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Budget Buster Express: High-Speed Rail, Amtrak or Frustrated Children?

Shirley Ybarra
February 10, 2010, 11:39am

An interesting editorial in the Washington Times on February 7, 2010, suggested:

“Members of Congress must feel a bit shortchanged by the amount of playtime they received during childhood. Their ongoing fascination with one of the world's most expensive model-train sets, Amtrak, otherwise defies explanation. Politicians continue to treat the heavily subsidized operation more like a prized toy than a solid business operation. The time has come to stop shoveling money into this runaway choo-choo.”

The editorial goes on to talk about Amtrak and high-speed rail and why both are a tremendous waste of money. 

You can read the entire editorial here.

At one point the editorial  says:

"Still, Congress retains nostalgia for a mode of transport that made sense when the only competition consisted of wagon trains and steamer ships. Train travel today just can't compare to the comfort and convenience of a modern automobile for shorter-haul trips. And, despite the best efforts of the Transportation Security Administration to make flying a miserable experience, airplanes still can't be beat on the longer routes.

A Washingtonian seeking to escape the winter in Orlando, Fla., could choose a 34-hour round-trip train ride for $220. It is more likely, however, that he would select a pair of two-hour flights for about $40 less.

We at Reason have written many times regarding the waste of money on high-speed rail:
California:  And more on California most recently here.

My collegue Bob Poole wrote about Florida high-speed rail at this site. 

Another colleague Sam Staley, wrote about why high-speed rail is not a “jobs program” here
and compares expectations with what Spain did here.

And finally the editorial concludes: 

 “…..President Obama has been spending our money to create his own real-life train set. Mr. Obama's 2011 budget added $1 billion on top of the $8 billion in stimulus funding as a "down payment" on the creation of a shiny new high-speed locomotive program.”  

 
I had not thought of this boondoggle as “train set for grown-ups” but come to think of it……maybe it is just that!


Shirley Ybarra is Senior Transportation Policy Analyst


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