Thursday, February 10, 2011

Loco Motion

To make every single aspect of American life better and turn the economy around, Barack Obama is asking taxpayers for another 53 billion dollars to build really, really fast trains.

The plan was officially announced by Joe Biden, wearing an adorable engineer's cap, who explained that high speed rail is vital to our national interests because it will play a key role in "seizing the future."

And go "woo-woo!"

The proposed trains will be capable of carrying thousands of passengers, all of whom will need their junk checked...but any security delays will be more than made up for by the trains' ability to rocket along at speeds up to 240 mph in complete safety, as long as Al Qaeda doesn't think to put any pennies on the tracks.

Moreover, constructing this exciting and tremendously expensive new rail system is expected to give the economy a much-needed jolt by creating thousands jobs for high speed train builders, just as soon as they can get here from Japan.

Best of all, the president's high speed rail proposal has given him the chance to float another possible campaign slogan, after "Winning The Future" (WTF?) failed to take off:

"Obama 2012 - Going Nowhere Fast!"

Barack to the Future - Part Two


StupidLiberal said...

Man, this is totally not like that time the federal government asked the American people to finance that thing, what was it called? The Trans-Continental Railroad.

Last I recall, they did this by offering funding and tax breaks to government contractors, like Pacific Rail and Carnegie Steel. Which is, suprise suprise, the same thing that the high speed rail plans are doing now.

That totally didn't revolutionize the way American's lived. I mean, the west coast had always been a thriving coastline of metropoli thanks to the Oregon Trail.

John the Econ said...

What is with the Progressives fascination with rail? Could it be:

That high-speed trains are economically efficient? They are not.

Because high-speed trains are "carbon efficient"? They are not.

Because high-speed rail will solve all our jobs/transit/economic problems? It will not, especially if they are built for political over practical reasons.

Because travel by train will not become a federal managed security cluster like air travel has become? If and when people actually start using it, it certainly will.

Because the federal government has already demonstrated it's ability to run a rail system well?

Perhaps Progressives love the idea of rail because it's centrally controlled and Europe & China does it, so we must do it too. This is simply silly. We are not Europe or China, nor do I think most people want us to be.

PS: I love travelling by rail when abroad. But it's always done with the knowledge that the better part of my fare was subsidized by highly taxed citizens enjoying a much lower standard of living than the average American citizen does. Thanks over-taxed citizen of a centrally controlled state! You make my vacations much more pleasant!

Pete(Detroit) said...

SL - you are correct, it *is* totally unlike the transcon... that was something new, that had not been done before, substantially cutting the time and price of commerce between the coasts (and population centers along the way). This is not at all like that. Upgrading the rail system to seamless rail, allowing trains to double the speed from 60mph to 120+ made sense, the massive overhaul to get to 250 does not. If it did, the individual passenger train companies would be champing at the bit - oh, wait, there ARE no 'individual' passenger trains anymore, they all went out of business. And Amtrack last turned a profit in the Eisenhower administration (ok, pulled that out of my a... er, thin air, but you bet the point)

John, libs LOVE it because it's classic redistribution - take a cubi-metric buttload of resources, divert them from efficient market driven allocations, and 'gift' them to your favorite contractors to fritter away and waste, and eventually not complete the project at 10x the original cost.
Also, it 'feels' cool. I mean, who wouldn't want to zoom around the country like that? Almost as 1/3 fast as an airplane, only 2x the cost - what a deal!
So, wastes $$, "feels" cool - a liberal win - win!

Jim Hlavac said...

The "high speed" rail line envisioned between Baton Rouge & New Orleans is expected to whisk me from one to another in about one-and-a-half hours. Or the time it takes me to drive at 70 mph. And for just $300,000,000 and two shiny plaques, one each for the mayor at either terminus. Meanwhile, the bus systems in either city, which serve mostly African-Americans, are perennially short a mere $700,000 -- and a separate tax is proposed to cover the shortfall!

The genius in all this is that the $300 million can't be used for the buses! So I'd get to either side, and not have a car or a bus to get me anywhere I really need to go. Maybe we'll all get the mule without the 40 acres, you know, to get us around. (And mules are the Democrat's favorite animal! Why, the Dems are almost positive we're all pack animals for the tax-and-spend us into default programs they love so much.)

Earl said...

3-11-04 Madrid. It changed an election. I have zero interest in high-speed trains; the potential for sabotage is too high a risk. Although we could hire rail guards for every foot of rail and change the unemployment picture overnight. Or not.

Angry Hoosier Dad said...

