A number of readers have jumped in to defend high speed rail citing examples of rail success in Europe. Ellen and I have traveled by train multiple times in England, Scotland, and France. On one trip we brought a rail pass with car rental at each stop. We were staying in country cottages and visiting our oldest daughter attending York University.
On another trip we took the high-speed train from London to Paris with our youngest daughter who was finishing an education abroad semester. On a previous trip to France, Ellen and I used regional rail. All the train trips were an enjoyable experience. On the Eurostar train to Paris, the three of us and one other couple were the only ones in our rail car. With only five people to serve we received incredible attention from the staff.
I wondered at the time, with so few riders on the Eurostar, how could it be profitable. According to a Skynet story here it has never been profitable and even with record number of passenger, who are avoiding airline hassles, it is not projected to operate in the black.
Thomas Sowell has some thought on California's high-speed rail in his article Reckless Spending at TownHall.com
Building a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco may sound great to people who don't give it any serious thought. But we are a more spread-out country than England, France or Japan. The distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco is greater than the distance from London to Paris-- by more than 100 miles.
In Japan, the distance between Tokyo and Osaka is comparable to the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the population of Osaka alone is larger than the combined populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco-- and Tokyo has millions more people than Osaka. That is why it can make sense to have a "bullet train" running between Osaka and Tokyo, but makes no sense to build one between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
However little President Obama knows or cares about economics, he knows a lot about politics-- and especially political rhetoric. "High-speed rail" is simply another set of lofty words to justify continued expansion of government spending. So are words like "investment in education" or "investment" in any number of other things, which serves the same political purpose.
The problem with California's high-speed rail is it will suffer same fate as the Eurostar, it will never be profitable. After the Federal government gives California money to build it, then the California tax payers will have to foot the bill for operations and maintenance. It will be just another black hole sucking in our tax dollars for ever. Not a good bargain, just for the the bragging rights of having a high- speed rail.
Exit Question: How can California HSR every be profitable? Please explain!