High-Speed Rail Doesn’t Fix Any of Our Transportation Problems

My latest piece on high-speed trains:

As someone who loves riding trains, it pains me to say that the Obama administration’s high-speed rail initiative is misconceived. It appears to be a solution in search of a problem, or problems, to be solved. Let’s examine the usual rationales.

To reduce greenhouse gases?

Recent analysis by researchers at UC Berkeley found that high-speed rail may yield only marginal net greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, once the impacts of constructing it are included — especially if ridership falls short of official projections. And the cost of those GHG reductions is very high—in the vicinity of $2,000 per ton. Compare that to other low-hanging-fruit reductions that cost more like $50 per ton.

To reduce our petroleum dependence?

That’s not very plausible, when all but two of the funded projects are diesel-powered. And a recent analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that non-subsidized inter-city bus service is much less energy-intensive (BTUs per passenger mile) than highly subsidized inter-city rail.

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