We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, September 20. 2019
Tracked: Sep 21, 04:11
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Every inch of that rail was built on somebody's land the government stole. With stolen tax money.
Rail sucks. I'd rather drive or fly.
Hmm, that's an interesting point of view, a conspiracy by big oil and the auto barons to deprive good Americans of high-speed rail. I propose we build one in California then, since they hate oil so much they ban offshore drilling, and despise autos too, regulating the crap out of emissions and taxing the crap out of gasoline. Plus, with these high tax rates there should be plenty of money. It would set a great shining example for the rest of the nation.
BS! I love my car. Automobile transportation is best. So (soon?) I can take the train from Orlando to Miami. Then what? Rent a car for the week? I think not. I'll take my car with all the freedom that gives me.
Over at coyoteblog, here is a good article comparing US and Euro rail on another topic which gets to one of the real core issues - US system at this point is optimized around freight not passengers. And it’s better than Europe at that.
Love, love, the two comments above mine.
Listen to the language of the video "But some people are trying to fix that..." Not that they are taking sides. Rail was not cut out of government subsidy, as NJSoldier notes. it was the original recipient.
Rail is economical in very limited circumstances. High speed, subways, light rail, it doesn't matter. There has to be high population density right at the stations. All the blather about re-invigorating downtowns because of the boost to restaurants and shopping only works for the business within a quarter-mile of the station. Same for commuters - it only works if you can cheaply get to the station without lots of parking fees and walking in the snow.
As for longer distances, they work between single high-density stops. But everyone along the way wants the train to stop there too. The cost-per-passenger climbs rapidly with each added stop.
People love trains. They are romantic. They are part of American history. I have taken a few train rides over the last few years. To go to NYC it is sometimes the best choice - though it usually isn't and even Brooklyn is almost never worth it. They are efficient if they start right near your house and stop very near your destination. If you want to go from downtown Boston to downtown Chicago, the train is great. If you want to go just sorta near those places, the inconvenience will drive you to the airport fast.
An excellent book on the subject The Road More Traveled.
People got in while I was typing. I meant the top two comments. Though I like #3 and #4 as well.
Good points from Coyote Blog:
1)the US rail system carries a higher proportion of freight compared to Euro rail systems: ~35-40% versus ~11%.
2) There is proportionately more energy saving in transporting freight compared transporting people.
The average Amtrak passenger car apparently weighs about 65 tons (my guess is a high speed rail car weighs more). The capacity of a coach is 70-80 passengers, which at an average adult weight of 140 pounds yields a maximum passenger weight per car of 5.6 tons. This means that just 8% of the fuel in a passenger train is being used to move people -- the rest goes into moving the train itself.One more time, dumb yahoo Amis have no reason to be shamed when compared to the oh-so-enlighened Euros.
Now consider a freight train. The typical car weight 25-30 tons empty and can carry between 70 and 120 tons of cargo. This means that 70-80% of the fuel in a freight train is being used to move the cargo.
The relatively longer distances in the US compared to Europe are also another reason why rail freight in the US wins out over rail freight in Europe (time isn't as much of an issue for freight compared to rail), and why passenger rail in Europe wins out over passenger rail in the US.
Why People Don't Use Mass Transit
Europe Leads The Way
Europeans use mass transit far more than Americans because of the high population density, and dense and long-established transit systems. So how transit-friendly is Europe?
A Eurail Select Pass for five countries and ten days of rail travel is $748. That's $1500 for two people. I found a Volkswagen Passat (midsize) for ten days for $672. Toss in another $400 for gas and it's $1072. You do the math.
Having politicians in charge of funding any rail project is insanity. They divert funds from highway use to fund their pet projects from rail to bike paths to hiking paths and complain they need to raise gas taxes. It's bad enough they can screw up highway projects like the Boston Big Dig that was overpriced, underperformed and corrupt. The best solution to serve local transportation is to discontinue the federal gas tax and transfer that tax to the states to determine their own transport needs. Get the feds out of transportation and let the states and private enterprise tackle the problem.
