Rail Dreams

From Planetizen comes word that 88 percent of Americans want high-speed rail. Sounds like good news to me. But the numbers may be a bit suspect as they come from a survey conducted by HNTB Corporation. HNTB, based in Kansas City, would be just the outfit to design, build, and maintain such infrastructure.

Now, just because HNTB is an interested party doesn’t mean that its figures are bad. I can believe that a healthy majority of Americans would like high-speed rail. We could, however, be expected to disagree over such things as how to pay for it and where it might go.

For example, just a few days ago the Springfield City Council voted for a resolution to include Springfield in any Missouri plan. As you can see from the following map, Springfield doesn’t make the cut in the Obama plan.

The local resolution isn’t about how to pay for it. It’s about wanting it.

I’ll bet 88 percent of us can agree to want it.

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Comments 11

  1. Steve A wrote:

    So, what does this do that the free market doesn’t do better?

    I guess I ought to keep my mouth shut. DFW is on the list, and if something comes along that is better than Southwest Airlines and AMR, I can always take it.

    Yay high speed rail! Y’all in the rest of the country chip in!

    Posted 28 Feb 2010 at 11:12 am
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve… I’m not sure free-market principles can build a rail system. None has ever been built that way that I am aware of — not even in the US in the 1800s. The chances of us ever getting a system of any kind are slim to none I think — at least in the few years I have left to stomp on this terra.

    Posted 28 Feb 2010 at 12:35 pm
  3. Jason C wrote:

    IF HSR is introduced as shown on this map

    and IF enough people ride the stretches from St Louis east and from Tulsa west,

    THEN it might be decided to connect those two points with a line that would easily run through Springfield.

    I guess one could also argue for the connection between KC and Tulsa but to have that debate now would be putting the cart before the horse.

    Posted 28 Feb 2010 at 1:08 pm
  4. Keri wrote:

    The free market didn’t build the aviation system or the highway system either.

    Posted 28 Feb 2010 at 3:22 pm
  5. Steve A wrote:

    Keri wrote: “…free market didn’t build the … highway system.”

    Good point, and a good argument in favor OF letting the free market fix some of the mess government has created. I love trains, but AMTRAK is horrible. If that’s our model, better to start over.

    FWIW, the free market DID build rail in many places, notably in Britain. Brunel is one of my heroes.

    Posted 28 Feb 2010 at 4:47 pm
  6. Alexander wrote:

    High-speed rail sounds great, but there is a problem. You need buses or light-rail to connect to the HSR station, then you need bus huts so people can get shade or cover from heat, rain, or snow. Then you need sidewalks so people can get to those bus stops.

    So many communities lack the infrastructure to support these stations or make them effective. This problem of harmonizing modes of transit is the #1.

    This was the case in RI, they had great buses, great air port, great train stations… problem being? you had to take a taxi from the plane to the bus (no integration) and good luck getting a sidewalk.

    In a city like Houston sidewalks are totally contingent on what neighborhood you live in…

    Plans like this are doomed before they begin…

    Posted 28 Feb 2010 at 6:02 pm
  7. Keri wrote:

    Yes, the AMTRAK model is horrible. It’s the opposite of the airway and highway system model: it’s government run vehicles using privately-owned infrastructure VS privately run vehicles using publicly-owned infrastructure.

    Posted 28 Feb 2010 at 8:56 pm
  8. Eliot wrote:

    Why, oh, why don’t they ever connect Dallas and Houston on these plans. Seems so obvious to me. I-45 is almost always crowded…

    Steve: the biggest advantage of high speed trains over airlines is the convenience of bringing a bike along for the ride!

    Posted 01 Mar 2010 at 11:13 am
  9. Mike B. wrote:

    Keri is right. A huge problem with AMTRAK is that is uses rail lines owned by the RR companies whose priority is earn money from this infrastructure (as it should be).

    We need dedicated passenger rail lines. This comes at a huge cost. Comparisons to the UK or Japan (where I recently took a trip and LOOOOVED the govt-run rail system) are not quite apt, as those countries are many times smaller than the U.S.

    Nearly all mass transit systems are subsidized. It’s just a fact. You’re never going to see a privately-run rail system in the US. Not gonna happen. But this kind of system is a goal our country should strive for, for many reasons.

    Posted 01 Mar 2010 at 11:19 am
  10. robert wrote:

    Andy wrote that we would have disagreements over how to pay for it.

    Since when are we paying for anything that we do?

    Posted 02 Mar 2010 at 1:50 pm
  11. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… Until we institute a proper tax rate in the U.S., we won’t be “paying” for anything. Just more deficits. I assume, since Americans are usually good in a crisis, that the collapse of our governmental and financial institutions will spur us to action :-)

    Posted 02 Mar 2010 at 4:09 pm