Back to the Future with High-Speed Rail

March 11, 2009


If I hear one more article about the promise of high-speed rail in New York I think I’m going to gag.

Does anyone remember the promise of the Buffalo subway system?  That service to nowhere cost the government somewhere around $500M back in the early ’80s.  Ridership never came close to justifying the cost.  You think high-speed rail across the upstate region is going to suddenly make Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany chic destination spots? Amtrak with all its millions in government help couldn’t do it, not while it shares the same rails with slow-moving freight trains and dilapidated stations.

And until you solve the problem of obtaining easy last-mile travel once you step off the train, city-to-city high-speed rail will remain unattractive.   So far, that last-mile discussion hasn’t even begun.

While construction of a rail line may have some short-term (very short-term) benefits to a few laborers scattered across upstate New York, rail’s life cycle costs are enormous.  We have spent the past 30 years proving that such rail service can’t exist without subsidies; why would we want to subject ourselves and our children to that kind of future penalty?

Let’s get real.