07 October 2009

Is Rail a Boondoggle?

If you have been listening to the sound bites in favor of Issue 9, the anti-passenger rail amendment, you have heard the word boondoggle bandied about a lot. In fact, taking a lesson from the wording of the ballot initiative, I would say ad infinitum.

So when I saw a recent tweet linking to the article High Speed Rail: A No-Brainer, I was amused by reading this at the beginning of the article:
“‘Boondoggle‘, ‘Loss-making whim‘, ‘Monument to bad territorial planning’. . .

Such are the arguments of high speed rail critics, as the United States finally gets on board the passenger rail revolution that is sweeping the world.
I thought to myself that they must surely be referring to the sound bites bouncing around Cincinnati, but I was wrong. Turns out they are actually the words of Spanish conservatives railing (pun intended) against the Spain's passenger rail plans.

I also appreciated this passage:
Shielded behind overly simple, short-sighted, cost-benefit analysis, critics complained with those arguments against high-speed projects over years, until the success of each one of the new corridors proved them wrong and showed that in troubled economic times, the best investments for a society are the ones which improve equality.

History has proved rail’s critics wrong in Spain, as economic development and rider enthusiasm followed it everywhere it went.
To be fair, the article is focused on the high-speed rail effort in the US. However, I think most folks understand that Issue 9 goes beyond streetcars in scope. I think it is a great read, and well worth the time to look at it. Thanks to @recycledbin for the link.


CityKin said...

You know a few years ago, improved rail in the US seemed a pipe dream. Now there is tons of research-based articles on the web supporting the economics of rail. See The Overhead Wire or Yglesias.

Travelling by train is green, comfortable, fast and productive. But the real reason I support rail is that it grows good cities in a way that highways and airports cannot.

5chw4r7z said...

It is so easy for opponents to throw out a buzzword without support and everyone believes them.
To me this goes right back to Mike's post A Culture of Cynics, no one likes changes, especially if the change will be good for them.