8 billion on High Speed Rail… Where would you spend it?

As a fan of public transit I’m so pumped that the current administration is taking high speed rail seriously. Today it was announced or released at least that they are pumping 8 billion into high speed rail.

This is one of the best investments I’ve seen in the future. I look at a lot of the government programs out there and scratch my head as to why we pump so much cash but I’m glad to finally have one big chunk of change get passed that I totally approve of. Here’s the link: http://www.dot.gov/affairs/2010/dot1810a.htm

So I have 2 questions if you could choose 8 billion for any program or agency what would it be and why? And also what was the last big chunk of government spending that you gave the wholehearted thumbs up to?

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Peter Sperry

I would spend at least a portion examining the operating subsidies currently procided to rail programs in the U.S. and those countries that operate high speed rail lines to determine why rail travel continues to be one of the most heavily subsidised, least cost effective transportation alternatives. I’ve ridden the systems between Brussels and Paris as well as the one in Taiwan and marveled at their speed and comfort. AmTrak doesn’t come close. Nevertheless, I haven’t heard of any of these systems operating without heavy subsidies and wonder if it really is a cost effective use of tax payer funds.

Ed Albetski

Why don’t folks take more trains in this country? As for where I’d spend money, I’d upgrade the train systems in Virginia. There are 11 or so colleges along route 81, a trucker’s route right down the backbone of the state. Rather than have college kids compete for lanes with the truck traffic I’d rather see the tracks upgraded to handle passengers so the kids and all their dorm furniture can make it to college and back home safely. Yeah, I know, pork for my state, but there it is (grin).

Srinidhi Boray

Total govt spend along with the industry will near $100 + Billion, $8 Billion is the for the starter 🙂

I believe Chinese used the rail upgrade strategy to spruce up the manufacturing sector and also to provide impetus to its internal economy. High speed train will help develop railway manufacturing sector. It appears many of them have developed technological capabilities. The human skills needs to be augmented. 1000s of engineers and manufacturing folks will need to be trained across the countries. Multiple countries are assisting the US govt in its planning. This is not like a capitalistic plan. It is a government venture to create next generation infrastructure for the citizens. Many ancillary units will develop as a spin-off. Developing engineering skills has always proved as a vital asset to any country.

There are lot of webcast recordings of the seminars etc, in which rail industry captains have spoken very interesting things with the DOT Under Secretary. Getting those videos into GovLoop will a great thing.


Here in Phoenix we could use more public transporation! Phoenix recently unveiled their light rail, but it doesn’t go anywhere near the Capitol mall area in Phoenix ( and the state is the largest employer in the state!). Definately needs to be extended into the Phoenix metropolitan area (they say it will arrive near my home in 20 years, which is too long – Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the US). Right now it’s great for college students to get from Arizona State Univ. into downtown Phoenix and back, but that’s about all.

Stephen Peteritas

Yeah I know all about waiting in KC (where I’m from) they’ve been throwing around the idea for like 15 years now. Unless we are really that close to flying cars like they thought we would be back in the 80s I say we need to beef up public transit ASAP, one of the best investments we can make for the future.

Larry Lyon

I’m a supporter of public transportation and have been employed by the Los Angeles County Metro Transportation Authority in the construction contracts division and use “Metrolink” our commuter rail system to make the 45 mile commute into Los Angeles every day. I’m one of the fortunate commuters in Los Angeles that I’m able to use public transportation as the 45 minute commute by train would be over 90 each way if I had to use the freeway.

I’ve looked on in awe as Taiwan, Korea and China build high speed rail lines and I would dearly love to be able to take a 200 mph train from L.A. to San Francisco rather than having to drive or take a commuter flight but this area needs more light rail, particularly on the west side of the city where commuters have to share freeways with thousands of trucks carrying containers after arriving at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.

Eight billion would buy allot of miles of light rail to move passengers which would improve their quality of life and the light rail stations become focal points for mixed use development so those areas get an economic boost.

High speed rail on the other hand is glitzy but by its nature its not effective for commuting within a metropolitan area as there are few stations to develop.

California voted a few years back to invest in high speed rail and now the feds have provided additional funds. High speed rail in California isn’t exactly like the famous “bridge to nowhere” but
it could be better used for light rail.

Robin Johnson

Let’s see the federal highway system operate without government subsidy, then we can start talking about taking the subsidy away from train travel.

I really tire of the double standard in this country between car and rail travel. It’s fine to pour billions into highway paving, but rail? Ooh no. That’s not cost effective.

The fuel used to move people or freight on rail is a tiny fraction of that used to move it on the highway. For this reason alone we should be beefing up our rail system.

Kevin Lanahan

One of the biggest problems is our automobile dependency. If I take the train from my backwater station in mid-Missouri to St. Louis or Kansas City, I can get to a few areas near the station, but those cities are set up to need a car to get around. I love Amtrak, but hate having to arrange a ride to actually get anywhere.

Peter Sperry

@Robin — Actually, the federal highway system DOES operate without subsidy from the general fund ( http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/fifahiwy/fifahi05.htm ). The Highway Trust fund was originally established to closely link costs to user fees in the form of a federal gas tax. In 1982 a portion of that gas tax was diverted to support mass transit. The highway trust fund has also been raided to support deficit reduction. Most state highway funds mirror the federal structure. Federal and state highway users have paid their own way through the gas tax since 1956. They have also paid for mass transit and rail projects with their gas taxes.

Frieght rail has pretty much paid for itself since the 1970s when deregulation allowed most railroads to shed their money losing passanger operations. They do not recieve a whole lot of subsidy money, nor do they need it. There is a reason Warren Buffet just bought Burlington Northern, they make a ton of money with little or no public assistance.

Passanger rail trys to serve a niche market of middle distance travelers making trips to short to justify flying and longer than the traveller cares to drive. The cost, even with subsidies, is only marginally competative if a single traveler is driving (based on Amtrak fares in Northeast corridor). The moment a second passanger is added to the automobile, passanger rail becomes completely uncompetitive.