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Top 5 reasons why Obama's $8B high speed rail is a train wreck


1. Financially, it is a joke: the largest fast rail subsidy was awarded to California, in the amount of $2.3 billion dollars for a train to run between San Francisco and Anaheim. “A grossly conservative estimate of the actual cost is $ 42 billion dollars for the system. “Therefore, the federal government has provided less than 5.5% of the monumental funds needed to complete this travesty. “The State is expected to match federal funding, while California is on the precipice of declaring bankruptcy. The cost per trip is estimated at $50, to be funded by subsidies derived from taxes as opposed to ticket sales.(4) “At a minimum, taxpayers around the country have been fleeced for $2.3 billion dollars as selected useful idiots will get the jobs.

2. Trains in Japan and Europe differ from America because of population density. “For example, Japan has 880 people living within one square mile, 653 people in Britain per square mile, while there are an average of only 86 people populating one square mile in the U.S., as there is a far greater land mass in the U.S. “The enormous inconvenience will make this system unpopular.(5)”

3. Obama has promised that this endeavor will create many new jobs. “The truth is that most of the equipment and supplies will be outsourced to companies from France, Spain and Asia.(4) “

4. The trains will be anything but fast, most moderate speed trains will run at 110 mph, with an average of 70 mph. “California’s train will top out at 220 mph, for an average speed of 140 mph. (6)”

5. This is not an answer to the concerns of climate change alarmists as most trains will run on diesel fuel, and the electric trains aren’t much better because electricity in the U.S. is generated primarily from coal and fossil fuel.”

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Pacific John's picture
Submitted by Pacific John on

Is too coarse. As Atrios keeps pointing out, the correct measure is population density close to transportation corridors... not that CA would be all that great in that regard, but it would look much better than it does when you average in the Sierras and the Mojave Desert.

IIRC Atrios showed that *metro* CA's average population density provides the opposite conclusion, that it is quite dense relative to East Coast areas with successful mass transit systems, but that it is too evenly distributed away from corridors because of car culture. That will have to change somehow, and the only way is to build it so they'll come (to within walking distance of rails, over decades and decades).

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Wait. The "car culture" has to change? What for?

If you're concerned about pollution, we could always (re)introduce electric cars. I'm sure we could use those billions to set up charging stations if we wanted.

Pacific John's picture
Submitted by Pacific John on

I'm an engineer who started during the first wave of alternative energy. Shooting from the hip, electric will only get us so far in terms of dinofuel efficiency. We'll burn too much coal of we don't reconfigure our ideas of transportation. For long term mass and neighborhood transportation, we need to squeeze out more efficiency. The ideal for sustainable neighborhoods is bicycles. Trains are good for longer distances.

One way to grasp how out of kilter we are relative to the ideal is Ivan Illich's observation that the average American averages 3.7 miles per hour in their car (hours spent related to car travel, i.e. work, divided by miles traveled).

For most needs, a bike has far higher time efficiency than a car, not to mention that when you ride one, you get really fit, and can conveniently go 15 to 20 mph (minus the small cost of labor to be able to buy and maintain one). It's now an old concept to redesign neighborhoods so work, shopping and housing are mixed within convenient distances, and that efficient mass transportation pass through denser population corridors.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

For most needs, a bike has far higher time efficiency than a car,

Uh huh, have any links for that?

Shooting from the hip, electric will only get us so far in terms of dinofuel efficiency. We'll burn too much coal of we don't reconfigure our ideas of transportation.

Yes, electric cars will cause us to burn too much coal. Just like all those gas cars will cause us to us too much Plutonium.

Also, you do know the EV1 was capable of getting up to 150 miles/charge back in 2000, right? That sounds pretty efficient to me.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Ha, yeah, I saw that too before I posted. Didn't seem very scientific to me. Plus, it was a "calculation" done in the 70's, but thanks for letting me know where you get your information.

Submitted by lambert on

Here's the reasoning:

For example, Ivan Illich calculated that, in America in the 70's, if you add the time spent to work to earn the money to buy a car, the time spent in the car (including traffic jam), the time spent in the health care industry because of car crash, the time spent in the oil industry to fuel cars ...etc and you divide that by the number of kilometres traveled per year, you obtain the following calculation : 1600 hours per year per American divided by 10 000km per year per person equal 6 km per hour. So the real speed of a car would be about 3.7 miles per hour.

Is it wrong?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Yes, "scientific."

[I]f you add the time spent to work to earn the money to buy a car, [...]the time spent in the health care industry because of car crash, the time spent in the oil industry to fuel cars, etc.

You're kidding me, right? Did he also calculate the amount of time people spend in the hospital due to bike crashes, or the amount of time spent making the metal, rubber, etc. to produce the bike? Selling it, repairing it, etc? Hmmm, I wonder. I wonder if he even tried to compare the two, and if he applied every single category like he did with cars. ...Plus, it was done over thirty years ago.

The fact of the matter is that for anything over a mile or that requires people to carry things that weigh more than say 10 lbs. people are going to be using cars. We simply can't deindustrialize, (especially when we have the option to make things cleaner already.) If you'd like to try it, go ahead. Let me know how it goes.

Submitted by lambert on

... from bike crashes and the amount of time spent from automobile crashes are, like, totally comparable, even if usage was the same. Since bikes can travel at 100pm, weigh a couple of tons, are filled with explosive fuel.... Jeebus.

So, the agenda is even more powerful corporations and libertarianism? Let me know how that goes (although fortunately for all of us, we'll never have the chance...)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Yeah, dude, like totally. Why would you even bother to apply the same standards to both? Like, OMG.

Submitted by lambert on

You mistake form for substance. Do you really believe that crashes with cars will be as lethal as crashes with bicycles? Of course you don't. These are just time wasting debater's points.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Ah, debater's points. I've heard this term before. It seems to be when one person makes a point that the other person doesn't like answering.

To answer your speculation with speculation, do you really believe that the average speed of someone in a car is 3.7 mph? And do you believe that that's slower than on bikes? And do you really believe that bicycles are a more viable mode of transportation for the majority of Americans on the majority of tasks that they have to do than cars?

Hmmm, I wonder.

Submitted by lambert on

He says "real speed," not "average speed."

I think that the way that land use is set up, we use cars a lot more than we must or should. I don't imagine we'll be able to support the way we use cars much longer, and so I imagine that various social strategies to use them less destructively will emerge.

Submitted by Randall Kohn on

Anti-train bullshit sucks.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

To realize the money to be made in bringing back the passenger train. Sure it would take longer, but with the hassle airline travel has become, I think people would be willing to make the trade off, especially if its emphasized for comfort. Make the seats roomier, even rent private family cabins, and people could use their technology while traveling, too.

My boss travels with her husband's family every New Year, and upon her return to work half the talk is about the hassle of trying to travel in large groups. Imagine if that large family could instead rent a family cabin, with all the amenities like Satellite TV and Internet, so you could have a restful trip to your vacation spot.

I really think the market for this is there.

Submitted by lambert on

... on the trains, and decent food, they'd take a lot of business from the airlines. Think of it as a moving hotel and an office that looks out on beautiful scenery.