Friday, April 17, 2009

High-speed rail in N.C. on a faster track?

The News & Observer reports that N.C. transportation officials are optimistic that the Charlotte-Raleigh-Washington route will fare well in snagging some of those $8 billion in stimulus money for high-speed rail, and that it's one of six corridors feds have said are likely candidates for the first stimulus funds to be distributed later this year. (Associated Press report here.) If that's the case, then kudos to North Carolina for having worked for years to try to keep alive the idea of high-speed inter-city rail travel, even during years when many taxpayers thought the idea was just a waste of money.

I'm just back from a week spent traveling by rail in and around New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC. Took commuter rail from NYC to Princeton. Took heavy rail (that would be the subway) around Manhattan. Took Amtrak from NYC to DC. It was easy. It was fast. It was environmentally prudent. It was more convenient than flying -- downtown to downtown. And the whole time I was on the train I didn't worry a bit about landing in the Hudson River.

Does inter-city rail cost money? You betcha. But so do our taxpayer-built airports (don't forget the air traffic control system), as well as the interstate highway system, with which we are all busily polluting our atmosphere (possibly destroying the global environment as we do so, though I think I'll be dead before we know whether that's really what we're doing) and enriching some Middle Eastern potentates I'd just as soon not enrich. Everything's a trade-off.


Anonymous said...

There seems to be a significant part of this story missing that the Observer is not picking up. The city leaders in Raleigh are highly optimistic about getting this funding because they intended to parlay the needed infrastructure for high speed rail into a dual use for local commuter rail. They intend to use the same tracks, same stations, same right of way, etc. I am shocked and amazed there is no talk among our local transportation leaders, or local media, about how the high speed rail funding could also be used to subsidize needed funding for our NorthLine commuter rail, or even the Northeast light rail line. If this region is granted high speed rail, one of those pathways could surely be used. I don’t get it.

Anonymous said...

Trains SUCK!!!!

Anonymous said...

Mary, Why don't you put your money where your pipe dreams are?

Anonymous said...

Have you ever met a government program you didn't like?

Anonymous said...

1. Do you think trains run without energy?

2. Airports operate as enterprise funds (i.e. separate from general budgets and thus paid for exclusively by fees on flyers).

3. The airport/train station analogy is OK, but air routes are infinitely changeable, do not interfere with highways, and do not require eminent domain condemnations.

4. How is you going to PAY for it?

Anonymous said...

Another way government misallocates resources. A BIG WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY!!!!

Rick said...

Mary, where are those March LYNX numbers? They've been on Mr Parker's desk for close to a whole business week. Has the Observer gotten out of the business of reporting the actual news about our trains, or are you guys now only in the business of reporting about possible train news?

Anonymous said...

If we don't built transit infrastructure, we're at risk of becoming a 3rd world country. We're getting left behind not only by Europe and Japan, but also by China, Taiwan, and others.

No wonder this century will be known as "the Asian century."

Mary said...

I'd rather have a high-speed rail to South Beach.

Dustin said...

This announcement is among the most exciting to be made by a president for a long time. I was hopeful this would be the direction the Obama administration would take, but I had no idea it would happen so soon. And President Obama used powerful language that shows that he and the federal government know that we are rapidly falling behind many other parts of the world.

You've never really seen this country until you've seen it from one of our trains. When done well, trains are the most comfortable, most convenient form of long-distance travel. My wife and I go on vacation via an overnight train journey at least once each year, and we love every minute of it.

I can think of no better use of taxpayer money than to help our nation catch up with the rest of the world. My hope is that we'll surpass the rest, and once again become a world leader and model for this superb and environmentally-friendly mode of travel. And what better use of our nation's funds than providing an alternative and complement to our congested and inconvenient systems of road and air travel? What we're talking about here is building a comprehensive, complete transportation system for the entire nation.

