How Not to Plan for the Future

The agreement between Congress and the White House to virtually eliminate money for high-speed rail is harebrained.

Comments: 125

  1. The Roman Empire fell in part because it failed to maintain its infrastructure. Similarly, our country will not remain great if we continue to fail to allow our infrastructure system to crumble even while giving more tax breaks to the wealthy and spending more on wars overseas.

    Our nation's failed rail infrastructure is a perfect example of this trend. While other countries have trains that reach up to 300km per hour, our passenger system for the most part does not even have dedicated tracks, and can rarely even reach 100mph. The technology needed for high speed rail has been around for years now and has been actively pursued by Japan, Europe, China, and others, but a combination of misguided budget cutting and conservative ideological zealotry has stymied it here in the US.

    The impacts of our failure to adopt high speed rail are numerous. Our highways and airports are overcrowded, which wastes large amounts of money and resource. Economic development in downtown areas and small towns that could be served by rail is missed. Travel is less safe, as trains are the safest form of travel and cars are the most dangerous. And the environment is more polluted, as trains create far less pollution than cars, trucks, or airplanes.

    In short, high speed rail is the right thing to do for transportation, economic development, safety, and the environment. But instead of pursuing this, we are following the path of Rome before the fall. Let's hope we turn back before it is too late.

    http://www.winningprogressive.org

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Winning-Progressive/195682780442236

  2. Let's face it, our country is simply in the terminal phases of utter dysfunction, courtesy of our utterly corrupt political system which exists now solely to service our corporate masters, who happen to be the military-industrial complex and its handmaidens - the mass media and educational systems among them. We can find trillions for 800 military bases littered around the world (with 300 golf courses for the brass) but we can't find a some billions for mass transit. Oil behind this? Hmmmm..
    I think we are beyond political repairs within our existing system, and the citizenry should take a good look at their rights as defined in the Declaration of Independence.

    "...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[72] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

    www.jonjost.wordpress.com
    www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com

  3. The biggest impediment to high-speed passenger rail lines, America's Railroads. We should make the freight carriers build and operate high speed rail lines (let them pitch in to make America a better, safer country), whether they want to or not. Otherwise, nationalize the railroads.

  4. The GOP calls climate-change junk science;actions supporting birth-control are pro-abortion;and actions to reduce the national debt that differ from the House GOP policies are termed junk economics. These are the same people saying the world was created 5770 years ago...its what they want in schools...and then they complain that America's kids do poorly in school and international tests so its the teachers' fault. Let's get real about their objectives - lies, wedge issues, and anything else to get favors and support for their special interest friends unlie all GOP actions. Its that simple. JEB Bush tried to kill Florida's high-speed line in 2002- the rental car interests and some theme parks opposed it. It's that simple. Long-term needs - logic - no way - its gets in the way.

  5. The cost of oil is going to keep rising. It is an accepted fact, that the oil companies believe the easiest oil to get, has been found, and that the cost of finding more is going to get even more expensive in the near future. Short haul air travel is inefficient and will be getting more expensive as the oil supply decreases.

    A diesel powered train uses one-tenth the amount of fuel to carry the same number of passengers as an airliner, for the same distance. High Speed Rail uses even less as it is electric powered. We are seeing, recent advances in renewable energy bringing down the cost of producing electricity by alternative means. Just for the economic benefits alone, HSR is a good investment. People can travel quickly between smaller cities like those in the San Joaquin valley, which allows businesses to locate in these cities, and still be convenient to access.

    HSR does not create carcinogenic emissions as diesel does. HSR is as fast as aircraft travel for distances up to 600 miles. It takes a bit over three hours to travel that distance by HSR. A commercial airliner can make the flight in an hour and a half, but when you add in take off and landing, and clearing the terminal, along with having to get to the terminal ah hour or more early, HSR is competitive with air travel. It is also far more comfortable and convenient. One can sit at a table, use their laptop, drink coffee, brown bag it for a snack, get up stretch their legs, and be far more rested when they reach their destination.
    Theoretically, one could cross the country in about 15 hours by HSR, not much longer than it used to take by a DC7, which people once thought to be as good as it gets.

    That the Republicans and their cohort conservatives are opposed to the government financing HSR shows just how fossilized their thinking has become. One needs to remember it was actually the Republicans who began the transcontinental railroad. President Lincoln was a railroad attorney and he proposed the building of the railroad to the west.

    The railroads we have today would not have been built without government financing. No one company could have raised that much money at the time. Only one railroad to the west was built with private financing, that was the Great Northern, but even it counted on the government granting homestead lands to the settlers that the GN counted on for its revenue.

    The conservatives and Republicans do not want HSR for at least two reasons. The one they give is cost. They say the country can not afford it. The one the do not say, is because it involves the government, which they want to make small to the point of impotence. One always has to keep in mind when looking at these kinds of projects, that the political right has a visceral hatred of government. Allowing the financing of HSR goes against their ideology, no matter how beneficial it would be. Anything progressive is not for them.

    No matter that even those European countries which are derided as Socialistic, have built thousands of miles of HSR, and worse yet, China, a one party Communist system sees the economic benefits of HSR, The American right would rather we live in the dark ages of the industrial revolution. They would rather have us become a second rate industrial has been, than see their precious dollars spent for modernization.

    Most likely, HSR would not be profitable for many years, but eventually the need for it will make it so, but if it is not built soon, the price will rise to the point where a profitable era will even further in the future. Invest now, or pay more later, any good Capitalist knows that rule. However, one must be reminded that the political right is not a collection of Capitalists, it is a cabal of collectivists with little imagination, or concern for the future. It is only concerned with political power now.

  6. Very high speed electric trains make something like 3% of the CO2 emissions of some other transports. They are also extremely practical. To have the north east corridor exploited at the standard 225 miles per hour of the fastest French TGV lines would go a long way towards changing the minds of Americans towards retooling the USA with existing technology.

    The TGV was also bombed by the GIA (Al Qaeda's ancestor) when going at 200mph. Although the carriage was devastated by the powerful bomb, the train, which is made to stay upright in case of crash, stopped, and only a few people died. So trains are much more resistant to terrorism.
    http://patriceayme.wordpress.com/

  7. One motivation for high speed rail is both unmentioned and and vitally important to future transportation needs. It is this. High speed rail would eliminate most short flights between cities under say 400 miles apart. That means no more flights between Boston and New York, New york and Washington, Washington and Charlotte perhaps even Washington and Atlanta. The flights I mentioned alone would drastically improve the ontime performance of the entire airline industry in the continental US. That is because the east coast is a region of notoriously unstable weather. Many of the air traffic control delays nationwide are caused by delay departures in bad weather from the cities in the list above. Add to that departures from cities in the middle of the country whose departures are delayed because of weather conditions at the airports in that same list above and you can account for about three fourths of the delays nationwide. This shows that thinking about rail travel as an isolated system rather than as a component in a total transport system is just wrong. It also hints at where funds supporting lobbying against high speed rail might originate.

  8. We can use high speed rail, but the cross country high speed rail should be for freight, not passengers. It is highly inefficient to haul a truckload of freight from California to the east coast, using about 500 gallons of diesel fuel and 60-70 hours of driving time. A well designed freight system gets it (and many other carloads) there overnight, saving hundreds of gallons of fuel, and much wear and tear on the highways. Trucks can pick up the containers at each terminus of the rail system and make local deliveries.

  9. Sorry, but the proposal to build high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando is what was mindless, not Governor Scott's refusal of the money. Once the line would have opened, the cost to subsidize it (borne by the state taxpayers) would have been enormous. What is the rush to travel 75 miles? It would have made more sense to set up an express bus line at 5% of the cost of high-speed rail.

  10. I left a third world country to come here. It will be a such a pleasure to live in a third world country once again.

  11. Why write stupid editorials like those? Americans will not use high speed trains, just like they don't use Amtrak which is losing tons of money year after year. Are you aware that the French railroad company which run the famous TGV is loosing tons of money also? I see here in the Bay Area buses running empty all day long and losing tons of money and local governments continue this folly. If you want your high speed rail dream to pass, why not create a corporation to do it and ask the richest people in the U.S. to contribute money to the project. But please do not pick my pockets to do it, and after you pick my pockets do not ask the Chinese to pay the difference. Let Americans drive their cars. They foot the bill. Let Americans fly and rent a car once they get there and foot the bill. We don't need high speed rail and the governors that veto it are correct.

