 

It costs as much as a flight in some cases and takes twice as long to arrive at it’s destination. 

Imagine the possibilites of a train that was comfortable (bordering on luxurious), offering amenitites airplanes do not.  A dining car, a smoking car, a movie theater car, etc.  Imagine if they build trains that go faster than the Acela’s fairly pedestrian 100 mph, so that you could travel from Boston to NY in 2 hours, etc.

Comments on this entry are closed.