High-speed rail projects and the money needed to pay for them have been eliciting strong reactions from all sides. Tuesday's announcement of the Obama Administration’s plan to spend $53 billion over the next six years on rail infrastructure projects produced a flurry of responses, some praising the plan — others deriding it.
House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) were of the latter camp, expressing their "extreme reservations." “This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio,” Mica said in a statement.
Mica also criticized the Obama Administration's handling of the first $10.5 billion in rail grants and likened Amtrak to a "Soviet-style train system."
Shuster's critique included the following: “Rail projects that are not economically sound will not ‘win the future.’ It just prolongs the inevitable by subsidizing a failed Amtrak monopoly that has never made a profit or even broken even. Government won’t develop American high-speed rail. Private investment and a competitive market will."
These responses reminded me of an article that ran in Newsweek last fall, in which columnist Robert J. Samuelson stated that high-speed rail projects were a "waste of money."
He cited California's plan for high-speed rail as a particular gamble considering the states' budget issues and, for the huge investment, which could approach $200 billion for construction of 13 corridors, there wouldn't be "any meaningful reduction in traffic congestion, greenhouse-gas emissions, air travel, or oil consumption and imports."
I recently spoke with Petra Todorovich, director of America2050, which published a report identifying U.S. high-speed rail corridors with the highest ridership potential. During our interview, I asked her to comment on Samuelson's assertion that high-speed rail spending was wasteful.
"I think it’s inaccurate and shows a real failure of imagination. If we only make the investments that we traditionally have, how do we expect America to change and adapt to the demands of a 21st Century economy?" Todorovich said.
She went on to say how the Interstate Highway System was a tremendously important investment for the last 50 years of growth in our country, which fueled economic growth during that period. "For the next 50 years, we have a different set of circumstances we are dealing with — greater globalization, higher energy costs, the need to respond to climate change, changing market demand and demographics," she said, which would require moving away from investing in the outdated highway vision.
While the Interstate Highway System was the forward-looking vision for President Eisenhower, so too is President Obama's high-speed rail plan.
Do you feel that America will risk losing its status as a competitive world power if we don't embrace this new vision for high-speed rail?
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog on bus mirror misconceptions here.
It drives me nuts when people litter. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people throw trash out of their car windows while they’re driving. I’m always tempted to honk my horn when I see drivers slyly ditching cigarette butts through their open window. Listen up, people. We see you!
Agencies that use Twitter to respond to users’ complaints or answer questions get more positive Twitter reaction and more civil discourse online, according to Lisa Schweitzer the author of a recent study analyzing tweets of public transit agencies. “It’s about the marketing potential of social media — a lot of public transit agencies are simply tweeting their problems to the world by blasting out late service announcements. That’s not a good use of Twitter,” she says. “Transit agencies can influence the tone of the discussion by interacting with patrons online,” Schweitzer explains. “It gives people something to respond to, and it reminds people that somebody is listening.”
Usually by early January, I will hopefully have taken down the last of our holiday decorations and eaten or given away the remaining sweets that have become a part of my regular diet during the month of December. Then, of course like most people, I’ll think about ways I want to improve myself for the coming year. Whether it be exercising more (walking from the parking lot to my office doesn’t count), eating less ice cream or managing my email better. The latter practice alone would help improve my efficiency at work immensely. I’m sure you probably feel the same way.
A new National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study solidifies what the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Transit Savings Report has been telling us for years now: riding public transportation can save users money.
June 20 will mark the 8th annual National Dump the Pump Day sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association, in partnership with the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.