  12. If the runaway debt built up by runaway spending is not brought under control the country will have no future and the Chinese can build the rail improvements after they take over.

  13. I think Obama has recognized that a lot of the high speed rail schemes are boondoggles in the making. Our love of environmental regulations has destroyed this country's ability to build large infrastructure projects.

    For instance, the transcontinental railroad over Donner Pass in California would be blocked by numerous environmental laws today. There is another issue. The obvious, ideal, solution to putting a railroad over Donner Pass is a very long tunnel. The pass is buried by feet of snow every winter, and there are numerous avalanche tracks.

    However, 19th century Californians knew they had neither the time or the money for a tunnel. So they came up with this crazy scheme of winding the railroad around valleys and up the sides of mountains to get it over the pass. It is far from the ideal solution, but it is good enough and it got the job done. That kind of ingenuity, and a willingness to live within resource contstraints, has been completely lost. Today's high speed rail builders want ideal solutions regardless of the expense. They are products of an affluent society, and they believe that there is an endless supply of other people's money to be spent on their vision.

  14. "President Obama originally proposed spending more than $50 billion over the next six years to make America’s passenger rails compete with other industrialized nations."

    He asked for the money to connect Dallas to Tulsa, and Houston to New Orleans -- not Dallas to Houston. Tens of billions of dollars and that's the type of decisions they're making? Boondoggle.

    btw, streamliners went 110 mph in the 1950s, nearly every major city had a grand central station of some sort and there were 129,774 miles of track in 1890.

    What's that mean? The infrastructure was in place for rail and they failed to win the hearts and minds of Americans once they could afford more than one car per family -- it has nothing to do with highway construction being subsidized.

    Between 1956 and 1969, a total of 28,800 miles of interstate highways were opened to traffic. In the same period, 59,400 miles of railroad were taken out of passenger service.

  15. Hey, let's spend the money on new stadiums! There always seems to be something left over for them. Let's not worry about high-speed rail and new forms of energy. This country is going down and it is shocking that so few get it.

  16. It's usually simplistic to blame problems on one convenient cause, but in the case of high-speed rail, it's perfectly appropriate.

    Our country's failure to invest in public transportation in general and high-speed rail in particular is a testament to the immense amount of power than the oil industry wields over our government and public discourse.

    In addition to large political campaign contributions and lobbying, one of the most insidious ways the oil industry influences the country is through the funding of a large network of conservative and libertarian think tanks. You've probably heard of some of them: The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation and so forth. All of these think tanks put out ostensibly authoritative reports written by self-described experts with official-sounding titles like "Senior Fellow" that oppose HSR, saying the country isn't dense enough for it, nobody will ride it, it doesn't make a profit and so forth while conveniently leaving out details that might undermine their arguments, ignoring any of the positive aspects of HSR and frequently making misleading or outright fallacious and false arguments.

    People who know how to parse information that is trustworthy from information that isn't can see the obvious conflict of interest here and will notice that those "Senior Fellows" often lack any real credentials or experience that would qualify them as credible experts on transportation policy, but the majority of the public can't.

    Unfortunately, many journalists can't either. The Washington Post's editorial board has published editorials attacking HSR, and most of its columnists have attacked it as well, mostly just repeating the arguments used by think tanks. These arguments end up percolating to members of the public, who then vote for candidates like Gov. Walker who run on promises to "stop the train."

    This is the central fallacy of the American theory of "the marketplace of ideas." It's nice to think that the best ideas always win, but all too often, the really bad and stupid ideas take root first, and genuine progress has to be thwarted for years or even decades, and this country has to find itself left in the dust and embarrassed by its backwardness before it finally realizes, "Hey, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea after all!" The "marketplace of ideas" theory only holds as long as there are mechanisms to prevent that marketplace's pollution by things like bigotry and big-business astroturfing.

  17. The Federal Government put a man on the moon. The Federal Government built the interstate highway system. The Federal Government is the only societal force that can construct a high speed rail system.

    Less Ayn Rand; more Uncle Sam and Choo Choo Charlie.

  18. “Harebrained” you dub it. Downright pathetic is more like it. The Congress and the President are deserving of contempt/scorn for not aggressively planning for the future.

    It is fashionable to speak of weaning ourselves off oil? What a joke! The only thing we are weaning ourselves off of is common sense. Every civilized country (and some not so civilized) on the planet has built or is presently building high speed rail links within its boundaries.

    The U.S. economy is structured around mobility. Twenty-first century Americans are mobile. Commerce is dependent upon the movement of people and product. A modern rail system is not a luxury, it is a modern necessity that will be a revenue sources for year to come. Structured properly, it will fund itself over the next couple decades. The great interstate highway systems built in the 1950's have been an enormous success and have played a significant role in the country’s productivity.

    A minor percentage shift of funding from the D.O.D. to the D.O.T. will sponsor the project. This reallocation of funding is merely a consonant away, but appears as remote a notion to Congress and the President as pandemonium is to serenity.

  19. Stupid is as stupid does. Either we commit to overhauling our transportation system and bringing it into the 21st century or we stay slaves to the airline and auto lobbies.

  20. I believe it has been known for some decades that the cost per unit of weight to move freight over distances is lowest, by far, by rail. I learned this in high school in the 60s in the Midwest. Of course that was before the trucking industry and the Teamsters gained control over the interstate movement of goods. Even though I am a member of a service union, I believe this still hold true, and the cost in dollars, in consumption of petroleum products, in damage to the atmosphere and the environment, is enormous. Am I wrong??

  21. As someone who has been a huge proponent of high speed rail, I could not disagree more with this editorial. Washington should not only spend nothing on high speed rail, but it should not subsidize any type of transportation infrastructure beyond allocating rights of way for which transportation to operate. I reach this conclusion based on the history of rail travel in this country. For many years, we had the most extensive rail system any country has enjoyed. It was all paid for by private companies and not only cost government nothing, it directly contributed to local tax bases. Consider that even subway systems, including the one in New York City, were financed without a cent of taxpayer dollars. That shows that such a system is viable, when it can pay for itself without subsidy. Over one hundred years ago, trains traveled between Albany and New York City at speeds of over 100 mph. Today, they reach a top speed of 79 mph. Absolutely pathetic, but what do you expect when the government is providing the service.

    If our government were smart, instead of borrowing money to pay for projects that are impossible to determine whether they are a value adding investment to our economy, it would allow private companies to bid on existing rights of way, including rail lines and highway corridors. If this were done, I happen to know through my extensive research that there would be multiple companies competing to build maglev trains that travel over 300mph and use less energy than any other ground transportation known to man. They would be paying the government to use the rights of way, and it would be the single largest step we could take to reduce or eliminate our dependency on foreign oil. These trains would make steel rail technology obsolete and revitalize the national economy. I wish people were more aware of this, instead of writing foolish editorials which display an utter lack of knowledge and understanding of transportation issues.

  22. Rather than spreading money all over the country, government should fully fund the Northeast Acela lines and the California high speed rail project. The population density is there with the need to increase transit capacity with connectivity to local rail and transit. Let's do this quickly so the rest of the country can understand the benefits. Money for Florida and Wisconsin really did not make sense because of the inability to go the last mile with mass transit.

    Once people see this work, then the trend could take hold throughout the country.

  23. The Republicans can live in their fantasyland if they so choose, but in the real world our petroleum reserves are going to run out some day, meaning that gasoline and jet fuel will become increasingly hard to get and very expensive. Battery-driven cars will never have the range to drive cross country. Batteries simply can't hold enough charge or be recharged fast enough to be convenient. Electric planes are definitely not in the offing. Maybe some day hydrogen fuel cells will be perfected to propel cars and trucks, but not planes. Our current petroleum-fueled cars, trucks and planes will eventually have to give way to high speed electrified rail.

