High-Speed Rail Supporters Are Just Making Things Up
Over at the St. Louis Beacon, high-speed spending (and rail) enthusiast Rick Harnish is just flat-out misleading people to get his beloved waste-of-money concept going. Throughout the article, he keeps referring to trips between Saint Louis and Chicago taking 3, or perhaps down to 2, hours.
But the core of it is getting major cities within two or three hours of each other. So, St. Louis to Chicago within three hours — with completely new infrastructure the entire way, it’s possible you get it down under two.
But you know what? The entire project currently underway in Illinois is based on implementing a 4-hour trip each way (at best). We are spending billions to knock a little more than an hour off of the current Amtrak route, and supporters of it are intentionally downplaying that.
Later in the interview, Harnish gives a great little aside downplaying safety of cars and claiming, by insinuation, that trains are safer.
. . . if you believe that our strength and unique identity is tied to the ability to risk your life everyday in a car . . .
OK, so we risk our lives everyday in a car. Would we not risk them in a train? Now, I am not saying passenger trains are unsafe — they are indeed safe. But if you compare them to cars, there are more fatalities on passenger rail than in motor vehicles per passenger mile. According to the latest data, passenger cars have 0.9 fatalities and 83 injuries per 100 million passenger miles. Passenger rail has 2.9 fatalities and 1,226 injuries per 100 million passenger miles. So they are both safe, but let’s not pretend passenger rail is safer.
High-speed rail is to transportation policy what ethanol is to agriculture policy. They are both high-cost jokes designed to please limited constituent groups (corn farmers, unions, Keynesian economists) which would not exist if markets made these choices instead of politicians. (High-speed rail on the eastern seaboard may pass the market test, and thanks to John Combest for the link.)