More on High Speed Rail and profitability

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced another $2 billion for rail projects in the U.S. on Monday, and it looks like the money will go to 22 projects in 15 states. I blogged about this yesterday after hearing Secretary LaHood on CNBC. Investor’s Business Daily weighed into yesterday as a critic of the project, noting:

• A Pew study found that all but three of Amtrak’s 44 lines lost money in 2008, with an average loss of $32 per passenger. Even the heavily used Northeast Regional line was a money-loser.

• Each year, Amtrak relies on more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies — totaling about $40 billion over the past 40 years. And it’s by far the most heavily subsidized mode of transportation, getting $210 per thousand passenger miles, according to a 2004 Department of Transportation report.

• Amtrak’s trains are perpetually late. More than one in five Northeast Regional train trips missed its arrival time this past year. Others, like the Michigan Services line between Chicago and Detroit, saw nearly two-thirds of its trains run late, Amtrak data show.

All of this comes despite repeated promises that the government-supported rail service would one day be a viable business. Back in 1992, then president W. Graham Claytor Jr. said Amtrak “hopes to eliminate (federal support) altogether by the end of the decade.”

CNN also ran a story yesterday that included at least some criticism (me) and can be found here.

The Pew study on Amtrak cited by Investor’s Business Daily editorial can be found here. (I should also note that the Pew study appears to show that the Acela trains are indeed profitable even when considering depreciation on capital equipment. This was the only regular route to make money using their improved methodology.)

Reason’s ongoing writing and research on high-speed rail can be found here.

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.

Staley is the author of several books, most recently co-authoring Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Texas Gov. Rick Perry aid Staley and Moore "get it right" and world bank urban planner Alain Bartaud called it "a must read for urban managers of large cities in the United States and around the world."

He is also co-author, with Ted Balaker, of The Road More Traveled: Why The Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It (Rowman and Littlefield, September, 2006). Author Joel Kotkin said, "The Road More Traveled should be required reading not only for planners and their students, but anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive as real places, not merely as museums, in the 21st Century." Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."

Staley's previous book, Smarter Growth: Market-based Strategies for Land-use Planning in the 21st Century (Greenwood Press, 2001), was called the "most thorough challenge yet to regional land-use plans" by Planning magazine.

In addition to these books, he is the author of Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Planning Rules and Urban Economic Performance: The Case of Hong Kong (Chinese University Press, 1994).

His more than 100 professional articles, studies, and reports have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning magazine, Reason magazine, National Review and many others.

Staley's approach to urban development, transportation and public policy blends more than 20 years of experience as an economic development consultant, academic researcher, urban policy analyst, and community leader.

Staley is a former chair for his local planning board in his hometown of Bellbrook, Ohio. He is also a former member of its Board of Zoning Appeals and Property Review Commission, vice chair of his local park district's open space master plan committee, and chair of its Charter Review Commission.

Staley received his B.A. in Economics and Public Policy from Colby College, M.S. in Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration, with concentrations in urban planning and public finance from Ohio State University.