    Present day naysayers insist that travelers won't use rail because they would lack the convenience of their own car and have to rent a car or take taxis upon arriving at their destination. Well, even today we can address that: transport the travelers' cars along with themselves via rail, just as is done on a ferry boat. Or, include the price of a car rental on the other end in the ticket. We will still use cars (whether fueled by electricity, natural gas, bio-diesel or hydrogen) in the future but only for short trips, we will routinely cross the country on high speed electrified rail (possibly maglevs). The time to begin the conversion is now, before the matter becomes a crisis. Perhaps this is too reasonable for the Republican mind.

  24. Approximately 80 some years ago GM and Firestone conspired to kill off the streetcar trolley systems all through the nation. It worked.
    There was a time when you could go from NY City to Maine for vacation without a car.

    As a nation we embraced the autos instead of public transportation.
    Well now that gas is approaching $5 a gallon this seems to me to a very short sighted plan. As a nation it seems to me that we are doomed on the infrastructure front. The lack of intelligent investment from both the private and government sector is astounding. On the corporate side they have been trained to expect tax breaks and for the tax payer to foot the bill for infrastructure. This happened in my state of Massachusetts with Fidelity and Evergreen Solar (which took the state for millions) are good examples of this. Our national infrastructure is falling apart at the seems and if we don't wake up and do something we will earn that downgrade AA rating that the S&P is threatening us with.

  25. @ Jackson, #1:

    For many years, we had the most extensive rail system any country has enjoyed. It was all paid for by private companies and not only cost government nothing, it directly contributed to local tax bases.

    James J. Hill, who built the Great Northern Railway from Chicago to Seattle via Minneapolis, St. Paul, and what is now Glacier National Park, was given (given?!) the land for the railway right of way plus a swath of land 100 miles wide on either side!

    His agents standing on the docks in New York when ships arrived with passengers from Europe would offer free land -- to people fresh off the boat, an incredible boon -- in a "town" along the railroad if they'd just move there and farm, set up a shop, or do grunt work for the railroad. At the time, they needed such towns every 90 or so miles because the steam engines couldn't carry more water than would get them those 90 miles.

    But to say that no government money went into that railroad? Hm. What could the government have received if they just opened up the sale of land to the highest bidder, that is, once the "Indian problem" was "pacified"? And what was the cost, financial and personal of that pacification?

    The government runs the rail system in China (where I am living and working right now) and the high-speed trains here (both wheeled and maglev) are pretty decent, certainly fast enough at 330 kmph and 430 kmph respectively.

    And you also say, "but it [the Federal Gov't] should not subsidize any type of transportation infrastructure beyond allocating rights of way for which transportation to operate."

    So you think the US shouldn't have built all those freeways, either?

    I have to disagree: the infrastructure projects ultimately pay for themselves in increased economic activity (some going off to taxes) and productivity, not to mention a sense of shared well-being that the US sorely needs.

  26. The Acela as high-speed rail is a joke. It was better in 1940. Improvements on the Northeast corridor Amtrak line may be needed, but they should be regarded as improvements to local service.

    A true high-speed rail in the Northeast is long overdue. One impediment to development (whether California or the Northeast) is that success means choosing one area instead of spreading federal funds across multiple areas to garner votes.

    Another is that it requires a separate track, which may mean taking some land by eminent domain. I have a nightmarish vision of the entire project being held up because a few feet cross the habitat of the 3-toed frog or some such thing. Using high speed rail instead of cars and planes will have a strong positive impact on the environment. The need for trade-offs needs to be recognized and dealt with from the start.

  27. The super trains being discussed are indeed technological wonders. They are also prodigious money losers in most places they have been implemented around the world. The proposed line in Florida, now blessedly abandoned, would have been yet another.

    I agree that improving train service can be a huge boon in certain circumstances, mostly depending upon population density and traffic between the points being served. Where favorable factors do not exist it would be foolish and wasteful to try to institute such service.

    Our transportation infrastructure investment strategy should reflect a sober and realistic appraisal of what works in any particular situation rather than falling in love with the hottest new technology because it makes us feel more advanced or environmentally righteous.

  28. Public transportation infrastructure has been government funded since the Persian Royal Road of 2,500 years ago. The Roman Empire could not have functioned without its publicly funded roads. Much of our 19th century rail system was funded through federal grants of every other square mile of land ten miles out on each side of a rail line. The sale of that land paid for the railroad. My father-in-law's family farmed railroad land they had bought.

    High speed rail has one huge advantage over air and land transport. It is not dependent on liquid fuel. It can be, and generally is, electrified, and electricity is the form of energy most easily made sustainably. Long after air travel becomes exhorbitantly expensive because of fuel cost, rail will still be able to operate economically. The Republican Party's lack of vision when it comes to transportation will condemn this nation to second class status.

  29. I'm a Wisconsin native currently working in Shanghai. It was unbelievable that Gov.Walker would reject $850MM of Federal Money for an HSR system that would eventually connect Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Gov.Walker is effectively isolating the most talented workers from considering work in Wisconsin. From my firsthand experience, I can tell you the Chinese government has huge faults (see 1st Amend. style freedoms and horrible dairy products) HOWEVER it does have vision when it comes to HSR. I can travel from Shanghai to Suzhou (100miles away) in 30 minutes. This HSR makes commuting from Shanghai to Suzhou viable, and therefore a city like Suzhou, which would never normally attract high-talent western educated workers, a viable place to work. Suzhou is one of the "clean tech" capitals of China and HSR allows these talented engineers to live/play in Shanghai and work for companies such as Phillips, Bosch, etc and develop the latest in clean tech. In this area, China understands what it is at stake...access to the best workers, independence from unstable fuel supplies, and less traffic.

    Like a talented, but very troubled child, it saddens me to see my homeland (U.S.A.) not living up to its full potential. Instead of being the best that it can be, it is settling for being a "C" student. The United States has so much to offer the rest of the world--being a leader in media and culture, engineering and entrepreneurial know-how, and the most developed capital markets in the world, but it just seems like we've lost our will to be the best we can be, and are settling into mediocrity.
    -Signing off from Shanghai (through a Virtual Private Network to avoid Chinese censors)

  30. Is United States Of America in decline, as so many other large societies before it, because of its inability or unwillingness to adapt to changes that have an impact on the workings of it?

    Viewing from the outside, it looks very much like the USA (as a society) doesn't want to aknowledge the factual changes in the environment of the USA, be they political or natural.

    Is it the understanding that there are changes and a forceful wish that they would just go away, that makes a large number of politicians and the electorate act as the changes there are doesn't not exist, the threats that have been identified does not exist and that the current version of 'American living' needs to be adapted to the changing conditions of our world?

  31. Who would have thought the very first poster would "go Galt" on the discussion. That really bad movie that's out right now is fictional, you know....

    In fact, railroads have been financed by a variety of means including government land grants and direct financial support throughout American history. At the turn of the last century, privately-financed railroads often had shaky financial circumstances and periodically failed (including creating the Panic of 1893). The government became involved to stabilize both the predictability and reliability of railroad service, to minimize its impact on the larger economy, and to ensure the existence of service for financially less-desirable routes.

    The only financially lucrative aspect of the railroad is the freight service: passenger service is always added as an afterthought. If it were the case that private money was prepared to enter the high-speed rail space, we'd be rapidly speeding from point to point already.

  32. What you see is a failure of leadership. It isn't only rail travel that is behind the times. It is our medical system. A system run as a business. A poorly run business. We still can't figure out why our system rates 37th and some people in leadership say it is the best in the world.

    Still american say we are the best people in the world. Nothing like having a large ego. Problem is this last recession is beginning to show the cracks in the american way. We are failing big time. Just can't do anything right. One problem in medicine is its control by the major drugs companies maybe similar to the control by to big banks that can not fail. The companies have learned the power of bigness. The other trend is the rich become richer and the poor workingman becomes powerless and more poor. This kind of system can only have one end and it will not be a happy one.

  33. Jackson in Bronx, NY said, "For many years, we had the most extensive rail system any country has enjoyed. It was all paid for by private companies and not only cost government nothing,"

    The Federal Government gave millions of acres of land to railroad companies to expand to settle the west. My farm is on land that was part of this. Sure there was lots of scams, cheating, stealing, rip-offs, but the rails got laid and 100 years ago we had a better passenger transportation system covering the whole country than we have now.

    Who's paying these Republican politicians to be against passenger rail? Their objections make no sense.