Last of all, I totally agree with anonymous @ 3.01pm: why don't Charlotte's leaders talk about using the existing tracks and stations along the Carolinian and Piedmont routes for a more local commuter-rail (or, as I prefer, regional-rail) system serving points such as Concord and perhaps even Salisbury? And what about the existing tracks for the Crescent to the west of the city? Regional rail to Gastonia, on tracks that go right past the airport. Imagine an express train from the new Gateway Station uptown to the airport that whisks you from the city center to Charlotte-Douglas in only a matter of minutes.

Anonymous said...

Dustin, If this is such a great idea why don't you invest your own money in rail service? We are becoming more and more like a third world country when we have the government run everything in the economy. I never hear words such as innovation, creativity , or freedom coming from places like Cuba, Russia, and most other government run economies. The only true liberty is economic. Without economic freedom we all become slaves to the state.

Howard Keziah said...

It took a trip to Europe for me to realize what we're missing by not having a better passenger rail system. Thanks for the article.

Anonymous said...

Why does anyone want to emulate Europe? High taxation and countless more regulations sounds like crap to me.

Anonymous said...

If you yapping oversized chihuahuas who come here to complain about how your tax dollars are used will kindly relieve me of the taxes I pay for the roads you drive on, we can have a deal.

(And no, gas dollars do not pay for all road construction nor maintenance. It's mostly from general funds).

We pay insane amounts to build and maintain roads that leave us dependent on fuel for everything.
WHich means we have a huge trade deficit and have to suck up to the Saudis, and get our lives turned inside out when the Colonial pipeline goes on the fritz.
Trains are part of the solution to this.

consultant said...

The same people today who ONLY want tax dollars spent on roads, 100 years ago (1909) would have been those folks who wanted to keep their horse and wagons.

Many people, regardless of the facts, just don't want to change. Period.

America never got anywhere by listening to the people who constantly shout, "keep things the way they are!"

Rick said...

Over the years various numbers have been posted on this forum on how much gas taxes pay for roads. The lowest percentage I've ever seen with any documentation is sixty percent.

When trains and mass transit pay for 60% of their construction and operating costs, then we can have an honest debate about subsidies. Until then, the train people are just whining and being dishonest.

Even at that point road tax payers would still be subsidizing everyone - especially those who only use buses or trains.

The buses use the roads and nobody could survive by trains only - no matter how much they subscribe to New Urbanist Mythology. How would their food be delivered? How would their furniture be delivered? How would any sort of contractor come to their house or high-rise condo to fix anything?

They would use roads.

Now to be fair, I can see the arguments against Urban Sprawl as being valid in some cases, and I understand the need for prioritzation to use limited funds. However, all I ask is that the train people be honest. In the past, that has been an impossible task for them.

Mary, when are the new LYNX ridership numbers going to make it into your blog?

(See what I mean about honesty?)

Anonymous said...

How can any sane person want the gov't to build trains? I don't have a problem with trains, but let private enterprise move it along. The free market is the answer not the corrupt government.

Anonymous said...

How much of those gas taxes pay for treatment of lung and heart diseases suffered by an ever-increasing number of urban dwellers, and caused by automobile pollution? And who says gasoline tax will forever and always have to go to support highways? It can just as easily be designated to subsidize public transportation as opposed to subsidizing your private automobile usage, with greater societal benefit. My observation has been that buses use roads, too.

I don’t know what the Lynx figures will show for March. I would assume ridership would be down, because so many folks have been let go from uptown jobs that they are staying home, period. Hate to burst your bubble, but wouldn’t automobile usage be down as well, and probably much more dramatically than that of our sole light-rail line? Thank God for the recession’s silver lining.

I think it’s about time to wean America’s automobile-crazy wieners from their self-centered hogging of the world’s limited resources.

It's not all about you.
There are others, too!

Jumper said...

