Monday, March 28, 2011


NOTE FROM BLOG EDITOR: The following article published in American Thinker on March 28, 2011 highlights an ongoing and even more evident problem with journalists and writers who focus on the subject of high-speed rail. The problem: They know nothing about high-speed rail (HSR) and their comments on the subject make that very clear. They are in good company. Bill O'Reilly at Fox, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Vice President Joe Biden, Congressmen and Senators, and Republican Party spokespersons don't understand it, either. Their comments make that very clear.

They don't understand that HSR isn't exemplified by traveling at slow speeds like the 150 mph example everyone uses. Why do they use it? Because Amtrak's Acela train travels 150 mph top speed (but averages only 70 mph). Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Acela train exemplifies Amtrak's experience with "high-speed rail" -- which isn't high-speed rail at all. Amtrak understands 150 mph rapid rail as exemplified by their Northeast Corridor Acela train -- and that's what they and union workers are pushing on the American people, calling it "high-speed rail."

Rapid rail and high-speed are not the same thing.

HSR travels at a minimum speed of 150 mph at and a maximum of 222 mph, averaging about 200 mph (depending on the distance between departure and destination). The author of the article below, Al Boese, does a wonderful job of calculating the per mile building costs of "high-speed rail" for a train designed to go 110 miles. If Mr. Boese understood high-speed rail, he would know that speed capacity defines what kind of rail project is being built. In this case, a rapid transit train, not high-speed rail is being built -- yet, he continues to reference the project as "high-speed rail" -- which it is not. He misses the entire story -- as have the others mentioned earlier.

The real story is that the Obama Administration is building rapid transit, not high-speed rail. The real story is that it is far less expensive to build rapid rail than to build high-speed rail. So, where's all of that extra money going? I know Obama wants to save the unions because it's the only way to save the Democrat Party, but if he destroys America's economy in the process (especially at the State level), it goes beyond ridiculous to insane. The lies -- calling rapid rail high-speed rail -- are a boondoggle and everyone seems to miss it. It's like a newspaper reporter who buries the lead! Why does the Obama Administration want to charge more to build rapid transit than it costs and justify the over-spending by calling it high-speed rail -- which it is not?

Mr. Boese is right in stating that a remote train stop isn't a daily traveler's final destination. What Mr. Boese doesn't comprehend is that there are three elements to a well-designed, national, high-speed rail system: 1) High-speed rail (owned by private investors) that carries people relatively long distances (so the train can achieve top speed of 222 mph and maintain it, thus functioning at top levels of efficiency); 2) Rapid transit (owned by each State) which picks up passengers at somewhat remote locations and, at the speed of 150 mph, carries them from a somewhat remote drop-off point to part three of the total system, (which is) 3) Light rail (owned by each city) -- which carries passengers quickly (at approximaely 50 to 70 mph) very close to their front doors.

I am always happy to see the subject of high-speed rail discussed publicly -- but would be much happier if those writing about it would do their homework so the statements they make and the assumptions they draw about whether high-speed rail will be effective are an accurate reflection of reality rather than misassumptions. Governors Walker, Scott and Kasich have it right -- and the Republican Party spokespersons don't even understand why! Editors at American Thinker usually scrutinize what writers submit more carefully... perhaps they don't know the difference, either. The suggested system design was submitted to the U.S. Government in 1995 by private investors representing a Virginia company called AmeriRail... no taxpayer dollars involved whatsoever in building the system and hands experienced with high-speed rail projects (Amtrak has no such experience) ready to build. A training program to provide jobs for veterans returning from the Middle East is part of AmeriRail's plan to build an American high-speed rail system nationally.

Finally, I get numerous emails from people who do not live in the Northeast Corridor who point out that they have no desire to fund the residential choices and transportation alternatives for people who live in the Northeast Corridor. If they need a rapid rail system, let residents of the Northeast Corridor raise funds and build it themselves. Those of us who live in what Easterners refer to as "fly-over country" really have no desire to pay transportation costs so people can work in New York City but live in Hartford, Connecticut. I understand not wanting to live in New York City, but curb your arrogance and stop asking the rest of us to pay for your lifestyle choices.