  34. #16
    "Are you aware that the French railroad company which run the famous TGV is loosing tons of money also?"

    Not true.

    TGV is the bread earner of the company. When it losses money, it's on secondary conventional railway lines, Amtrack style.

    Side note : cities all over Europe are fighting to get their TGV railway station, as it has prooved to be a spectacular boost to their economy.
    That's what investing in infrastructure is meant for.

  35. As #1, Jackson, presented the purchase of right of ways and let private industry do the job, I'd like to agree. I'd like to, but I can't.

    Industry basically lost interest in carrying people a long time ago, primarily because of the risks associated with derailment and an aging infrastructure. This is why we had to buy out Amtrak.

    After Eisenhower built the national highway system trains became something to be disdained because gas was cheap and people were willing to invest in trucking, both the people who bought the trucks, and those who no longer needed to use their own fleets. I remember riding down to Colonial Beach in the 50s and the trains had already stopped being the primary method of moving materials.

    We ignored our infrastructure so badly that we missed many of the advancements in rail technologies. We also hadn't built the track system to accommodate the greater number and increasing size of new roads, so train accidents were becoming more frequent. People simply ignored train crossing signs and went around the movable barriers, again incurring costly risks and possible payouts in court cases.

    Also, one cannot dismiss the negative imposed on rail due to the ease and speed of air travel from the late 40s on.

    So while I'd like to agree, there just doesn't appear to be any there there. Who's going to develop a new infrastructure today in order to make money in the future? Nobody, at least not without massive subsidies and probably some type of agreement that they are not responsible for any mishaps.

    No, I'm afraid that there aren't any companies out there that are going to do the building of infrastructure in order to haul people, so it really does come down to being a job for the government to accomplish. Besides, the government is the only entity that can claim enough right of way through eminent domain, if necessary. They are also the only entity able to make it possible to limit their liabilities.

    Roger W. Norman
    http://rwnorman.typepad.com/rwnormans_beer_food_and_p/
    http://blogs.salon.com/0004478
    http://www.reverbnation.com/rogerwnorman

  36. Heaven forbid we compare ourselves to France, but let's try. France has the Auto-Route and National roads: one you pay as you go, the other has no tolls. Both are without potholes, which is to say, well-maintained. The Auto-Route just takes a lot less time. China's building HSR because they have the money and like Olympic structures they want to show, too, can have showpieces. I would opt for the French highway model where rail is concerned. I've ridden the TGV and it's fast, quiet and butter smooth. And expensive. The upshot is to have two well-maintained systems, one privately owned/operated unlike France, the other a federal system. If no private builder-operator steps up, we'll know a HSR system is not feasible. But why are we even considering HSR when the infrastructure of our country is in such disrepair? We need a way to get across town efficiently before we consider HSR between major cities. We don't need a showpiece. Our showpiece used to be NASA and we can't, or won't, support that. Forget pie-in-the-sky. Let's make what's already in place more efficient then, and only then, consider upgrades.

  37. Again, another editorial from the New York Times showing a lack of understanding of math and economics. High Speed Rail in Europe takes massive operating subsidies. There is no way that it can be economical in the USA given it's competition, which in reality is low cost automotive, air and bus transportation.
    What high speed rail is a system that would have worked if we had it 100 years ago as cities, communities developed and were built around high speed rail as a system. To do this as an after thought means that the flow to and from the RR is extremely inefficient to non existent. We are much better off fixing our bridges, building new highways and expanding airports. I know that doesn't fit in the agenda of the NYTimes because it doesn't take massive government operating subsidies, but sorry it's the truth.
    To my rail fan friends and I am in the rail transportation business, sorry buy train sets for your basements and save us billions.

  38. Follow the money. That's all you have to do to understand why Republicans (and some Democrats) won't fund HSR. Representatives from both parties are funded by big oil. As long as they are funded by oil, they will keep on doing the bidding of big oil. It's only more blatant with Republicans than Democrats. While Democrats acknowelege global warming, Republicans are deniers. This is all about oil company profits.

    Both parties take large contributions from oil companies. HSR will decrease demand for oil. Economics (the law of supply and demand) dictates that anything that decreases demand will necessarily lower prices. Lower demand and lower prices will decrease oil company profits. In this case, the best interests of the people aren't being served.

    HSR powered by non-fossil fuels (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, etc.) not only helps decrease carbon dioxide emissions but lowers demand for oil. The sooner the government makes the necessary investments in these technologies, the sooner we get the payoff.

  39. I disagree with #1. The whole system of rails in this country was built on land given away by the U.S. government in the nineteenth century and they were built with cheap labor that was extremely plentiful. To subsidize rails like we did the interstate highway system makes complete sense. To not do it, is extremely shortsighted and a tragedy. Many good things have begun with government investment that turns into private later on. It is the American way. It is called socialism. Get over it.

  40. If high speed rail were of substantial value, the free market would have already put it in place. It is another liberal, warm-feeling boondoggle.

    The fact is that anything the federal government funds it funds with borrowed money. I see no rational reason to borrow for a pie-in-the-sky idea such as fast trains.

  41. We're well on our way to becoming a second-rate power, who once led the world, like Britain. Why should we invest in high-speed rail transport, or education, or technology or renewable energy? Let's just let our aging infrastructure decay as we sink slowly into our new has-been status and watch our standard of living inexorably decline. We'll always have Hollywood movies to remind us of what we once were.

  42. Chris Christie killed the ARC project for two reasons:

    1. It was poorly architected, and did less to relieve congestion than alternative approaches

    2. It was positioned for major cost over-runs, for which New Jersey would've been completely liable.

    You folks talk about high-speed rail almost laughably without regard to whether the proposed route will generate the traffic required to pay down the construction costs, and pay for maintenance.

    There're two ways to generate lots of rail traffic:

    1. Displace some heavily travelled short-haul air link, with downtown-downtown routes (some of the California and Northeast routes you mention)

    2. Relieve congestion in very heavily travelled urban areas, to the point where riders will pay a premium over current fares, to cover construction and maintenance.

    Going back to the ARC tunnel, why don't you folks start advocating for the 7 line subway extension to Secaucus:

    > It'd be cheaper than the ARC tunnel

    > For anyone who'd be taking a subway once in NYC, it'd be a more direct connection

    > Subway tunnels can have sharper turns and grades than rail tunnels, allowing for more flexible siting.

    > If a third tunnel were dug that could be shared across Amtrak/NJTransit trains and subway trains, directional rush-hour capacity would be substantially further increased, relative to an solution with only two additional tunnels

    > A subway could have a stop at the western portal of the tunnels, allowing the siting of a bus terminal that could relieve a substantial fraction of the current Lincoln Tunnel rush-hour bus traffic. A recent piece in another NY paper says that the current bus terminal at 42nd street has reached its limits.

    > A subway line could have a stop in Northern Hoboken - and probably service more than 10,000 commuters/day, long-term, from that single location.

    Forgive the bluntness, but - recently - NYC metro transportation projects seem to be perversely designed to cost the most, while increasing capacity relatively little. Airtrain and Secaucus Junction come to mind.

    Why not plan projects that could truly relieve the transportation gridlock around NYC, while providing tens of thousands of construction and construction-related jobs.

    I realize that regional rail - especially that which crosses city, authority, and state jurisdictions - is a political minefield, relative to getting approval, and doesn't have the allure of national rail.

    But look at what's succeeding today: commuter rail systems, and - overloaded - commuter bus systems. So, start there.

  43. The primary reason for this failure of high speed rail is Congress. It dipped its hands with state interests and come up with the most lame of projects that made zero sense. Rather than reinvent the wheel high speed rail only makes sense on existing train routes with business travels on places it can pay for itself. Both the Ohio and Florida routes were DOA as they were too short and with too manys tops. That IS NOT HIGH SPEED! The reason high speed rail works in other countries is due to high costs of personal transportation and quick transport city to city center like London to Paris. Even the Acela service is losing money because of the way its run. It saves perhaps 30 minutes at a much higher cost DC to NY. 30 whole minutes. I would not pay extra for those 30 minutes. Our government is the main problem. Too many heads with special interests. This needs to be shelved and forgotten. There seem to be more high speed bus service being generated to serve the needs of city pairs. Cheaper, more efficient and convenient. Now, that makes economic sense more so than this pipe dream of rail.

