Thursday, February 4, 2010

Take the A Train

So, Ohio's getting 400 million dollars from the federal kitty to start this Cincy to Cleveburg rail thingy (I love how the Governor calls it "a major step toward modernizing our state’s transportation infrastructure" like trains are more modern than cars or something. Like Streetcars are a step into the future in Cincinnati, right?).

So, allow me to ask a fairly long convoluted, leading question: if my country and state has spent and spends gajillions on the highways that allow me to drive to and from Cincinnati to Cleveland starting my trips any time I would like (530 mi. round trip) in about 9 hours (round trip) at a gas cost of about $50.88 (530mi @ 25mpg X $2.40 a gal), why, pray tell, would I ride a train that only leaves 4 times a day for $76.00 (round trip) that takes 12 hours (round trip) and that will cost my country and state additional (although admittedly fewer, but additional nonetheless) gajillions?

I'm just askin'.

Now don't think I haven't thought this through. I know that there will be "new jobs" (only they will be even more government (union) jobs), that there will be economic development along the rail line (at stations, one of which is likely within walking distance of my work, although it won't help me get here or anywhere), blah blah blah. What the reality is is that the economic development is only a shift: what about the jobs lost along the highway corridor? Oh, sure, those jobs won't be lost, you say, people will still be driving:. How can you lose that many car passengers to the rail, based on the rosy (and way overestimated, IMHO) passenger predictions and not lose highway drivers and the $$ they spend along I-71? Will, suddenly, new people be traveling? Nope.

What about the side trips? If I'm driving to Cleveland for something, I'm more likely to head over to something else to do in that part of the state and spend money, or make a weekend of it, right? Lost internal tourism dollars.

Most folks, when making their personal travel decisions will be primarily concerned with the above calculation. I know (by the number of Smart cars) that some use environmental impact as their primary cost/benefit analysis, but that is an extreme minority. That is reality, which is where this discussion needs to take place.

Ultimately, I just think it's hilarious that the "progressives" are looking to the past and calling it looking to the future. We replaced trains with highways for a reason. Amtrak is a losing proposition for a reason (and yes, the taxpayer subsidy to them is peanuts compared to highway dollars) so why try to replicate and grow a failed model?

Remember, this will be subsidized by tax dollars, as public transportation is, I get that, but even after the subsidy it is still more expensive and time consuming than driving: what would it cost if it was run only as a free enterprise, profit-making business?

**Update*** this writer from the Plain Dealer sees the boondoggle, too.
**Update*** this video from Reason TV sees the boondoggle, too, too.

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