March 28, 2011

High Speed Delusion

American Thinker

March 28, 2011

Al Boese

Last Tuesday, March 22nd, saw two Obama high speed rail shills, hapless Illinois Governor Quinn and the loyal, ebullient, camera centric Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, shamelessly announcing with pride, the next phase of the so called Chicago to St Louis High Speed Rail project. The new $1.2 billion phase is to run from Bloomington, IL to Dwight IL, a distance of 58.5 miles of what could only be described as the "Billion Dollar Train to Nowhere." Folks, that amounts to a mere $20,618,556 per mile, with an estimated heart stopping speed of 110 mph. Google Map estimates driving between these destinations to be 1 hour 10 minutes. This breakthrough rail line will take only 32 minutes, assuming your actual destination in either Bloomington or Dwight is the train station itself.

A guess: a remote train stop would not be your final travel objective. Consequently one must add some time to travel to the train station at both ends of the journey to calculate total elapsed time. If you are lucky, that could add 10 or more minutes at each end, so let's say a total of 25 minutes just getting to and from the stations.

Oh yes, to avoid missing the train, careful planning requires some contingency time be built into your travel plan to account for traffic slowdowns or even a freight train. That is another 5 to10 minutes. This adds up to about 1 hr 7 minutes, really close to the Google Map estimate. Furthermore, how often is this high speed train going to run and will it actually stop at Dwight?

Driving offers infinite departure and arrival times, a significant option of convenience, not to be overlooked. As to cost, driving that distance at a full up cost of $0.58 per mile will be a total of $33.93. The California High Speed Rail operating cost estimate is $2.30 per passenger mile, which could be used in our analysis. Therefore our theoretical trip between Dwight and Bloomington will cost $134.55, about $100.00 more than a drive.

Finally, the last flaw in the project is the rail congestion from Chicago to Joliet, some 40 miles, where delays and limited speeds are the norm. Without a completely separate and dedicated track system, any passenger service is low speed between these points, irrespective of the condition of the track or the rated speed of the locomotion equipment. In other words, this project is a sham and deceitful.

There is one other and troubling aspect of this mystical and politically correct new transportation system: it costs billions of dollars neither the federal government nor the State of Illinois has to spend. All known and available funds are committed to spending for current and future needs and obligations. Since no private investment is even a remote possibility without government guarantees, this becomes yet another state and federal supported obligation on top of the already unsustainable commitments we are facing. It is time to recognize the futility of it all and cease the insanity of universal High Speed Passenger Rail.

High speed passenger rail, and I mean high speed at 150 + mph is desirable and in substantial use in such dense geography as the northeast corridor between Boston, Connecticut New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. With all due respect to St Louis, is there that much demand to go there, or anywhere in between? The same can be said for Detroit or Minneapolis, more Obama targets for high speed rail, in addition to the Orlando-Tampa FL route and the favorite, LA to the SF Bay Area.

Make no mistake, rail is ideally suited, and the mode of choice, for moving freight long distances. The Association of American Railroads states that the average freight train can move one ton of cargo 480 miles on one gallon of fuel, and one train can carry the freight of 280 trucks. As to fuel consumption, pollution, highway congestion, safety, cost and road damage, there is no comparison, rail wins on all accounts, including delivery time. Additionally, railroads are private, taxpaying ventures, requiring no subsidies. If high speed passenger rail were so compelling, why are there no initiatives by private sector railroads to fill a demand? The simple answer: there is no economic case, therefore, no demand for high speed passenger rail in America, period.

The mystery remains; why is the current administration so obsessed with the delusion of high speed rail for America, and at staggering costs? No reasonable economic case has found the facts to support the idea. It is an inexplicable, irrational, yet passionate desire of the political left to impose high speed rail on this country. Is it Europe or Japan envy, or is the concept of freedom of choice and flexibility that the automobile and our highways offer, just too much to bear for the elite liberals and their President?

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