“High-speed rail is a fast track to government waste”

I have been saying that for years but it is nice to see the Washington Post finally coming around to the truth in this editorial. The author, Robert J. Samuelson, does a great job of dismantling the false information used to justify the trains which are the darlings of the transportation crowd. I recommend you read the whole thing but I will give you a small sample:

Rail buffs argue that subsidies for passenger service simply offset the huge government support of highways and airways. The subsidies “level the playing field.” Wrong. In 2004, the Transportation Department evaluated federal transportation subsidies from 1990 to 2002. It found passenger rail service had the highest subsidy ($186.35 per thousand passenger-miles) followed by mass transit ($118.26 per thousand miles). By contrast, drivers received no net subsidy; their fuel taxes more than covered federal spending. Subsidies for airline passengers were about $5 per thousand miles traveled.


The reasons passenger rail service doesn’t work in America are well-known: Interstate highways shorten many trip times; suburbanization has fragmented destination points; air travel is quicker and more flexible for long distances (if fewer people fly from Denver to Los Angeles and more go to Houston, flight schedules simply adjust).


High-speed rail is not an “investment in the future”; it’s mostly a waste of money. Good government can’t solve all our problems, but it can at least not make them worse.

Commuter rail service is the least effective way for this country to address our transportation needs and I am amazed there are so many people that ignore this fact.

Thanks to Kyle Wingfield of the AJC for pointing this article out to me. If you aren’t reading Kyle regularly, you should be.

1 thought on ““High-speed rail is a fast track to government waste”

  1. The take-away line:

    Against history and logic is the imagery of high-speed rail as “green” and a cutting-edge technology.

    Well, I’ve heard they teach neither history nor logic in schools anymore, so that could explain a lot right there! How many ignorant decisions can we make in the name of “green?” Let me count the ways.

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