Let me see...
We went from foot travel to horse or oxen-pulled wagons to rail to motorized vehicles and planes. Now we need to go back to rail. Should I invest in an ox ranch just to hedge my bets?
Stilton: I thought that Popular Science cover was a gag that sprang from your fertile imagination, but it was actually from the April, 1935 issue. I can't help but wonder why a rail-mounted conveyance needs a rudder. WTF?

Doc - Northern Nevada said...

@ Angry Hoosier Dad ... I would hazard a guess the rudder was not to steer the train (on tracks you know) but to possibly keep it upright on curves where cenfrigal(ap) force would tend to lean it over a bit - or more. Just a guess but it DOES seem to make sense a bit!

Anonymous said...

cue "the monorail song" as seen on the simpsons

Hopeless said...


I don't know what's going on in Detroit or elsewhere in the country, but THX is absolutely frothing at the mouth to underbid Amtrak for the contract to run this in Florida.

This is the kind of infrastructure that urban engineering firms need. Projects like this and highways, which are just as unprofitable, are the bread and butter of high-tech, high income jobs. They're also an important part of the backbone of the middle class job market, which banks heavily on construction, maintenance, and operation of large scale government utilities.

Without projects like this, the Americans that truly are exceptional, the engineers and scientists, will have no reason to stay in this country when there is profitable work to be done overseas.

I see your logic, but it doesn't pan out. If planes are the natural step from cars, why do we fly everywhere? What's the point in keeping up interstate highways? It's because certain methods of travel are more appropriate for certain kinds of travel. There are places where planes are appropriate, but other times when cars work better. This would be true of highspeed rail.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

Readers- First-class comments here today. The economics just don't add up (as usual). And besides the concerns raised above, the initial corridors being proposed are some of the most densely populated in the country. That means that land acquisition will be unbelievably expensive, and construction challenges will grow exponentially.

StupidLiberal- you know you could always try to simply state your opinion sometime without having to do the whole sarcasm thing.

Earl- I worry about the implications for terror, too. How does one protect every foot of track, 24 hours a day?

Angry Hoosier Dad- The Popular Science cover is the real need for me to mess with perfection. The dream of high-speed rail has been out there for over 100 years but, like the prop-driven design we see here, some things work better on paper than in reality.

WMD said...

Let's not forget the rail unions. Not to mention the fact that the 53 BILLION! Billion, really? Will not even begin to cover the cost of studies that will need to be conducted before this abortion gets off the ground. (So to speak). Environmental impact stuff, etc., etc., etc.

Normally, I don't like to reveal too much personal information in these types of forums, however, I happen to work for a major railroad and I also happen to be an "agreement" employee. (That means I'm in a union). And oddly enough, I'm very conservative. So I know a little bit about which I speak.

Back to the logistics at hand, for example, exactly where is this rail going to be installed? On existing property? Yeah, right, carriers love having to re-route their own freight trains to accomodate amtrak. Are we going to seize private property and use emminent domain? I think you all can see where I'm going with this. The 53 BILLION is is going to be petty cash before this thing sees the light of day. Because after all, the feds are going to run it, what could possibly go wrong?

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

Hopeless- Looks like we posted at the same time. I agree that there are those who would benefit from the rail plan in the short term, including engineers and construction workers. And there are also those who would benefit from high-speed travel along the proposed corridors.

The question is whether or not the net benefits would outweigh the costs, and that's the debate I'm really hoping to hear in Washington.

Robert- Thanks for the insider insights. And I think you're right; the $53 billion would probably end up being no more than seed money.

Look at the recent "virtual fence" project; Congress appropriated $833 million to build 655 miles of fence along the Mexican border (in the middle of nowhere). Six years later, the project has been abandoned after spending one billion dollars and creating only 53 miles of insecure fencing.

So even those who like the idea of high-speed rail need to ask if the project would still make economic sense if the costs were 10 times higher than estimated. Or more.

Colby Muenster said...

If a high speed rail was such a great idea, it would be in place already by the private sector and the government would alredy be taxing the crap out of it. The only reason BO wants this is because they have 'em in Europe and Asia. And, you know, they are obviously way, way superior to us and by God, we need to keep up or we will end up living in caves or something.

I really, really, really, REALLY wish BO and his IQ challenged congressional buddies would get their heads out of their asses and SEE what our country really needs instead of jumping on every hair-brained, socialist bullshit program that will drive our economy even further into the dumper. I have never known a person who's priorities were more screwed up, and he's our freaking PRESIDENT!

Barack, we need you to get the f**k out of the way, lower taxes, eliminate the red tape and let business people do what they do best, and that's to make money that they can hire people with. How about you take an extended golf outing in Hawaii for the next two years, leave us the hell alone, and stop trying to "help" us.

Necron99 said...