Yet another way government does not plan effectively is evidenced by the refusal to even speak of the severe compromising of our national (and by this I mean Federal, State, and local) road system by the trucking industry. Hopes for smaller efficient passenger cars are dashed by the fact that huge semis on the same roads lead people to feel profoundly unsafe in such proposed small vehicles. In addition, truck fuel and licensing taxes pay a smaller proportion of the maintenance and repair of the roads. And state-operated weigh stations, necessary to prevent even worse road destruction, are paid out of general taxes also.

I will repeat Mary's comment about the subsidizing of airports because it should be emphasized.

Rail is, by nature of its engineering, the most efficient way to move freight and people.

It is not just the childishness of some of the critics who are regulars here sniping at Mary, it is the profound cowardice that strikes me. It's easy to gripe unconstructively to a newspaper columnist; not so easy to take on the trucking or aircraft interests.

Anonymous said...

Why do people hate the automobile so much? It's one of the greatest inventions in the past 100 years. I'll take my car anyday over riding a train.

Anonymous said...

"A day never passes without some ardent reformer or group of reformers suggesting some new government intervention, some new statist scheme to fill some alleged 'need' or relieve some alleged distress" Henry Hazlitt

Anonymous said...

Jumper is smart. Maybe you can run for mayor in your fantasy land!!

Anonymous said...

Taxation is SLAVERY!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Jumper - Airports are run as enterprise funds, separate from general funds.

The constitution provides for ROADS, not for TRAINS. If you want govco to pay for trains, why don't you amend the Constitution? Maybe because you know you COULDN'T get it done?

Oh, and where are those Lynx ridership numbers? Jumper? Mary? Bueller?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see ONE train supporter come and try to get money out of me for their train. In person. Name the day and time.

Anonymous said...

Mary, How can you advocate more government intervention with higher taxes? I thought you cared about helping people???????

Anonymous said...

Ooh, anonymous at 7:57 is a BIG MAN.

Yeah, right. Let's see you show uyp any place that isn't easily reached by car for this fistfight you're asking for. Your fat caboose would wear you down after a 100 yards at most.

And as for 7:55:

The constitution provides for ROADS, not for TRAINS. If you want govco to pay for trains, why don't you amend the Constitution? Maybe because you know you COULDN'T get it done?"

Maybe you should tell that to the presidents from 1850 on to 1900 or so who used federal money to get trains built. And canals. It was called the American System at the time.

Why do you right wing yapdogs have to be so DUHMB ???

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:11 good try. First off look at your history between 1850 and 1900 all the railraoads that received gov't money either went broke or were corrupt. The one railraod that was successful was the Great Northern run by James J. Hill without a penny of subsidy, not even land grants. So you my friend are the DUMB ONE! It's amazing how stupid people are on the left!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You got a source for that, 9:23?

What do you mean by "were corrupt"? Lots of institutions in that era were corrupt.

Still doesn't change the fact that no president felt the Constitution prevented him from getting railroads built.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:37 Albro, Martin James J. Hill and the Opening of the Northwest

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:37 Are you saying corrupt politicians do not exist today? Gimme a break?????

Anonymous said...

I'm saying, you blitering twits, that the Constitution does not forbid the federal government from funding railroads.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:55 Getting upset. Well I would make the argument that it does, but no one follows that out of date documnet anymore. And yes they didn't follow in 1850 either, but that doesn;t make it right.

Anonymous said...

You have to forgive anon 9:55 he or she is still stuck in the past. These kind of people love to romantice about things past and make it sound like it's current intellectual curiosity.

Anonymous said...

Well, by that standard you could say the feds can fund highways but not on-ramps, or side railings, or the signage on top.

Maybe by then you'd realize you're being inane, but if you did, you'd have to give up being a wingnut.

Anonymous said...

Where does the Constitution say anything about transportation? What are you talking about?

High-speed rail would be an improvement throughout the east coast as air traffic increases. It's almost competitive with air travel to DC now, other than the odd departure times.

Anonymous said...

The constitution states that "the powers not granted to the Federal Government by this Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the People."

That's the Tenth Amendment.

Article I Section 8 grants the power to build ROADS. That's IT. ROADS.


