Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Today in high speed rail: As the choo choo churns

Because everybody just loves high speed rail we have this from Gregg Pollowitz at Planet Gore:

Fox News has a handy tax calculator up so you can see how many of your tax dollars will go to this $53 billion boondoggle. For example, if your income is $100,000, then $654.60 goes for the high-speed choo-choo.

To put this 654.60 in perspective, its 85 miles between Tampa and Orlando, the high-speed route that Gov. Scott of Florida just refused Federal funds to develop. With a car getting 20 mpg burning $4 a gallon gas, the trip would cost roughly $17 if you drove. So it would take 40 trips between Tampa and Orlando to equal the tax burden in our example — and that doesn’t include the cost of the rail ticket.

What’s more, the $53 billion doesn’t finish ANY rail project; it just gets the country pregnant with high-speed rail. The faster high-speed rail heads to the ash heap of history, the better.

Even better, if you prefer train travel then a family of four can go from Tampa to Orlando for a mere $30.00. Of course then you have to pay for parking in Tampa and pay to get around in Orlando and pay another $30.00 to get home but hey, the train is there for the riding. Nobody does, thus Amtrak is flat busted and were it not for the generosity of the American people who donate a portion of every paycheck to the government which in turn lavishes it upon the fiscally inept Amtrak, the company would be no more. What we really need is TWO of these money losers, right? Why limit yourself when you are using other people’s money.

I’ve never gotten anyone to explain why they believe that high speed rail would succeed where Amtrak failed. Proponents of rail dismiss concerns about cost overruns, lack of ridership and the need for taxpayer subsidies to cover operational costs but let’s look at California’s experience with that state’s high speed rail project and see if those concerns might be justified (emphasis added):

This peer review group, which was organized by the legislature, noted the following major problem areas.

- Funding is unreliable, especially considering the wobbly conditions of the state's finances and the certainty that the federal government will not give nearly as much as initially predicted. Also, Republicans in DC have said they will attempt block any and all federal funding.

- Costs have already soared enormously. But we already knew that. The initial bond issue in 2008 approved by voters was for $9.95 billion. But costs are already at $40 billion and rising. Also, it's unclear whether the bond measure can include revenue guarantees for investors. This will probably be decided in court.

- Ridership and revenue projections are unrealistic. This directly affects the ability to raise money from private investors, who will want to know precisely how they will be paid back.

- The California High-Speed Rail Authority is seriously understaffed and lacking in accountability. The roles of the various parties are undefined and unclear. This can and will only lead to chaos, as well as cost overruns and the inevitable lawsuits.

Is it any wonder that California has its hand stretched out for the money the Gov. Rick Scott turned down? Too bad the people in California fell for a load of cow manure but honestly, better them then us.