Home > liberals, politics > Enough already with the stupid trains

Enough already with the stupid trains

Look, it's Percy!

My son loved Thomas the train when he was younger.  For my wife, the love was annoying, because it resulted in Thomas movies being played on continuous loops and those little die-cast metal toys lying around the house.  For me, the love was helpful, because buying the Boy toys for his birthday was easy.  

It’s common knowledge that the Boy’s infatuation with trains is shared by our Vice President Joe “this is a big f’in deal” Biden.  In fact, I picture Joe-Joe in his mom’s basement, wearing his overalls and train conductor hat, watching his trains travel all around his magical miniature town. 

It’s also common knowledge that America’s primary passenger train, Amtrak, is a giant black-hole of suck when it comes to taking money out of the pockets of tax payers.  A 2008 study revealed the following,

Pew’s analysis indicates that the average loss per passenger on all 44 of Amtrak’s lines was $32.

In other words, taxpayers paid $32 for every ticket being sold for an Amtrak.  As much as some people may love trains, no one uses the friggin’ things.  Why?  Who knows.  Maybe because few people want to sit in close proximity to other people.  The point is, without taxpayer money, Amtrak would be bankrupt.    

Based upon the foregoing, subsidizing passenger trains would seem to be an easy place to start cutting the budget.  Not so, say the libs.  Instead, they’re doubling down.

The federal government is pumping nearly $200 million into high-speed passenger rail projects in Michigan.


About $195 million will be used to upgrade tracks and signals between Kalamazoo in southwestern Michigan to Dearborn, just outside Detroit. The work also will increase train speeds to 110 mph between Chicago and Detroit.

Another $2.8 million will be used for an analysis of a new station in Ann Arbor.

Is there really that big of a demand for Kalamazoo to Dearborn service?  I’m guessing not.  What possible justification is there for this nonsense?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says Monday the funds are part of a $2 billion investment stretching from the country’s northeast corridor, through the Midwest and on to California.

Lahood says the investments will help create jobs and spur economic development.

Question: does anyone actually believe that investing billions of dollars to build high speed rail from the Midwest to California is going to “spur economic development?”  How is this going to happen?  Are people going to start communting from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Los Angeles everyday for work? 

One advocate for high speed rail recently offered the following liberal-approved arguments in support of high speed rail:

High-speed trains cost more to build (to truly run at 150 mph, you need a dedicated, grade-separated track like the one that California has proposed), but they can charge more per ticket and can displace airport congestion, saving taxpayer dollars. In many parts of the world, these systems pay for themselves and boost local economies.

There are two main problems with these assertions.  First, there is no truth to the “it will improve the economy” argument.  If there was any money to be made in high speed rail, we wouldn’t need the government to build it.  Instead, a private company would do it.  That’s what happened with most of the railway lines currently in use today.  For example, the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railway lines were largely built by private companies seeking to make a profit. 

The second problem is in the assertion that the cost of the high speed rail can somehow be offset by charging higher ticket prices.  In other words, these trains will pay for themselves.  While I appreciate the optimism, I find it slighly absurd to argue that high speed rail, with higher ticket prices, will not require subsidies, when Amtrak, at a lower cost, does require them. 

Simpy put, high speed rail is even more of a boondoggle than FDR’s New Deal programs were.  Building the infrastructure will cost loads of taxpayer money that we don’t have, with contracts being given to those companies with political connections.  And after it’s completed, more taxpayer money will be needed to subsidize the operating of the trains, because no one will ride them. 


  1. Dan J.
    May 9, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    This is so true. Living in California and hearing all the talk about having a high speed rail from Southern Cal to Northern Cal is just absurd. Like you said “if there was money to be made, a private company would have done it”. I wasn’t aware that they wanted to create a high speed rail from the west coast to the mid west. We as Americans are an instant gratification society, we are not using slow trains because if we have that much time we would prefer to drive ourselves and get there on our own time stopping when we please. If we are in a hurry that is what we have planes for. If we need to get there quickly we will take a plane. The small savings and increased time is a lose lose situation for people whose time is valuable. Maybe with the change of gas prices high speed may work. Otherwise we are once again behind the times and should have done this awhile ago. The euro-rail works but I agree with you and just see it as another bad idea by our government.

  2. Mary
    May 10, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    The economy is in the toilet so, naturally, the wisest policy is to take even more money from the citizenry by raising taxes on those who still have jobs and funnel the money into high speed trains. Oh, and raise the ticket prices. That way, the few who now ride the trains won’t be able to anymore which will be OK because they have no where to go anyway.
    The European model makes sense for Europe where there are whole countries smaller than San Bernardino County. If the wisemen of Washington had any notion of how Americans actually live (outside the N/E corridor) perhaps they’d quit with this crap. But then again, that’s assuming they care about anything other than lining their pockets and filling their re-election campaign coffers.

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