A Sweepstakes and a Downpayment

The daily roll-out of the “stimulus” spending is beginning to feel like a joke. One day, we’re hearing about a “sweepstakes”:

For nearly a year, city officials have been planning the 66th police training academy, intent on keeping up the size of the police force as the crime rate increased.
But the city’s fiscal crisis has overwhelmed that plan, and the academy has been put off indefinitely. Police Chief Dean M. Esserman is now jumping into President Obama’s $4-billion stimulus sweepstakes for law enforcement, eager to win a grant to hire the novice officers who would graduate.

The next it’s yet another “down payment”:

President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined plans for a high-speed rail network he said would change the way Americans travel, drawing comparisons to the 1950s creation of the interstate highway system.
Obama was careful to point out that his plan was only a down payment on an ambitious plan that, if realized, could connect Chicago and St. Louis, Orlando and Miami, Portland and Seattle and dozens of other metropolitan areas around the country with high-speed trains.

I like the idea of a high-speed railway system, but I do wonder whether it’s practical to “invest” in such infrastructure. Americans can already crisscross the nation by plane, and for shorter distances, we seem to prefer our own cars. (Enhancing that individual, independent freedom was one difference that undermines comparisons with the interstate highway system.) Where a high-speed railway would be most attractive, its advantages would be self defeating: It would be wonderful to hop on a train in Fall River, for example, and zip to Boston in fifteen to twenty minutes, but because adding stops along the way would lengthen the trip, folks would find themselves having to utilize multiple modes of transportation where before one sufficed.
It isn’t irrelevant to consider that, absent the willingness of the federal government to indulge in exploding debt and deficits, there would be no economic justification for this spending.

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Patrick
12 years ago

Providence to NYC by car is about 3 hours. The train takes about 2 1/2. Without luggage, the whole process takes about 2 hours by plane. The cost of the car is gas and parking, the cost of the train is at least $99 each way, and the cost of the plane can be as little as $49 each way if you’re going where Southwest goes.
So taking all of that into account, which one makes the most sense to use? I think the train makes the least sense of them all $198? That’s crazy. Why not invest in the bus companies? They take just about as long for a much, much smaller cost. This of course assumes the argument to simply not invest in any of it and just give it back to the taxpayers is out of the question.

EMT
EMT
12 years ago

The Northeast has already proven that high-speed rail doesn’t work as well as anyone thought- Acela only hits it’s top speed once or twice the whole trip. It’s only advantage over traditional rail is that you don’t have to stop in CT to change from a diesel engine to the electric. And you pay twice as much for the privelage.
Amtrack has also proven that they can’t be trusted with money anymore than AIG. I don’t see how spending another trillion dollars making them 5 times bigger can possibly end well.
Obama’s inspiration for nationwide high-speed rail is… France. Which is 18x smaller than the US. With much different terrain, population densities, and politicians who’d want to see tracks and stations in their districts, whether it made sense or not.
Finally, Justin hit the nail on the head. Americans are FAR more attached to our cars than any of the European nations that Obama thinks we should be more like.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Government owned rail systems seem to work in other countries.In the Netherlands the trains run efficiently,and when you get to a particular city,the local bus/streetcar system is right at the station.
Same in Belgium and Germany.
They don’t take 10 years and millions of dollars in “environmental impact studies”before putting in new rail/streetcar lines.
The liberals who squeak loudly about public transit caused all this slowdown in construction with their ridiculous”studies”.How come 100 year ago we just built rail and streetcar lines in a short time?The NYC subway system would take 50 years to build today.
Subways are hard to build and susceptible to terrorism.why not go back to the old style els?They still do the job in Chicago and parts of NYC and Philly.

Pragmatist
Pragmatist
12 years ago

“There would be no economic justification for this spending”? Really? I must have missed your economic analysis. Kindly provide the link. Oh, I forgot, your pronouncements (like “throw the bums out”) are, in your view, a suitable substitute for policy analysis. Just ask the screaming mob or the rambling talk radio caller.

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