Now do you understand?

Anonymous said...


Day and time, punk. You got the courage to break MY jaw to extract my $6,000 property taxes and $30K State/Federal from me in person? Well, do ya, punk? Date and time.

Anonymous said...

"There is only one way to kill capitalism - by taxes, taxes, and more taxes" Karl Marx

Mr. Honest American said...

Here I am in my car, barreling down I-77 at 85 miles per hour, text messaging you! What a thrill. The speed limit sign I just passed indicated that the MAXIMUM LEGAL LIMIT IS 70 MPH, but we all know that that the Constitution really says we can drive 10 mph over the limit shown on those signs on which the taxpayers have spent millions to erect and maintain. Right??

Me? - Oh, I don’t pay taxes. I have a corporation taxed as an S-Corp. Each September I just see how I’m doing financially, which is always pretty well, and then just start accumulating a lot of fake expenses so that I’ll have a “loss” at year-end to report on my 1040. Hee, Hee! And those folks who get the earned income credit think they’ve got a good thing going. My accountant is really getting on my back lately about paying myself a salary in case the IRS audits me, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay any Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes into the system like those fools who get W-2’s. The IRS doesn’t have enough folks to catch all of us.

I always add an extra 5 mph above my 10 mph self-imposed speed raise, just because I can’t stand to have anyone else pass me. Oh, did I mention that the state patrol doesn’t have enough troopers and tricks to catch all of us?

What the …!!?? Some woman in a Camaro just flew by me doing 86. Well, I’ll show her ... and you!!!! Aren’t cars just the greatest thing?

Anonymous said...

Trains are safe?
you be the judge-
"A commuter train engineer who ran a stop signal was blamed Saturdayfor the catastrophic collision in California that killed at least 25people.

The engineer reportedly sent a text message a minutebefore the devastating crash to a teenage train buff he had recentlybefriended."


Fireman ERNEST A. KESTLER and J. E. WALKER, Colored Passenger, Instantly Killed-Investigation Leads to Belief That Train Was Wrecked on Purpose-Coroner HOVIS Will Hold Investigation Today-Engineer J. C. LANYOUX and WALTER E. SLOAN Painfully Injured, but Will Recover-Train Was Not Running Fast.

Two men were killed in a rear-end collision between two freight trains on the New York, Nen Haven Hartford Railroad early yesterday morning, near East Port Chester, Conn., nine miles west of Stamford. Eight cars were demolished. The railroad gave out the following statement last night:

Aren't trains the greatest things?!

Anonymous said...

10:19: Wow, I didn't know it would be so easy to get your brain to short-circuit like a FemBot.

Maybe those cars are going so fast because Jennifer Roberts and Pat McCrory and The Obamessiah are chasing them down for more taxes.

Anonymous said...

Another rail "success story":

McIntosh's restaurant ON THE SOUTH RAIL LINE just went OUT OF BUSINESS.

Eat or pay taxes? The fascists at NakedCity make the answer of that one abundently clear.

Anonymous said...

...and the rednecks scream louder as Charlotte becomes more urban and America becomes more progressive. Surely we can build a concrete wall with razor wire around Mississippi and exile them all there so they can live in their own fantasy anachy.

Anonymous said...

I love my car. If that's a crime well put me in prison. And as for taxes, we need them to be lower. I don't understand why anyone would agree with higher taxation. Don't these people realize that taxation destroys prosperity?

Anonymous said...

It would be great to have a transportation system that was not defined by traffic and gas. I have used good train systems in the U.S. and abroad and when built to scale they are fantastic. No car payment, no insurance payment, no tolls, no traffic, and cheap to get anywhere. I wish we had a train system here and hopefully it will one day happen. Charlotte has seen the power of light rail, a full system can do so much more. Those who bash it are the same people who bashed it before and lost soundly in their drive to eliminate the tax. We the majority have spoken and we want something better - namely trains!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

We are in a recession. We don't need to spend anymore money. The federal gov't needs to tighten up just as individuals are doing.