  44. High speed rail, like green energy, is a fantasy of the left not based on real facts and figures, but on blind faith. High speed rail projects are money pits and it is incredibly rare to find one in the black. At a time when our deficit is at nightmare levels, the NYT thinks it's a good idea to dump more taxpayer dollars into this nonsense. People don't want high speed rail. If there comes a time when they do, the private sector will be incentivized to build it. The central planners in the Obama administration will get their pink slips soon. They've certainly earned them.

  45. I wonder how many wealthy Republicans and politicians who are against high-speed rail regularly visit Europe or other counties and use their high speed rail. I bet many of them love to ride the Eurostar and the like. Because it's awesome, and awesomely convenient, but in America the high speed rail issue is being used much like the flip-flop phrase to garner hyped support from voters who have never used high speed rail.

    When I traveled from London to Brussels on the Eurostar I was extremely impressed. What a wonderful, affordable convenience! If most Americans could only experience it I know that they would want the same technology. But alas, we are isolated in our cars and in our living rooms with FOX news, forever ignorant and conned.

  46. I spent the afternoon watching Taiwan's highspeed trains pass by this rural area in Miaoli County every few minutes on their way from Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung in the south. The trains have greatly reduced intercity air traffic; they are a pleasure to ride in comparison. The thing is, high fixed cost infrastructure, like rail and many other such things, require government subsidy if they are to run effeciently. If they break even, something is wrong; this is simple economics (marginal cost pricing). Taiwan, unlike the US, has the wealth and the political savy to make this work. The US has lost its way politically. Unless the political situation improves, it will lose its wealth, too.

  47. #1 Jackson wrote: For many years, we had the most extensive rail system any country has enjoyed. It was all paid for by private companies and not only cost government nothing, it directly contributed to local tax bases.

    #1 Jackson forgot: America's railroads were built on government land grants. Cornelius Vanderbilt and other railroad Robber Barons would not have invested in railroads had it not been for land grants and other forms of governmental assistance.

    America needs a world-class, high-speed rail system. We will never have one unless the government helps us create it.

  48. Mass transit is not an oxymoron. It does require mass, which we in Central Florida lack. As a frequent automobile commuter - and an occasional Amtrak rider - between Orlando and Tampa, I can tell you there is little demand for what would effectively be medium speed rail between the two relatively close regions (Central Florida and Tampa Bay). Both areas are quite sprawled, and both lack adequate local transit. Portal to portal, driving, especially with passengers, makes the most sense, notwithstanding a rise in gas prices.

    Further lessening the appeal of Central Florida rail - SunRail (commuter rail) and HSR - is that both projects were shovel-ready in the sense that r/w is in place for both. Problem? Neither r/w is conducive to the intended adaptation; SunRail is planned on a shared freight line and HSR had too many curves (and planned stops).

  49. If we really want to show the advantage of rail and high speed rail, let's first off improve the Northeast corridor tracks and trains. On a good day with little traffic (Sunday mornings are good) I can drive into Manhattan from where I live in about 45 minutes. The train takes over an hour, the ride is horrible and despite the fact that Connecticut has ordered new cars to replace the 30+ year old Metro North cars, I have yet to ride on one. The trains into Manhattan are a vital link for employment in the tri-state area and their condition needs to be seriously addressed.

    I wish that everyone had the chance to take Amtrack down the Northeast corridor past Washington DC. Once you get beyond the beltway the ride is down right scary. There are bridges that go over wetlands that are in such disrepair that you wonder how they have even stood up, let alone have trains going over them every day. And yes the train was full most of the way on my trip both down and back. We really need to tackle the disrepair of our current train system and pair them up with high speed rail.

    Anyone who has traveled and has had an opportunity to travel regular rail in European countries, or high speed in Japan or China, knows how far behind we are. It is a disgrace.

    Americans would switch to rail in droves, if for no other reason than to avoid having to endure the pat downs of the TSA, if our trains were clean, fast and as efficient as those found in many other parts of the world.

  50. Why is the discussion now about spending more government money on trains when just two years ago the government passed an $800 billion stimulus which was supposed to be used in large part for infrastructure? If trains are such a good thing to spend government funds on then take some of the stimulus money and spend it on trains.

  51. "Let Americans drive their cars. They foot the bill."

    In fact, American drivers don't directly foot the bill. The American car-based transportation system is the most highly-subsidized form of transportation in the country. It is subsidized at a level many magnitudes higher than rail, bus or any other form of public transportation. If Americans directly paid all the costs of driving, they'd be clamoring for the construction of high-speed rail.

    In a true apples-to-apples cost comparison, rail would beat driving every time.

  52. It wasn't 'Yes He Can', it was 'Yes We Can', and the we part we have fallen down on, and the right is driving the bus.

  53. I agree that the money for high-speed rail is harebrained. Obama will use any excuse to spend us into debt. With the budget agreement, he has now shown that he can grow in office and should be applauded by the NY Times.

  54. In fact, Governor Scott's rejection of the federal grant was spot on! When delays for purchasing tickets, parking and waiting for the train were considered, the proposed Tampa-Orlando route was too short to be a time-saver. The Times could argue the project's need as a job-creator, but as a money-maker, never.

  55. Well, what did ya expect? Did ya think O. went to the
    $37,000 a plate Presidio Heights Facebook dinner in a high speed train?
    No! He went in a limo, dummy, just like the Koch brothers who attended
    under assumed names!

  56. The bullet trains that work well in Europe and Japan, don't in the USA. Because we are a different size and have different demographics.

    We need a different kind of high speed train, a non-stop express, that nevertheless services our dispersed population at local stops. That combination is possible. Consider this web site: http://xellex.freehomepage.com/Rail/

    http://xellex.freehomepage.com/Rail/

  57. This is where the Times loses me. Fine, take a cheap shot at Christie. But the point is that there's a big difference between $570 M (with a NJ contribution of $150 M) and $3 BILLION (which will likely balloon to billions more). What you're saying is something along the lines of,'we can barely afford a used car to get to work; but we SHOULD buy a brand new car with GPS, every conceivable airbag, etc., even if it is many times the price. And since we can't do that, we won't do anything and not go to work at all.' Very smart.

  58. High speed trains are fantastic! I recently traveled on a French TGV train from Geneva to Paris. It took less than three hours for about a 300 miles trip. Tickets cost less than $100 for a round trip. Just think about it, a similar train between Washington DC and NYC would had been 2 hours 30 minutes. I think once you travel on European high speed trains you realize how terrible is Amtrak service. Other countries have great high speed trains too, especially Japan and now China.

  59. "Hairbrained" isnt quite the word. I can think of many others. "Moronic" comes to mind almost immediately.

    But what I find utterly fascinating is that the amount of money we're talking about here is roughly the equivalent of, what, a few days' war in the Middle East. You have to admit: the government sure likes to keep its priorities classy.

  60. First step- Northeast Corridor. get it done. once that is running at reasonable speed the rest of the country will be clamoring for their fast trains. Cut some pork from the Navy if necessary.

  61. It's worth noting that each billion dollars spent on rail is equivalent to just a couple of days of any of our three current wars.

    Instead of modernizing our transportation infrastructure and, in the course of doing so, providing non-exportable jobs for Americans, our government, whether in Republican or Democratic hands, seems hell-bent on spending billions of dollars each week on wars for oil or oil pipelines.

    Yet a fully modern high-speed rail system coupled with efficient and comprehensive rail and bus transit systems in all our major cities would go a long way toward eliminating the need for Middle Eastern oil.

    It's sickening to think of the money and thousands of lives wasted on cynically conceived resource wars, when the same money could have modernized our rail system and provided up-to-date mass transit for every major American city.

    Our government officials should be ashamed of themselves for listening to the oil industry and auto industry shills who claim that "trains are 19th century technology" (so are cars, by the way) and that "no one in Europe rides trains except American tourists." They must be seriously arithmetic-challenged if they don't notice that Amtrak's paltry subsidy is equivalent to less than a week of any of the three wars.

    While our politicians dither and listen to the lobbyists, countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, and get this, Vietnam, are either building or planning high-speed rail systems.

