Debating High Speed Rail in the New York Times

The New York Times (October 13, 2010) asked several experts whether they thought high-speed rail wwould ever be built in the United States in their most recent edition of their on-line opinion blog “Room for Debate“. Among the commentators are Rob Puentes (the Brookings Institution), Jan Brueckner (University of California at Irvine), Robert Yaro (New York Regional Plan Association), Keith Pooled (University of Georgia), and me.

Among my major points:

“First, the concept of a “national” network of high-speed rail simply doesn’t make sense for the U.S….. The nation is a vast geographic area covering thousands of miles of unpopulated and sparsely populated areas that are unsuitable to high-speed rail. At best, high-speed rail makes sense for very specific corridors, and these corridors will be regional, not national.”

In addition to the dubious assumptions underlying cost projections and rosy ridership scenarios, I conclude that high-speed rail projects are likely to fail under the weight of their own lack of merits.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.