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Robert Samuelson Is Dead Wrong About High Speed Rail [View All]

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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-11 10:28 AM
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Robert Samuelson Is Dead Wrong About High Speed Rail
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Edited on Mon Feb-14-11 05:54 PM by ProSense

Robert Samuelson Is Dead Wrong About High Speed Rail

by Something the Dog Said

The Washington Posts Robert J. Samuelson takes the Op-Ed pages of his paper to hammer the presidents high speed rail initiative today. What has Mr. Samuelsons undies in a twist? Basically a Catch-22 that he constructs by ignoring two of the central fact about rail in the United States.


Having built up his strawman, Samuelson proceeds to hammer away at the poor creature. He says:

It's a triumph of fancy over fact. Even if ridership increased fifteenfold over Amtrak levels, the effects on congestion, national fuel consumption and emissions would still be trivial. Land-use patterns would change modestly, if at all; cutting 20 minutes off travel times between New York and Philadelphia wouldn't much alter real estate development in either. Nor is high-speed rail a technology where the United States would likely lead; European and Asian firms already dominate the market.


Rail, high speed or otherwise is so much more fuel efficient that flying it is not even funny. A jet liner averages 48 passenger-miles per gallon; it sounds pretty good until you hear that rail averages 468 passenger-miles per gallon. That is todays system, and it could be much improved upon by increasing the number of passengers and the speed of the trains.

Finally Mr. Samuelson misses an important part of this program. The 53 billion spent over the next ten years will pump money into construction projects. It means steel, it means heavy equipment, it means people working in many states all of which is going to help create more demand in an economy that has all the supply it can stand (and more) and will help to bring us out of this horrendous economy the views of folks like him have brought us. At the same time it will set the stage for the larger nationwide project that our economic future may very well depend upon.


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