Do we want high speed rail from Houston to Dallas? Dug Begley, HoustonChronicle.com (Free through today then $$$)
Flying can get you to Dallas a lot of faster, but there's the time spent sitting in the airport terminal, collecting luggage, fighting past the guy in seat 13C who put his bag three overhead compartments behind his seat and then figuring out how to get to and from airports that aren't exactly downtown-adjacent.
It's a hassle, no matter how you choose to travel. That's why momentum has been growing lately for a high-speed line linking the two cities, specifically a plan by Texas Central Railway to co-opt Japanese high-speed rail design and launch it in America. The train, which backers say is set to carry travelers in 2021, could make the roughly 240-mile trip in 90 minutes.
I've seen this argument used a lot, that train travel is going to be free of the many hassles of air-travel. That you're not going to be groped by the TSA, that you won't have to wait in line to check your bag, that you won't be sitting in cramped seats next to someone who obviously lacks both basic hygiene and social skills. The problem is, this just isn't true.
In fact, you're still going to have to go through security and baggage screening, there will still be overhead bins, there will still be travelers who feel it is their right to try and cram 3 carry-ons into a space fit for two and you're still going to have to procure additional transportation to where you're going. The myth of a high-speed train ride being a simple and idyllic trip through the rolling hills of bliss is just not accurate.
This is not to say that high-speed rail is a bad idea. The truth is I just don't know. If you've been a reader of any of my blogs for any length of time you know that I am a fan of moving about Europe via trains. In fact, I love trains. What I'm not sold on is that a train is the best solution for Texas. I've yet to see any studies suggesting that "Texas Triangle Express" is either cost efficient or has enough demand to turn a profit without very hefty government subsidies. In an age where schools are crying for more and more money, where water spending is a coming financial drag and where we don't currently have enough money to pave the roads (and where the New Mrs. White advocates increasing spending for all) I just can't make the financial numbers tie without Texas either a.)Raising sales taxes to somewhere around 50%, or b.)Implementing an income tax of 1000% on everyone making above $30K/year.
Of course, there's this (Quoted in the Begley article):
Former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, president of the rail company, last week told railroad officials meeting in Dallas that the private company hopes to set its prices at 80 percent of airfare; and make it work without taxpayer involvement.
"We are not going to have a subsidy. If it can't stand on its own, it won't get built," Eckels said.
But do you really believe that? The history of the leeching political class is to initially sell an enterprise as a stand-alone necessity for all things Heavenly and then, after the public is sold on the matter, walk up to the trough and cast dispersions on anyone who questions their Divine Right to drink heartily from it. In most cases, the descriptor that is used is "Public/Private Partnership", which gives the impression of Government and private business prancing hand-in-hand through a field of fiscal daisies while the public is brought along for a ride that benefits everyone and fills the public coffers with reams of money which can then be spent to eradicate illiteracy, homelessness and hunger....or something.
The harsh reality is usually that a handful of politically connected Courtiers make out like bandits with tax dollars, a few politicians get their names on plaques which, they believe, will ensure their immortality for all time (thus, it seems, ensuring their entrance into Heaven due to their overwhelming contributions to their fellow man) and the citizenry finds itself eventually saddled with a Billion dollar bond issue for which there's no revenue stream to pay back. Of course, the Courtier bureaucrats will pooh-pooh the issue and assure everyone that there are no consequences to spending beyond your means and there are several of a new-urbanist lean that will bend over backwards to justify this. In politics, especially at the local level, there's always a large pool of useful idiots ready to chastise nay-sayers on comment forums in exchange for the right to kiss the Pontiff's ring. There's also always a willing group of media Courtiers that just want to matter again dammit. They like shiny things and will break out in hysterics are they granted acknowledgement by the ruling class, or each other.
In media, the descriptor of "great" is thrown around to categorize what is typically a fairly secretarial* report of a local or State issue. Other journalists, secretly masking envy that they were not selected by the ruling class to take notes, fawn and slobber over reporting that is, quite often, both incomplete and full of holes, one-sided and very average. In part this is because they now truly believe that their 'mission' is to promote these ideas that will change the world. In another part it's due to them not associating with those of a different mind-set. The biggest mental circle-jerk in Texas is not found in the Texas Legislature (although that's a close second) it's found in meetings of the Texas Lock Step Political media who have forgotten the roots of America's journalistic tradition in place of a fringe-placement in the ruler's court.
Because of this, myths like idyllic train rides are allowed to persist and grow, and any reasonable discussion of the matter is stamped out like a cigarette in a hay-loft. This neither helps the debate, nor does it do much to advance good public policy. What is does is ensure that our increasingly powerful ruling class always gets their way.
*Secretarial journalism being a term I first read via a link provided by Kevin Whited that I liked and I plan on using.