Low-cost, flexible Megabus from the private sector vs. budget-busting, inflexible high-speed rail from the public sector

Michael Barone spots the winner.

It seems to me that two rarely-made comparisons work against high-speed rail:
  1. Any kind of railroad is comparable to older telecom technology (landlines, dedicated circuits and the like), while cars and buses are comparable to newer telecom technology (cell phones, packet switching and so on).
  2. The car-bus-and-road approach is more like modern distributed computing on the internet, while railroads are more like clunky mainframe technology.
"Big, centralized and inflexible" has worked OK at some times in the past. But "small, decentralized and flexible" usually wins out in the long run.

It also seems to me that high-speed rail proponents usually leave last mile considerations and other inconvenient numbers out of their analyses:
Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute notes that high-speed rail connects big-city downtowns, where only 7 percent of Americans work and 1 percent live. “The average intercity auto trip today uses less energy per passenger mile than the average Amtrak train.” And high speed will not displace enough cars to measurably reduce congestion. The Washington Post says China’s fast trains are priced beyond ordinary workers’ budgets, and that France, like Japan, has only one profitable line.
And, of course, railroads are less robust and more vulnerable than highway systems to terrorism, sabotage, and military attacks.

No comments:

Post a Comment