  62. In the relatively short history of this country, during times of economic troubles, we have built our way out of them. Prime example of that is the Hoover Dam as well of the millions of roads of highways throughout this country.

    Infrastructure needs to be not only maintained but improved, built upon - we need to seize this troubling moment in time to build something better than what we have in place now. It doesn't make sense not to, it just doesn't. Our infrastructure is already decades behind the rest of the free worlds, most of our airports have been behind times for decades now never mind our trains. How is it that we don't have a fast train, seriously, how is it?

    The foolishness, the illogical statements from congress persons who probably should never have been elected along with the shortsightedness of Congress in general damns this nation.

  63. Governor Christie cancelled the project, to the outrage of the limousine liberals at the TImes, because to get the undoubtedly useful tunnel, he would have had to write a blank check on the New Jersey treasury. As states cannot run a deficit, he did the right thing.

    The problem with high speed rail is that it is great in Europe, where cities, rebuilt in 1946, were planned for easy rail connections. While the Times mentions Brazil and Russia, the Times should note that they each have a heavily traveled city pair, and few people who drive cars. In the US, we are not set up that way. Without a rental car on each end of the rail journey, you probably aren't getting very far.

  64. #21....wow...hail comrade! Good socialist speak there...Hugo Chavez would be proud...

  65. Incremental improvements to existing heavily used rail lines is a good idea. High speed rail on anything but a handful of heavily used corridors is a pipe dream, good only for wasting huge amounts of money. Much better to invest in our deteriorating roads and bridges.

  66. This is yet another example of the myopic views of the editorial board of the Times which is motivated by political vendettas. Christie rightly turned down a multi-billion dollar project which put NJ on the hook for all overruns, which we know are inevitable in these projects. Accepting a mere fraction of the cost for a specific project, and adding state money, is fiscally responsible and advances the transportation interests of the state. If $3 bl plus of NJ's money had gone to the Hudson River project, and a penny was diverted from education or a social program, the Times would be back howling at Christie.
    Similarly, Walker refused to commit state money to the Wisconsin boondoggle, but agreed to a lower cost, limited plan later. But because it was the reviled Walker, he is castigated. Does anyone still wonder why few read this newspaper anymore?

  67. I just rode the Wuhan-Guangzhou bullet train, taking me from the center of China to the coast in about three hours.

    What China has been up to since the 2008 financial panic is amazing.

    When friends there ask me why our trains are so slow I feebly offered the excuse we have no money. They of course burst out in laughter.

    We eventually will get bullet trains and China will pull the way.

  68. This century will see the end of commercial air travel, and the end of long-distance trucking. That leaves rail and water transport to feed most people. High speed rail now, or widespread famine soon, when diesel goes over $10/gallon.

  69. If Obama proposed funding for unicorn research, the Times would protest the Republicans for not getting four square behind the "plan." The Times would claim that not getting behind unicorn research would cause seniors to die, not allow children to be educated, and would block teen age girls from "proper family planning" and thus cause millions of "unwanted" pregnancies.

  70. High speed rail? Yes. But not the harebrained schemes that the Feds have proposed. An incredible short-sightedness and waste of money. Right of ways - we have them already in many instances. They are called the Interstate highway system that our trains could parallel. (See http://www.jhcrawford.com/energy/interstaterail.html for one man's vision of an Interstate Rail System) High speed rail? How about high speed MAGLEV? Why should we be a follower when we can be a technological leader and develop exportable MAGLEV product? Finally, if we are going to have high speed rail, we simply cannot stop at every little town as Amtrak now does just because that town is in a politician's district. Those of you who have taken a trip on Amtrak know what I am speaking of. For high speed rail to be economically viable, it must run from urban area to urban area of a significant mileage leg. But alas, I fear the political will to significantly improve most our infrastructure is gone in Washington as long as big corporate money continues to "buy our elected government". Imagine if today's political environment were prevalent when John Kennedy said, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard." We would still be bickering over the color of the rocket.

  71. It's unfortunate that our 'leaders' and several of your readers have such defective memories - in the beginning the railroads, subways and busses were all privately owned and the majority ended up bankrupt, forcing the various governments to operate them. Think of the New Haven and Penn Central railroads. Think of the IND and IRT subways.

  72. Obama's brain:

    Highspeedrail.Highspeedrail.Highspeedrail.Highspeedrecovery.Highspeedrecovery.Highspeedrecovery.Highspeedreelection.Highspeedreelection.Highspeedreelection.

    I wish we had a serious President.

  73. You seem to miss the point that Christie cancelled the train deal because it would be filled with overruns and cause a big tax burden on NJ. Why did not NY step up to the plate and assume a big portion of the cost? Christie did not say we did not need the service. He said we could not afford it. He was correct. You are not!

  74. High speed rail trains are very expensive national amusement park rides.

  75. I am a supporter of high speed rail. I am definitely not a fan of Governor Rick Scott. But I have to agree with him on rejecting funds for a high speed train from Orlando to Tampa. The experience of TriRail in the southeast part of the state indicates that people are hesitant to use trains for relatively short distances (although TriRail shoots itself in the foot by not allowing purchase of tickets except on the day of travel, not allowing on-board ticket purchase, and ending its service at about 9:00 p.m.). In FL, we need a high speed train that goes from the west coast to the east coast, not just half that distance as the Orlando-Tampa train would have done and we do already have AmTrak service, which goes faster than driving (and very inexpensively) from Miami to Tampa.

  76. We're being railroaded into the third world because we have too short term a focus and cannot see the benefits further down the track. Do the math people. If 200 people take a train from DC to NYC that's how much less pollution, road congestion and so on? Another 200 going back for the return trip? And several round-trips per day? Gee, what a concept.

  77. Once Boeing brings out the new generation of aircraft using HALF the fuel of today's planes, the train talk will cease. Almost all high speeds bleed money. We have the airports, airspace takes no maintenance, and its faster and cleaner. Why should we be like them?

  78. Simply improving current Amtrack service would be doing a lot - even if it's not high speed

  79. Acela tickets are prohibitively expensive for most people.

  80. I am as liberal as anyone I know and despise Florida Governor Rick Scott. However, his decision on the Tampa Orlando high speed rail line was correct. It was a poorly selected project and only chosen because it was short and could be completed in time for the politicians to take their bows while still in office. It would have been used far less than projections. If you now anything about Florida, there is minimal public transportation. So, you mihgt have considered how might this line be used by the average person who currently drives. It less than a 90 minute drive. The high speed rail trip would have been around an hour. BUT then how would you get around where you were going? Bus. Cut it out. Try finding a bus in Florida or having to make a connection. It will take 1/2 day. So your wonderful project might save 1/2 hour on the drive but create all sorts of transportation problems at each end. A more successful project could have been from Miami to Orlando which eventually could have been extended to Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tallahassee and then Atlanta. But dump politics pursued a foolish plan and was correctly canceled by Scott. If he could only use common sense in the rest of his decisions.

  81. The whole idea of high speed rail is nice but the way the plan was executed was a joke. THe one area of the country that would benefit tremendously would be the Northeast Corridor but that was not where most of the money was going. Money was going to an unneeded line in Cailfornia, while it was still cheaper to fly on Southwest and a Tampa/Orlando connection which would have been a bigger waste since the bridge to nowhere. And the snide comment on Gov. Christie was a waste as his call to eliminate that tunnel was the right call since NYC was contributing nothing to it and the amount of benefit to NJ was minimal and the stop underneath Penn was so far down that you were two steps from Hell. It makes more sense to extend 7 train to NJ or build the freight tunnel which the Port Authority has been promising for decades.

  82. This issue is very simple. Is our passenger rail system a domestic security priority? If it isn't it ought to be. Passenger trains are state sponsored in the western world. Why not let the government sponsor them here? Do you want to build bombs to send to Libya or do you want to use the money to build the rail system in the US. Passenger rail system needs to upgraded to a priority in our domestic security system.

