9 thoughts on ““I’ve Been Dumping on the Rail Road” — Scott Walker

  1. Newt says:

    Bruce makes a factual error worth pointing out.

    First, “mass transit is for the masses.” Not true. Mass transit serves niche travelers in very very small numbers.

    The Northstar Rail line – already insolvent – requires a taxpayer subsidy of $19 PER PASSENGER TRIP.

    The cost per passenger rail-mile traveled is astronomical, even obscene. You could purchase a fleet of Greyhound busses and fill them with only 10 people for a fraction of what rail costs.

  2. john sherman says:

    “Mass transit serves niche travelers in very very small numbers.” Been on a subway in New York lately? If that’s your idea of very very small numbers, I’d hate to see what you think of as a crowd.

    When I rode Amtrak last fall from Fargo to NYC, the trains seemed to be pretty close to capacity. Incidentally, the Empire Builder (Seattle/Portland to Chicago) is a pretty good train, but the North Coast Ltd. needs new rolling stock and even more needs a change in the policy that prioritizes freight over passenger on the lines.

    The conservative view on transportation, to the extent that it makes sense at all, makes sense only on the assumption that the highways will never get any more crowded, or alternatively that we can just keep adding lanes, and that the price of gas is not going to go up in any important way. I don’t think I would bet on either of those propositions.

  3. Great points, John.
    Some of this is about “if you build it they will come.” Look at the development in Atlanta and Washington DC around the stops on their MARTA and Metro. Apartments and condos and shops and restaurants and neighborhoods have sprung up around the rail stops. This helps defeat energy-consuming urban sprawl. The same thing is already happening along the not-yet-built University Av. line in the Twin Cities, and has happened along the Hiawatha line from downtown to the airport and MOA.

    Rail is an investment — it takes time to pay off, Newt. Have you commuted on I-94 during rush hour out toward Monticello? It’s a parking lot. Over time, the North Star will fill up as car congestion becomes untenable.

    You want non-niche, Newt? Travel by train in Europe — civilized countries.

    1. Newt says:

      I have traveled more on EU trains (and probably US trains) than anyone here. The number of rail travelers is infinitesimal compared to motorists everywhere.

      It makes modest sense in limited routes.

      At least we flushed out Bruce – the US is a primitive nation.

    2. john sherman says:

      Bruce, do you read Duncan Black (Atrios at the blog Eschaton)? He posts frequently on transportation and allied zoning issues.

      Incidentally, Talgo, the railroad equipment manufacturer, has just announced it’s closing its plant in Milwaukee, taking the jobs presumably to a more rail friendly state and leaving the city stuck with a plant they had just rehabbed for Talgo. That’s a lose/lose/lose for Walker.

  4. Mike Kennedy says:

    I don’t think Bruce was saying the U.S. is uncivilized — I think he was saying it has a longer history of experimenting with societal ideas than we do.

    After all, watching these petulant Europeans riot over things like increasing the retirement age a couple of years (France) to increasing college costs (UK), it would be difficult to make that case.

  5. Mike Kennedy says:

    Sorry, wasn’t clear in that first sentence. It should have read Europe has a longer history……………..I have only had one cup of coffee.

  6. leftymn says:

    I agree with Bruce’s comments , even though they are snarky, they have the ring of truth.

    More importantly , a sophisticated high speed train system is future looking. Roads and internal combustion engines are backward looking , and the true cost of driving when you input fuel, the cost of the fuel, the cost of the wars and military bases to protect the flow of the fuel, the insurance costs of driving, the costs of medical and insurance for injuries related to auto accidents, and the cost of repairs to cars…, the cost of upkeep and maintenance and road construction…. hell alot of this isnt subsidized… you are paying for it daily and weekly and monthly already… you just accept it for the convenience.

    America dithers about these things, China just builds them… we decline, they progress. But hey, the cheeseheads stopped the train… i drive 8 or 10 times a year between Mpls and Chicago on i-94. its not an enjoyable drive. My main complaint is if they are going to do high speed, then do high speed… 110 mph isnt high speed, and 5 or 6 hours to get to chicago isnt really attractive if it costs me $150 to 200 to fly there RT nowadays.

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