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Friday, February 11, 2011

 

High-speed rail: Obama's gift that nobody wants

High-speed rail: Obama's gift that nobody wants

 

Examiner Editorial

02/10/11 8:05 PM

 Vice President Biden, right, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, left, walk to a train at Union Station heading to Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 Vice President Biden, right, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, left, walk to a train at Union Station heading to Philadelphia.   AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Obama sent his vice president, "Amtrak Joe" Biden, to Philadelphia's 30th Street rail station earlier this week to announce the administration's latest gift to the American people:   A six-year, $53 billion government subsidy for the mass transit industry in order to give "80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years."   And therein lies the fundamental problem - Obama, Biden and liberal Democrats in general can't resist giving the rest of us things we don't want.   And they almost always use our money to pay for them, whether we like it or not.   Nothing better illustrates this phenomenon than their obsession with forcing Americans out of the private passenger vehicles that enable them to go where they choose and into government-run transit systems like Amtrak, San Francisco's BART and Washington, D.C.'s Metro subway that take them where and when politicians and bureaucrats think they should go.

Transportation expert Ken Orski claims Obama's high-speed rail program is all but "dead-on-arrival" on Capitol Hill.   House Republicans will zero out the program as a wasteful subsidy of a 19th century transportation technology that cannot compete with 21st century commercial airlines for long-distance travel.   House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.,  put it well in observing that "rather than focusing on the Northeast Corridor, the most congested corridor in the nation ... the administration continues to squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects. This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio."   The program's prospects are further dimmed by the fact that the new Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio don't want to participate in it, and Gov. Rick Scott, Florida's new chief executive, is also expected to decline the subsidies, even though his state has previously participated.

The fundamental problem facing Obama, Biden and others who favor big government subsidies for mass transit systems is that the vast majority of Americans prefer private cars and commercial airplanes over tax-supported trains, be they of the high-speed or light-rail variety.   Amtrak's chronic inability to make a profit reflects this reality, and it is even more evident in data comparing public mass transit and private passenger cars in daily commuting.   Contrary to the claims of high-speed rail and mass transit enthusiasts, the presence of such systems does not lure drivers out of their cars and into trains.   Between 1980 and 2009, for example, U.S. Census Bureau data cited by Wendell Cox in a recent Heritage Foundation study showed a 12.7 percent increase in the number of drivers in cars in three large metropolitan areas that are considered prime markets for mass transit - Baltimore, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.    The same data showed a 19.5 decrease in the number of people using mass transit rail and bus systems.  Transportation will improve in every respect when Washington stops trying to force people to do what they don't want to do.



Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/2011/02/high-speed-rail-obamas-gift-nobody-wants##ixzz1DdrGbulu


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