  83. Let's agree to build a maglev bullet train between the distances that now only air travel can satisfy most of us. For example, build a maglev train from Boston to Miami, with a couple of stops along the way. Build another between New York and SanFrancisco, and New York and LA. Those trips will take about 15-20 hours, but at least we won't have to sit cramped into tiny seats, and get nothing to eat on the way. We can pay extra to have our cars travel on the train as well, as now many people do on regular trains. Let private investors provide the money to do this, and many will come up with it to get it started, as it will be a real money maker. Let us all get cards identifying us as loyal taxpaying citizens, and use TSA to select out suspicious looking foreign borns, who look like they are hell-bent on blowing up the rail cars. Not only will it provide comfort so lacking in planes, but with dining cars, we can even get something worthwhile to eat, or bring aboard our own sandwiches or Coleman Coolers for food and drinks. We are, as all commenters have stated way behind this new technological development, and it high time we caught up with countries that we got used to thinking of as "third world", which is where we ourselves are headed unless we change course.

  84. The only thing "mindless" about this issue, is the writers lack of common sense. WE HAVE NO MONEY!! Add to that, we are spending $0.41 of every dollar to support our debt, and frivolity needs to go out the window. But the icing on the intellectual cake is first that public transportation has historically been a drain on the coffers of government, topped with the fact that after the project is complete, it is up to state dollars to support from there.
    I expect more out of the NY Times - EDITOR? Where are you??

  85. Come on folks. You can't really expect conservatives to be forward thinking people. It runs against their nature. Why build high speed rail when they could spend that money on another multi billion aircraft carrier we don't need, or another war. Spending money on infrastructure instead of military hardware may just make us look weak to all those enemies they see under every bush. Besides, too many republicans own stock in airline companies and that may hurt their income.

  86. Americans can always visit Japan, and ride on the world's greatest railway system there -- efficient, clean, perfectly on time, affordable and convenient to all members of society. It's the kind of rail system that Americans do not want, do not deserve, cannot build, and never will construct.

    That's OK. Just raise a big foam pointy finger and shout "We're Number One!"

  87. Anyone involved in this decision has obviously never been on Amtrak. Even the Acela is slow compared to the bullet trains in Europe and elsewhere. From New York the Acela gets into Washington D.C. only about 15 or 20 minutes earlier than the regular commuter train. To me that is not worth the higher cost of the ticket. Given that the price of gas is now about $4.00 a gallon, and could easily be $5.00 by summer, you'd think that the government would want to invest in a faster train network. But of course, there is no money for infrastructure of any kind, and heaven forbid, we raise taxes on the wealthy.

  88. is this a joke--high speed is a flop in the usa

  89. @ 20 If the sources of revenue (or lack thereof) are not brought under control and and start paying taxes, the country will have no future and the Chinese can build the rail improvements after they take over.

    And ironically, dirt-cheap, post-apocalyse American labor will be the ones laying the track this time around under the watchful eyes of Chinese foremen and women.

  90. We don't need to spend rail money on a 100 mile commute that doesn't have any passengers because the end point requires a car, but we do need to provide an alternative to airplanes for destination cities like Orlando and Miami, Phoenix and Tucson, San Diego / LA, and San Fran, Portland and Seattle, Reno and Salt Lake City, Houston and Dallas, St Louis and Nashville, New Orleans / Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Chicago/ Indianapolis/Louisville/Nashville/Birmingham/Tallahassee/and around the Gulf about along I275 from Tampa south, Cleveland/Columbus/Cincinnati/Lexington/Knoxville/Atlanta/Jacksonville and on down the florida Seaboard, . These lines already exist in the east and have for years, but the lines have been dropped in the interior of our country and the poorly functional Amtrak with its click/clack rails and two day travel times bode poorly for any national rail to allow our citizens to travel quickly on the ground. These lines are the US dream of a vacation and travel to see our great country.

  91. Let Wall Street pay for the high speed rail system. Tax every one of 'em at 90 percent rates for the rest of their lives if they received any federal money for bonuses in the last couple years.

  92. This shows how truly dumb our politicians are today, or, perhaps, they have bought into the neo-populist theory that too much intellect is a bad thing.

  93. I have had numerous conversations with a friend of mine on issues such as high speed rail among other things pertaining to this country. I love my country but I left two years ago to simply live in the present and the future. My friend is not far behind..

  94. I don't understand your objection to funding California High Speed Rail. The project is already under construction, with work progressing on an initial segment in the central valley. The additional funding will extend the work zone both north, and south, of this initial segment. The work zone is part of the backbone of the planned system. The segments into the bay area, into Los Angeles, and on to Sacramento, haven't been started yet.

    I say, get on with it! The last thing high speed rail needs is an uncompleted project on the west coast.

  95. The fear is that if we invest the money it takes to build high speed rail systems the people won't come; this is baloney any way you slice it! Having traveled and marveled at the rail systems of Europe I am amazed that we have not begun investing in this attractive alternative to travel.

    On more than one occasion he Euro Star whisked me from downtown London to downtown Paris in three hours flat. We zipped along over the countryside at something like 185 m.p.h. in complete comfort and safety. It was just a short and inexpensive taxi ride to my centrally located hotel in Paris. While in both of these great cities one is able to get around easily on a great interconnected network of underground trains. And that's the secret to their success: They have built seamless systems that deliver passengers with speed and convenience to their various destinations.

    Why we don't stop funding our unwanted and unappreciated presence in Afghanistan is beyond comprehension. Oh, they do appreciate the suitcases full of money we lavish on their leader, but then he turns around and thumbs his nose at us for our stupidity. For this we want to continue to let brave American soldiers die?

    Let us instead lavish the same money on putting Americans back to work at building a well planned network of high speed rail; plus, repairing our aging infrastructure. Of course this all makes too much sense for Republicans who control the purse strings in the House of Representatives. Fools, knaves, and nincompoops, the lot of them.

  96. It's what happens when we have a government run by ideologues. Facts aren't required, use your"gut" to make decisions, and cater to the published party line. We should have the political debate in the off season. It seems so superfluous to our current challenges. Right now we need adults who have information, and experience, to resolve our big issues. The tea party, republicans and democrats are not helping.

  97. Ah, yes Washington, spend billions on increasing the speed of Acela trains on the Northeast Corridor but not a dime to Republican Governor Christie for the Portal Bridge at the Hackensack River where the Acela will have to wait out all the time saved with the speed increase from 135 mph to 160 mph, a mere 25 miles per hour or less than fifteen minutes. Without replacing the Portal Bridge, the Acela train may not be able to decrease its travel time from Washington to New York AT ALL. The same result as the Washington-proposed high speed train from Tampa to Orlando where the travel time gained from a high speed train is lost in getting to and from the remote train terminals to the centers of commerce in both cities.
    Mindless, hip-shot statements from the Federal Administration are the result of the massive inexperience in Washington today. On-the-job training for the seriously responsible positions in our government has been demonstrated to not work over the last two years. Perhaps we may only have to tolerate, this with less damage, over the next two years, God willing.

  98. "Some would go to signal, electrical and track improvements to boost the Acela’s speed from 135 miles per hour to 160 m.p.h. in a long stretch between Philadelphia and New York City."

    The mid-west has long been called "flyover country." With upgrades to high-speed rail, New Jersey can become "rollover country."

  99. I cannot believe anyone traveling from Boston to NYC or back would choose to drive rather than taking the train. Parking in both cities is very expensive. Traffic is appalling. The train is comfortable and places you in the center of the city, easy to walk, use the subway or take a taxi. DC is the same.

  100. So, we're collecting the wages of our lobby-centric short-sighted opposition to anything proposed by Obama for no better reason is that he is the reviled figure mischaracterized on so many fronts.

    As for the question, "How do we get around once we reach our destinations?" I wonder if anybody has thought of robust local public transit? Or publicly-rented bicycles? Or zip cars? Or (heaven forbid), walking? Owning personal cars is very expensive, not only for the owner but also to the the atmospheric and health environments that must sustain them.

  101. High speed rail is the dumbest idea since blending of ethanol into gasoline. That has turned out great, with food prices skyrocketing and potential famine in other countries. What a waste of money. And in case you haven't noticed, WE ARE BROKE! Please get a grip on reality.

  102. Now that Airlines are offering the sun roof option, and the fact that they burn a tremendous amount of fuel which they deposit in the exact place we do not need it, you would think these ludites would get the picture. But no, pandering to the extreme right or perhaps not so extreme right takes priority, after all they are just trying to get elected not spending your money.And don't airlines go broke on a rather regular schedule, even though they do not seem to run on schedule, very often.