These idiots must love 'Steam-punk' fiction... forget the trains... bring back Zeppelins! They could be filled with all the 'Hot Air' spewing from the mouths of libtard/progs. Imagine Nancy Peloser, Barbra Botoxer, and Hairy Reed cruising above those 'fly-over States' and fueling their gas bag by merely flapping their lips... talk about 'self sustaining renewable green energy'! I'll bet Obongo could fill one all by his lonesome (from Washington to Hawaii no less).

Necron99 said...

By the way, where's my Jet Pack & Hover Car that I was promised I would have by now back in 5th Grade Science class?

pryorguy said...

I love the mag cover too...really awesome stuff!

Are we all getting used to our alleged president coming up with new outlandish ideas to spend OUR money on?
I mean, geeee....give it a rest and LISTEN to the American people for once! I remember Bill Clinton with his wetted finger to the wind to judge the direction, but it is truly amazing that someone so far out there got elected legally to such a high office as POTUS! This guy needs to go back to Chicago and organize some communities! Or back to the planet he came from!

JustaJeepGuy said...

What's the biggest reason for preferring to travel by road instead of wings or rail? For me, it's that I can go on my own schedule. I don't need to get to someplace two hours before scheduled departure time just for the privilege of getting probed by "security" personnel. The two-hour thing is pointless anyway. How many times have you flown anywhere and seen people getting on the plane at the last second? Why couldn't THEY get there two hours early?
No, European/Chinese-style high-speed rail won't work ANYWHERE without some kind of governmental meddling. Aren't the European rail systems owned by the respective governments? If rail is so great, why are there still commercial airlines?

Anonymous said...

In addition to the above comments, I get the awful feeling that, since GE was lined up to be a huge part of the infrastructure of Obamacare's medical system, and that system may not 'pan out', that this might be just one more way to slog money over to a company whose leaders are 'in bed' with His Obfulness. GE's transportation division makes railway engines...even a new hybrid engine, and must be dizzy with delight at the prospects of the high-speed train contracts.

Joaquin said...

But these trains will be solar and wind-powered so that's good!
Huh, say what? They aren't solar and wind-powered........................

Anonymous said...

I'm another one that has insider information, I worked as a locomotive engineer for several years. Passenger trains operated by several railroads used to run at speeds in excess of 90 MPH, and at times over the century mark. This was not new technology, many of these trains were still pulled by steam locomotives!

It's also been tried many times over. The United Aircraft Turbotrain and the Rohr Turboliners come to mind as examples of high speed rail experiments here.

The reason the railroads no longer run their own passenger operations is that they hemmoraged money. For a long time they were subsidized by the US Post Office for the mail they carried, but once the mail moved to the airlines the passenger trains disappeared in droves. in 1971 Amtrak was created, and to give up passenger operations each railroad had to buy in. The entrance fee was the amount of their losses the previous year, which was in the tens, and in some cases, hundreds of millions. Lots of money now, even bigger money then!

If high speed rail were such a great idea we'd already be doing it.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

Anonymous (immediately above)- Wow, I had no idea we had so many experts on trains in here! Very interesting perspective - thanks for sharing.

Bobo said...

Maybe Oblahma wants to be Casey Jones from the Grateful Dead song:

"Driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed. Trouble ahead, trouble behind, and you know that notion just crossed my mind."

SC said...

The govt cannot spend money on high speed rail now. It’s like your 1st & 2nd mortgs are late, all your credit cards are max’d, the pymts are late and you decide to go out & buy a Lamborghini.

If this is true per the US HighSpeedRailAssoc:
"A single high speed rail line can carry the equivalent of a 10-lane freeway, can be built for much less cost, is cheaper to operate, uses a tiny fraction of the energy (from electricity, not oil), and operates without congestion or delays - especially during rush hour and peak travel days."

Then, a private sector company should tackle it. It should not be the govt (taxpayers) paying for it while we are in so much debt.

Seems like everything the Govt takes over & tries to run struggles and is perpetually on the brink of failure. Amtrak, Fannie & Freddie, even the US Postal Service (not subsidized with taxpayer money) is fighting to stay afloat.

BTW – I just can’t figure out why WTF didn’t take off as a campaign slogan; I think it almost every time I hear Obama speak.

WMD said...

Anonymous' comments reminded me that GE also makes all kinds of signal equipment for the rail industry. Trains run on red, yellow and green lights, essentially like cars. Not mention the equipment that controls crossings and all the wayside detectors that would be required. They would profit billions on signaling equipment alone. Trust me, there is a helluva a lot more than 53 billion up for grabs. Just makes me wonder how much GE money is in King Hussein's Swiss bank account. I mean look at Clinton. He went from gov of Ark. to a multi-millionaire after only eight years. Of course, his Swiss bank account is full of Chinese money.