The reason that high-speed rail never succeeded in America is that the manufacturers and operators of our commercial air fleet are so heavily subsidized. Companies like Boeing receive billions of dollars; so do airlines like Southwest. But these subsidies are kept secret, so that Congress won't be charged with political favoritism. Yes, I know. The government claims that it doesn't subsidize our aircraft manufacturers. That's a lie. You wouldn't believe how much money these companies receive. So with such a huge investment in aircraft, it's difficult to justify the additional expense of a competing form of transportation. In Japan, this has created a strange situation. The price of a rail-ticket from Tokyo to Osaka is higher than the cost of an air-ticket. So it doesn't even make sense to use the Bullet Train. Japan is also addicted to subsidies.
And then there is another issue. Everybody knows that Uber is used for getting around town. There's another company called "Blah Blah Car" blablacar.com which arranges long-distance ride sharing. But it's services are illegal in America, because it would put Greyhound out of business, and destroy future rail projects, and compete with the airlines. (So much for free enterprise.)
I doesn't matter if America gets any high speed trains. Actually, we don't need them anyway. The country is currently full of people who are constantly moving; that creates an atomized society. We need to change American culture, so that people are more happy to stay where they are. There's no reason that kids should move thousands of miles away.
Do you think that everything works by conspiracy? Is there nothing that is what it seems, or is the secret explanation always the correct one?
The reason that high-speed rail never succeeded in America is that the manufacturers and operators of our commercial air fleet are so heavily subsidized.
You might want to check into California's high speed rail to nowhere. Lots of money going into that rathole.
THE primary reason that Americans don't take passenger trains and don't loudly demand high speed rail is this: UNIONS. UNIONS have mandated that the design of every passenger train service be so designed that there are no "clean and quiet cars". NOPE we all gotta get in there with the low life and appreciate the experience. Not many people with corporate jobs and long tiring commutes are willing to spend their mornings and evenings sitting next to some yahoo with his head set blaring and his unwashed clothing stinking like crazy. BUT, it would be racist to design passenger cars that charge more for a clean environment with well designed seats and services. EUROPE does have those cars on nearly every train. People with jobs pay more money to sit comfortably and quietly and CLEANLY. Americans can't have that option because it would be racist, or something. HOWEVER, those higher priced cars charge higher rates for tickets and people will use those services and PAY for those services whenever we make them available--just like they do in Europe!!
I never said that there was a conspiracy. My only claim is that Washington is so disconnected from the electorate, that nobody knows what's really happening. You must be aware of the fact that our "trade agreements" are not open for public inspection.
Here's an old comment of mine from an article on trade deals: https://mises.org/wire/why-they-keep-trade-deals-secret The reason that the TTIP is so secret is that it is an extension of TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.) This agreement, financed by the drug cartel, has forced other countries to accept American patents and copyrights to a much greater extent. The pharmaceutical industry in the U.S. alone is worth 1.2 trillion dollars, and the worldwide the potential is much higher.
What the drug companies wish to avoid is any discussion of how strong intellectual property law should be. After all, a patent represents a government granted monopoly; which often generates very high profits. The argument is that drug companies deserve high profits to justify basic research, but that claim is made in no other industry. General Motors, for example, doesn't claim "high profits" as a moral necessity so that it can keep making cars.
At the heart of the matter is the question of what should be patentable. Most new drugs are not really new, they are an extension of what was previously known. So if patents are made overly broad (which unfortunately, they are) the result is that parts of the public domain become illegally privatized. An example is amazon's "one-click ordering" patent.
If Americans knew the extent to which intellectual property laws have been enlarged, (to include human genes) they would rebel.
I used to commute from my home in California to a job in Arizona, but only on the return trip. I would fly out to California but the timing just worked out for taking the train on the way back. I could board the train in the late afternoon, sleep all night in my Amtrak recliner, and arrive in Flagstaff refreshed and ready for work. It was cheaper, too.
"We need to change the culture."
And what do you plan on doing with the rebellious malcontents who resist being sent to the re-education camps? After all, there may be a few oddballs who can't see the perfection in your plans for the New Soviet Man.
