Wotka World Wide

Monday, March 21, 2011

Megan McArdle has some very good questions about the planned Florida and California rail projects:
[T]he idea seems to have become to build trains where it's possible to build trains, and hope that development follows. But trains succeed where they are better than some alternative form of transportation. In the case of Tampa to Orlando, they're worse than a car, and there isn't even any air travel to replace; in the case of Fresno-to-Bakersfield, it may be better than a car for a few passengers, but there are too few passengers to make the trains better than cars for the environment.

Meanwhile, projects that do make economic sense, like an actual high-speed Acela, or Southeastern High-Speed Rail Corridor, are going nowhere. They might have a better chance of success if rail advocates hadn't abandoned them in favor of building whizzy demonstration projects with dubious economic appeal.

But is it really a good demonstration project if the train doesn't have any passengers? Or if the people to whom you've demonstrated it finish their trip in Bakersfield, sans car? It seems to me that this is a very good way to demonstrate cost overruns, disappointing passenger figures, and a single-minded commitment on the part of rail advocates that defies common sense.
Not that anyone will listen to her.


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