Commentary

More High-speed Rail: The Headline may not have it Exactly Right..

Following up on my colleague Sam Staley’s post here I found the following interesting.

The Headline from ABC news reads:

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he’ll go to Japan this summer for talks with Toyota executives about the sudden acceleration problem plaguing some Toyota’s” Comment: It is good to talk to Toyota.

The next line may contain the real agenda.
“LaHood also says he’ll examine Japan’s high-speed rail system.”

It would be best if Secretary LaHood read a very informative piece by Ron Utt of the Heritage Foundation found here. He gives a good overview of the “success” (NOT) of foreign high-speed rail.

Just on Japan he says:

Japan . Japan’s passenger rail–both high speed and not-so-high speed–has been extremely costly and has been a contributing factor in the genteel process of decline now enveloping this onetime economic superpower. Japan began operating an HSR system in 1964 at speeds of about 130 mph. By the 1990s, speeds in excess of 180 mph were common.
As a result of this commitment to HSR and the costs associated with the rest of the passenger rail system, the Japanese National Railway (JNR) was losing $20 billion per year and was issuing debt to cover all but the $5 billion covered by direct government subsidies. By the mid-1980s, the JNR’s accumulated debt exceeded $300 billion. Recognizing that the JNR was not financially sustainable as a government program, the government began privatizing the passenger rail system in 1987, converting the JNR into seven separate joint stock companies and selling them off to the public over the next several years.
In Japan, unlike the United States, where Amtrak’s losses can be attributed to half-filled trains, a trivial market share, and powerful unions, about 28.7 percent of passengers traveled by rail in 2007–the highest rate of rail use in the developed world. Today, several of the restructured, privatized Japanese passenger rail lines run at a profit, but only because they were acquired at a fraction of their capital costs and the government absorbed much of the system’s debt. (Emphasis added by me)

We have written a great deal regarding high-speed rail. California here and here among other sites.

And my colleague Bob Poole as written about Florida “the gift that keeps on taking” here.

It appears that the lack of realism in the high-speed rail dream continues.

Shirley Ybarra is a former senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.