Wednesday, January 27, 2010

High speed rail system

According to this article and this article and this one, president Obama will be announcing another major spending initiative - a high cost speed rail system.  It will be touted as a job creation mechanism and a push towards more green transit options.  I have a lot of questions, including:
  • Is their $8 billion budget really enough to make this work?
  • Will they use existing track, or build new?  How much new?
  • Whose land will they take to build it?
  • Is this really a cost-effective means of travel?  There's a lot of infrastructure and up-front cost required.
  • Is this really the right time to do this, with record deficits and out of control spending in Washington?
  • Are the jobs that are supposed to be created good for us only in the short term, or is this really a long term strategy?
  • Can they change our car-culture enough that people will actually want to use it?
  • Will it go enough places that people will be able to use it?
  • Does this really lessen the environmental impact of our travel habits?
  • Is the problem with Amtrak really that it doesn't go fast enough?  (I'll give you a hint - no!).  If not, then how will this help solve the other problems that have plagued Amtrak.
  • And most importantly, if they get people to actually use it, how will they secure thousands of miles of track just ripe for a terrorism plot?  Roads, bridges, subways, ferries and airplanes are all susceptible too, but not to the extent that an interstate railway would be.
I'm not the only one asking questions either.