High Speed Delusion

Al Boese
Last Tuesday, March 22nd,  saw two Obama high speed rail shills, hapless Illinois Governor Quinn and the loyal, ebullient,  camera centric Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, shamelessly announcing with pride, the next phase of the so called Chicago to St Louis High Speed Rail project. The new $1.2 billion phase is to run from Bloomington, IL to Dwight IL, a distance of 58.5 miles of what could only be described as the "Billion Dollar Train to Nowhere." Folks, that amounts to a mere $20,618,556 per mile, with an estimated heart stopping speed of 110 mph. Google Map estimates driving between these destinations to be 1 hour 10 minutes. This breakthrough rail line will take only 32 minutes, assuming your actual destination in either Bloomington or Dwight is the train station itself.

A guess: a remote train stop would not be your final travel objective.  Consequently one must add some time to travel to the train station at both ends of the journey to calculate total elapsed time. If you are lucky, that could add 10 or more minutes at each end, so let's say a total of 25 minutes just getting to and from the stations.

Oh yes, to avoid missing the train, careful planning requires some contingency time be built into your travel plan to account for traffic slowdowns or even a freight train. That is another 5 to10 minutes.  This adds up to about 1 hr 7 minutes, really close to the Google Map estimate. Furthermore, how often is this high speed train going to run and will it actually stop at Dwight?

Driving offers infinite departure and arrival times, a significant option of convenience, not to be overlooked. As to cost, driving that distance at a full up cost of $0.58 per mile will be a total of $33.93. The California High Speed Rail operating cost estimate is $2.30 per passenger mile, which could be used in our analysis. Therefore our theoretical trip between Dwight and Bloomington will cost $134.55, about $100.00 more than a drive.

Finally, the last flaw in the project is the rail congestion from Chicago to Joliet, some 40 miles, where delays and limited speeds are the norm. Without a completely separate and dedicated track system, any passenger service is low speed between these points, irrespective of the condition of the track or the rated speed of the locomotion equipment. In other words, this project is a sham and deceitful. 

There is one other and troubling aspect of this mystical and politically correct new transportation system: it costs billions of dollars neither the federal government nor the State of Illinois has to spend. All known and available funds are committed to spending for current and future needs and obligations. Since no private investment is even a remote possibility without government guarantees, this becomes yet another state and federal supported obligation on top of the already unsustainable commitments we are facing. It is time to recognize the futility of it all and cease the insanity of universal High Speed Passenger Rail.

High speed passenger rail, and I mean high speed at 150 + mph is desirable and in substantial use in such dense geography as the northeast corridor between Boston, Connecticut New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. With all due respect to St Louis, is there that much demand to go there, or anywhere in between? The same can be said for Detroit or Minneapolis, more Obama targets for high speed rail, in addition to the Orlando-Tampa FL route and the favorite, LA to the SF Bay Area.

Make no mistake, rail is ideally suited, and the mode of choice, for moving freight long distances. The Association of American Railroads states that the average freight train can move one ton of cargo 480 miles on one gallon of fuel, and one train can carry the freight of 280 trucks. As to fuel consumption, pollution, highway congestion, safety, cost and road damage, there is no comparison, rail wins on all accounts, including delivery time. Additionally, railroads are private, taxpaying ventures, requiring no subsidies. If high speed passenger rail were so compelling, why are there no initiatives by private sector railroads to fill a demand? The simple answer: there is no economic case, therefore, no demand for high speed passenger rail in America, period.

The mystery remains; why is the current administration so obsessed with the delusion of high speed rail for America, and at staggering costs? No reasonable economic case has found the facts to support the idea. It is an inexplicable, irrational, yet passionate desire of the political left to impose high speed rail on this country. Is it Europe or Japan envy, or is the concept of freedom of choice and flexibility that the automobile and our highways offer, just too much to bear for the elite liberals and their President?
Last Tuesday, March 22nd,  saw two Obama high speed rail shills, hapless Illinois Governor Quinn and the loyal, ebullient,  camera centric Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, shamelessly announcing with pride, the next phase of the so called Chicago to St Louis High Speed Rail project. The new $1.2 billion phase is to run from Bloomington, IL to Dwight IL, a distance of 58.5 miles of what could only be described as the "Billion Dollar Train to Nowhere." Folks, that amounts to a mere $20,618,556 per mile, with an estimated heart stopping speed of 110 mph. Google Map estimates driving between these destinations to be 1 hour 10 minutes. This breakthrough rail line will take only 32 minutes, assuming your actual destination in either Bloomington or Dwight is the train station itself.

A guess: a remote train stop would not be your final travel objective.  Consequently one must add some time to travel to the train station at both ends of the journey to calculate total elapsed time. If you are lucky, that could add 10 or more minutes at each end, so let's say a total of 25 minutes just getting to and from the stations.

Oh yes, to avoid missing the train, careful planning requires some contingency time be built into your travel plan to account for traffic slowdowns or even a freight train. That is another 5 to10 minutes.  This adds up to about 1 hr 7 minutes, really close to the Google Map estimate. Furthermore, how often is this high speed train going to run and will it actually stop at Dwight?

Driving offers infinite departure and arrival times, a significant option of convenience, not to be overlooked. As to cost, driving that distance at a full up cost of $0.58 per mile will be a total of $33.93. The California High Speed Rail operating cost estimate is $2.30 per passenger mile, which could be used in our analysis. Therefore our theoretical trip between Dwight and Bloomington will cost $134.55, about $100.00 more than a drive.

Finally, the last flaw in the project is the rail congestion from Chicago to Joliet, some 40 miles, where delays and limited speeds are the norm. Without a completely separate and dedicated track system, any passenger service is low speed between these points, irrespective of the condition of the track or the rated speed of the locomotion equipment. In other words, this project is a sham and deceitful. 

There is one other and troubling aspect of this mystical and politically correct new transportation system: it costs billions of dollars neither the federal government nor the State of Illinois has to spend. All known and available funds are committed to spending for current and future needs and obligations. Since no private investment is even a remote possibility without government guarantees, this becomes yet another state and federal supported obligation on top of the already unsustainable commitments we are facing. It is time to recognize the futility of it all and cease the insanity of universal High Speed Passenger Rail.

High speed passenger rail, and I mean high speed at 150 + mph is desirable and in substantial use in such dense geography as the northeast corridor between Boston, Connecticut New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. With all due respect to St Louis, is there that much demand to go there, or anywhere in between? The same can be said for Detroit or Minneapolis, more Obama targets for high speed rail, in addition to the Orlando-Tampa FL route and the favorite, LA to the SF Bay Area.

Make no mistake, rail is ideally suited, and the mode of choice, for moving freight long distances. The Association of American Railroads states that the average freight train can move one ton of cargo 480 miles on one gallon of fuel, and one train can carry the freight of 280 trucks. As to fuel consumption, pollution, highway congestion, safety, cost and road damage, there is no comparison, rail wins on all accounts, including delivery time. Additionally, railroads are private, taxpaying ventures, requiring no subsidies. If high speed passenger rail were so compelling, why are there no initiatives by private sector railroads to fill a demand? The simple answer: there is no economic case, therefore, no demand for high speed passenger rail in America, period.

The mystery remains; why is the current administration so obsessed with the delusion of high speed rail for America, and at staggering costs? No reasonable economic case has found the facts to support the idea. It is an inexplicable, irrational, yet passionate desire of the political left to impose high speed rail on this country. Is it Europe or Japan envy, or is the concept of freedom of choice and flexibility that the automobile and our highways offer, just too much to bear for the elite liberals and their President?