Sunday, January 24, 2010

Taking the bullet train to Hell

As I posted the other day, the Big Guy is coming to town and everyone wants to know why.  Well, I like rumors, innuendo and speculation as much as the next gal so I here's my two cents:  light rail.  I'm basing this on:  a)  Governor Charlie Crist has been pushing for light rail forever; b) Crist is in deep doo with the voters because he embraced the Stimulus Bill and has squat to show for it;  c)  there is 2.5 billion in stimulus money on the line; d) Fox News opined earlier today that Obama is coming to Tampa to announce that we are receiving the stimulus money to build light rail between Tampa and Orlando.   If this turns out to be the case, taxpayers across the land will be ponying up to pay for a truly terrible idea.  John Stossel:

Politicians love spending your money on rail. They claim it cleans the air and reduces traffic jams. Joe Biden said last year: "if you're going to create jobs with a long-lasting platform for the future, it's rail, rail, rail, and rail."

But it turns out that, in most places, rail is terribly inefficient.

Amtrak loses $32 for every ticket it sells. So few people ride the line from New Orleans to Los Angeles that it manages to lose $462 per passenger.

The average subsidy per ride on all LA rails is $10.53, according to data from transportation consultant Tom Rubin. For someone who uses the rail to go back and forth to work every day, that adds up to a subsidy of $5,369 per year -- enough to lease that person a Toyota Prius for the year.

Biden claims that rail will "protect the environment." But actually, says Randall O'Toole of the CATO Institute, who will be a guest on my show (Stossel, 8pm EST) light rail uses more energy per passenger mile than the average car – twice as much as a Toyota Prius.

Even some of the nation's most lauded rail systems have been a disappointment.
Rail is a proven loser.  If the ticket from Tampa to Orlando is priced high enough to cover the costs nobody will be able to afford a ticket.  If, to entice people to purchase tickets the price is subsidized, the taxpayers are on the hook forever.  Further, if Florida believes that light rail is such a great deal then Florida should find a way to pay for it with burdening the taxpayers in the other forty-nine states.

Long after any temporary jobs created by the building of a light rail system are gone and the politicians who pushed for it are gone, the taxpayers will still be footing the bill.

1 comment:

Glenn Mark Cassel said...

Since the take over of the turbojet/turbofan airliner and the ease of air travel, passenger rail is a dinosaur in need of euthanasia. It is however, the best way to move large quantities of goods at a reasonable price.
But the Gaffe-a-Matic known as Joe Biden wouldn't be able to figure it out if it bit him in the hind quarters.