    Lary Waldman
    Qualicum Beach

  103. Gov. Christie has a vision for the future -- we get a feel for it as we sit in cars burning gasoline in traffic jams.

  104. Thursday, April 21, 2011
    Imagine....the author of a book tilted, “The Audacity of Hope”, marginalizing or offering disparaging comments on a written proposal / plan offered by the GOP to reduce the national dept, when in fact; his administration and party have offered little in the way of any clarity or written proposal to reduce the national debt of $14 trillion dollars and growing daily like a killer virus out of control.
    Imagine the audacity of a fellow who speaks of being courageous, when in fact he has proven to be a procrastinator of defying proportions, who has demonstrated his heavy hand for spending and his radical plans for this country.
    If it were not so tragic, it would all be amusing to observe and listen to the hypocritical rhetoric parting his lips, while parsing words of sly endearments and blatant ridicule, all dripping with mendacity in the same breath. Ain’t life grand in Pixie Hollow? WFR

  105. The Republicans know the cost of everything but not its value.

  106. How are people expected to get around once they reach the end destination of these trains? Rail is a fantastic idea, but local traffic and travel accounts for such a higher amount of travel. Cities and towns need to be the ones implementing these modes of transit, not regions. The Northeast corridor would absolutely benefit from a new rail system, but how many people care to take trains down to LA, or Cincinnati, only to need their car once they arrive?

  107. You forgot Spain on your list of countries with HSR. Also Taiwan. Look up a comparison between how Taiwan handled their project with Mainland China. It looks like Taiwan did it better.

  108. It seems to me that the price incentives need to be right for high-speed rail to work. There was talk of a Champaign-Chicago hi-speed rail link. That's a 10 gallon gasoline round-trip ... about $40.00. Will I be able to take a family of four from Champaign to Chicago by rail for $10 per person round trip? That's a LOT cheaper than current Amtrak fares! So it appears that making hi-speed rail popular would also require disincentives for the use of automobiles. Maybe not quite so easy.

  109. Dear America,

    Of course investment in infrastructure may make sense in the long haul, but we only think in terms of short term personal gain, not in terms of trivialities like the common good. Expect further declines in national standing and overall economic health.

    Sincerely,

    The Plutocracy

  110. Pick one corridor and make it work. Then worry about getting high speed all over the place.

  111. We will be forced to build high-speed rail everywhere soon enough because jet fuel is rapidly becoming too expensive to waste on the frequent takeoffs and landings of flights under 500 miles. For now the Northeast corridor is indeed the best place to invest the available funds. Washington-New York-Boston needs true world class 200 MPH rail service.

  112. Is this a joke? Do you know what the single biggest roadblock to this is? The EPA. The NYT's plays the shell game daily with their mindless editorials. Yesterday it was save the environment, today destroy for High Speed Rail.

    The reason the Northeast Corridor has no new rails for ACELA is the wetlands issues along the shoreline. People are more concerned with their nesting pairs than rapid transit.

    Until the EPA and their left wing promoters get out of the way there is no progress in this country. The California issue is putting rails across earthquake fractures and then sending trains with a thousand riders across them. Al Gore and his Faux Green Army must be stopped before rail goes anywhere.

  113. If it were up to the Republicans we would still be living in caves. Who would have had the foresite to start using fire?

  114. The missing corridor that has kept the South poor is from Savannah, Georgia to Seattle-Tacoma, Washington. The Panama Canal is no substitute for a people mover to connect up the Southeast with the Northwest. It may be hard for a president from Chicago to give up some trade route traffic, but for the good of the country he should make this a priority.

  115. Not sure what world the NYT editorial writers inhabit, but its not this one for sure. High speed rail is only cost effective in areas that have major population centers on a straightline trajectory. Namely, the Northeast corridor and possibly California's proposed rail line. Everywhere else, investment of such huge sums will just mean underutilized lines that have to be propped up by taxpayers in perpetuity. The NYT also ignores the fact that if you use high speed rail to connect cities, you have to have mass transit in those cities as well. The Orlando to Tampa line is a perfect example. Neither city has the necessary mass transit infrastructure and thus you are stuck having to rent a car once you get there. This means that people will just drive instead of taking the money-pit rail line. NYT, please come back to reality.

  116. While high-speed rail has been the target of irrational Tea Party whackos who haven't yet cottoned on to the fact that our addiction to commuting in personal automobiles enables despots and terrorists, high-speed rail hasn't exactly been advanced by the incompentency of its advocates. For example, the first rail line since the 60s went east from Nashville to a former farming town where Dell located an assembly facility, rather than south to subrurbs full of Yankee colonists used to riding trains. Furthermore, it skipped the airport entirely even though Interstate 40 adjoins the airport, and airport service would have facilitated use of the rail by both locals from downtown flying out and visitors flying in.

    Rail service simply cannot gain public acceptance if established in unsatisfying increments.

  117. Our Republican-led downhill slide continues. I am so sorry for and ashamed of this country.

  118. The only place that high speed rail makes sense is between Washington, New York, and perhaps Boston. To accomplish this, one would have to build and an entirely new right of way with fewer curves and no grade crossings in the most densely populated part of the country. The opposition to this construction is easily imagined.

    The US no longer has the residential patterns of Europe and Japan where one lives in a village centered on the rail station where one boards to go to the big city for shopping or employment. Urban residents today often have no other choice than to take buses to suburban malls. Even in this area, residents of Westchester County are more likely to work there than in New York City. The dispersal of business to the suburbs has made mass transit in general rather impractical. One is more likely to travel from one suburb to another than to a city.

    Passenger railroads and most of the subways may have been originally built by private companies, but one will note that they all went bust. I doubt very much that any corporation would take on the operation of transit with a thought of showing a profit.

  119. Just another indication of how dysfunctional our country has become. And that's because of our corrupted political system. Until it gets a major overhaul, nothing will change for the good, and America's best days will continue to be behind us..

  120. A recent trip to Europe convinced me of the merit and beauty of rail travel. We traveled from England to Paris, then Amsterdam, then Munich, and finally Berlin, all by rail. Npt only were we able to ENJOY the travel, we avoided the lines, the pat-downs, the shuffle to and from airport, and possible lost luggage. Although I am in Kansas and will likely NEVER see high-speed rail in the plains, I heartily recommend it to push our country into the 21st century.

  121. What is forgotten is that the US is not any of these other countries. We already have a large investment in air travel and don't need any high speed trains at this time. We can avoid travel for business in many ways and should do so. High speed trains are just money thrown away. Invest in improvment of our road systems to reduce congestion.

    Perhaps in the future better trains that avoid the current issues of track and high spending will be an alternative, but not any time soon.

  122. I had so hoped to see some technological improvements to the infrastructure in this country during my lifetime. All we have is crumbling roads and poor planning. It is depressing. Mass transit of quality and speed would be so good for business in this country. This is just depressing news. High speed rail was the only thing to look forward to. Especially with an aging population this would have been great. People could continue to travel with greater ease at less cost. More bad politics in the stupid USA. Looks like our 20th century success was nothing more than good luck. We took advantage of bad decisions by other nations. Now we are those bad decision makers, paying the price every day.


  123. The biggest question about high speed rail systems is the accuracy of government usage estimates and cost estimates. Our Federal Government treats numbers like some sort of entertainment wish list and virtually never is within any correct ideas of cost or practicality. As another writer stated, let private industry figure out if these plans are reality based and make the business decision to go or no go. The government will never get it right. Railroads were great when privately run, but they fell behind when Americans grew prosperous enough to afford a more private, personal travel. You can get from D C to Boston fairly simply by rail, but try to catch a train to Beecher Falls, Vt. Even if one wished to build a high speed rail system to northern Vermont or New Hampshire for the 6 people a day , they would spen a hundred years dealing with the tree huggers and Loon lovers to get permission. I think our transportation systems are pretty well set until the Chinese change them once they own the US.

  124. You have got to be nuts. Except in the DC/NYC linkage, there is no ridership to support this investment. In the best of cases, high speed rail will cost $3-5 million a mile. Talk to me again when the Federal Gov't provides no subsidies for passenger trains.