You can take your car WITH you on the train from DC to Orlando. And that seems to be rather popular, at least by Amtrak's accounting...
is run by a fan of trains. But he also is an informed critic of passenger trains, and has many posts analyzing them.
On a passenger-mile basis, the principal problems with passengers trains are: (1) extremely high operating and capital costs, exceeding all other forms of transportation; (2) very high fuel consumption and emissions (if you care), again exceeding all other forms of transportation; and (3) route inflexibility.
No high speed train makes money, all are subsidized, and virtually no passenger train makes money. Passenger trains are justified in a few very high density cities like NYC, but not elsewhere. In fact the breakdown between travel by car, train or plane in Europe is very similar to that of the US.
High speed trains are competitive with airlines over short distances like those in Europe, but that advantage is only in travel time. Cost are much higher.
In almost every urban environment, buses are fair superior to trains in terms of cost, fuel consumption and emissions, and route flexibility.
In the Boswash corridor, intercity buses carry more passengers than does Amtrack, and at a much lower cost. If you do want to spend some money, there are luxury buses serving the routes that have amenities similar to Amtrack.
China is a special case in every way. But the rapidly growing Chinese middle class has opted for cars over trains.
Trains make sense for freight, not passengers, which is how we used them. We actually have the most efficient train system in the world.
Silly people, come the green revolution travel will be outlawed and the need for high-speed rail will be obviated. Just the regular cattle cars will suffice for moving the climate deniers to the Glorious Victory Funtime camps. It's not like they'll be needed to move cattle since cattle will be outlawed the same as travel.
Time and convenience. (Thats PERIOD) If you could compare flying and rail for multi hundred mile trips maybe rail could work. However for daily trips the car beats all whether personal or public hire. A brief case with a sack lunch is manageable 5 bags of groceries or a dozen christmas presents are not.
My father, now 90 and very much of sound mind, still talks about the time this country was crisscrossed by a network of passenger trains running at 90-100 mph, most of them still hauled by steam, and a lot of them in dark territory (that is, lines without block signals). In those days, over 10,000 people per night checked in to a hotel called the Pullman Company, operator of most, but by no means all, of the overnight sleeping cars on this system. They did this as privately operated companies, heavily taxed and arbitrarily regulated, securing their funding at market rates.
Let that sink in.
I've heard a lot of flimsy excuses and cherrypicked data over the years, from both the left and the right, as to why this system naturally met its demise. I've also spent most of my lifetime studying the policy trail behind it, and have found a much different story. I could recount this in some detail, but I've found there are few that want to hear it, primarily because all sides have dirty hands, and this doesn't comport with the spirts-team politics of our time.
The primary reason highway modes appear to be so much cheaper is that the Federal program has transferred all cost centers that can't turn a profit to the public sector, buried in a myriad of stovepiped programs that make accounting for costs exceptionally difficult for all but the most determined investigator. Despite that, and by the Feds' own published data, the highway program hasn't paid for itself out of Trust Fund revenues except for about five years in the late-'50s/early-'60s.
Congress has been overspending the Trust Fund by as much as 25% since at least the mid-'70s, the earlier data being unavailable. I recall being told by a senior policy official at FHWA, back during 41's administration, that they knew they were building inadequate infrastructure back in the mid-'50s, due to the anticipated increases in truck size and weight limits, but that the couldn't sell a program at the necessary level of spending.
Comparing costs of bus and rail is about the same as comparing apples and lag bolts. The accounting simply isn't comparable the way it's been done for the past several decades. When you do, you see very different results. The reason American freight railroads rebounded the way they have is because two truckers, J B Hunt and UPS, spent the late-'80s dragging the railroad's and Congress into the 20th century. A lot of them went kicking and screaming tntil several steamship operators got in on the act.
We're on the verge of seeing the same thing on the passenger side. Meanwhile, what neither the right nor the left have been willing to explain to me is why they engaged in a series of policy decisions, beginning early in the last century and culminating in 1971, that systematically destroyed a century and a quarter of private investment in what had been the very best passenger transportation system in the world.
And they wonder why so many of them were turned out on their busts back in 2016 ...
The rails were built with government gifts of land to companies. They weren't free market. You started your story in the middle.