Anonymous said...

"Fireman ERNEST A. KESTLER and J. E. WALKER, Colored Passenger, Instantly Killed..."

COLORED? Who you calling colored?

Which century did you turn back to in finding those "current" accident reports?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. We need to hoard our money in a recession. That way we can put more people out of work. Good conservative thinking.

Anonymous said...

Love the car driver.

Hate the car, as my minister says.

Anonymous said...

I love my car, and all the things that go with it:

$2,000 annual maintainance, repairs, inspection and license

$100 for car washing/waxing

$600-800 for insurance premiums

$2,000 for gasoline

$400 monthly lease/purchase payment

Yep, but I don't think we Americans should pay taxes. They take too much out of out pockets.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:16 you are way over paying????? Just because you are bad with money doesn't mean you should make taxpayers pay for your bad decisions.

Anonymous said...

Hoard our money?? What are you just stupid or plain retarded???? Common sense is being frugal in a downturn!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I prefer to chose who I give my money to rather than have it taken away from me. At least you can chose a different car, insurance, or service station. If trains are built by private enterprise I'm all for it if not it's a big waste of taxpayer money.

Anonymous said...


Rick said...

Mary, why haven't you reported the good news on LYNX ridership? It's now even available to the public.

Upcoming MTC AgendaTomorrow night will be interesting. We'll get to see the CATS estimates for the North and Northeast lines.

Anonymous said...

So tell us, Mr. Common Censor, just how frugality (i. e., hoarding)will stimulate the economy.

Or do all those retailers out there, and the factories and services that create products for the retailers to sell, just hibernate for a decade or two and hope that somehow the economy will magically recover? That all of a sudden they will someday saunter out of the cave and once again back into the sunlight?

You must have attended the George W. Bush School of Economic Fairy Tales. So where are your conservative supply-side economics now that the suppliers are out of business? Talk about stupid.

Anonymous said...

Let's compare the Lynx ridership vs. the Van pool program listed from Rick's post.

~ 14,000 TRIPS per week
=2,000 TRIPS per day (14,000/7)
=1,000 Passengers (Passengers usually take a trip in and a trip back out)

Van pool-
Per Rick's link ~ 1,008 passengers per day

Seems to me the trains cost (sarcasm on)a bit more (sarcasm off) than the Van pool to justify any more trains (maybe we just need more van pools).

The post on train wrecks were all within the last few years. I copy and pasted the articles (I didn't write them)

Anonymous said...

When you can tell us the source and date of an American newspaper or magazine that would have the absolute gall to refer to a train passenger as "Colored" in this day and age, then you might be able to salvage some credibility.

Anonymous said...

Anon of 11:20 - You have to consider that he said those wrecks occured "within the past few years".

To be sure, the term "Colored" obviously dates his material. But to a conservative like he (or she), the Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crowism occured "within the past few years". They don't like things to change quickly, if at all. Heck,to him, the auto was invented just yesterday.

Anonymous said...

On the post about train wrecks- I was mistaken on the date for the "colored" article. It was from 1917 (It is easily googled).

Here is from Wiki that has wrecks from the year 2000- on

Kill the messenger- not the message.

Rick said...

I guess I should have taken the over...the BLE comes in at $1.12 BILLION under the CATS favored alternative using 5% inflation.

CATS even said tonight's information included "no surprises, which is great!"

That's interesting. The last published CATS estimate was $900m. If increasing the project by a measily $200m is not a surprise we should all be terrified.

One other thing...the high-speed rail project you train lovers are all drooling over is actually going to delay the BLE by 5-7 months because CATS now has to do some redesign of work they just completed. Great!!!

Anonymous said...

That is $1.12 billion right now. If the first line is any indication, you can multiply the 1.12 billion by at least 3.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I just came back from London and trains are the best there. I go to school in Ohio and they are about ti make high speed rail a reality. I think my homestate should get off their butts and do it too. NC is the best anyways......