Why trains are good for Ohio

I’m not jumping up and down about Ohio building a 79 mph passenger rail system in 2011- especially since I was reading about Bullet Trains in Japan in grade school (that was in the 1970s, people). I’ve ridden on the Eurostar through the Chunnel. Engineering marvels. Been around for years. And, now, the best the most powerful nation can do is 79 mph?

Mussolini had trains that ran that fast.

I also don’t see it as a stimulus magic wand. It won’t do much for jobs- or make companies want to move to Ohio. Nope, on all accounts we’re looking like a third world nation if this is best we can do.

From the 3c is me website:

Ohio has received $400 million in federal stimulus resources to invest in passenger rail.

“With today’s historic announcement by President Obama, Ohio takes a major step toward modernizing our state’s transportation infrastructure,” said Governor Strickland. “The 3C Corridor will create economic development opportunities and serve as a model of environmental sustainability. Most importantly, it will put thousands of Ohioans to work over the next few years.”

The 256-mile 3C Corridor – stretching from Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati – would reconnect nearly 6 million Ohioans with 79 mph passenger trains for the first time in 40 years.

via 3C is ME.

However, this does get us started toward rail- and an eventual upgrade to high speed, and that is good. I’ve been hearing people complain all day in response to a post I put up on Facebook- about how it’s not going to be “economically viable” and require taxpayer support. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but trains and tracks require much less continuous care and feeding at taxpayer expense than anything resembling a road made out of asphalt. Roads are crap investments when you look at revenue. Trucking things is inefficient as all get out, as well.

This country needs to wean itself from the teat of cheap oil. This is a good step. And for those of you who have ridden real trains- you know how much nicer it is to ride a train than fly in a plane, or even drive a car.

Yep, there are people who think that trains are too slow, that they can get somewhere faster, cheaper on a tank of gas- but, they aren’t really thinking opportunity costs. I can work while on a train- I can’t while driving. Trains don’t get stuck in traffic. Trains don’t require me to stop to go potty. In civilized countries trains are the way business gets done.

Thank you, economic downturn- if that’s what it takes to get us to make smart moves like bringing back rail travel- great.

Here is our Grassroots Dayton Daily Show take on the train- coming soon to Ohio:

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82 Responses

  1. Joe February 3, 2010 / 3:52 pm
    @RV :  “So some of the thread is dedicated to showing why or how one group of people has the right to decide for another group that trains are in their best interest as well. ”

    I look at this as the crux of our society. There are alot things I don’t agree that are paid w/ my taxes – corporate welfare, certain defense expenditures, etc… . These are values I have which are compromised for mee by elected leaders – give and take. I can’t always expect to get my way, of course. And the force of the Government’s  sovereignty limits and enforces what I pay for.  I see this was covered in some form or the other above so I wont rehash it. Interesting reading, however.

    The trains, if successful, could be looked at as a way to buy Ohio for the next election cycles. That fact has certainly crossed my mind.

  2. jstults February 3, 2010 / 4:26 pm
    Jeff of Louisville:

    Which brings up a good question on wasting Federal tax money on declining places like Ohio.

    Significant lag between relative population loss and decline in number of electoral votes?

  3. Bruce Kettelle February 3, 2010 / 4:46 pm
    I leved without a car for three years in Boston.  It save a lot of money even when I needed to rent one on weekends for trips into the countryside.

    I was not saying to raise taxes.  I’m only trying to shift the actual cost of driving to those using cars on the road as opposed to every taxpayer whether they are a car owner or not.

    I’ve ridden the Amtrak corridor DC to Boston 40 or 50 times over the years.  It is so much better than flying especially with the 9-11 early checkin requirements.

    If you don’t want the railroads subsidized then stop subsidizing roads. RV don’t you commute on I-95 every day?  I hardly ever go that way.  Do you think I should not support your access to Dayton?

  4. Bruce Kettelle February 3, 2010 / 4:51 pm
    Oops, I meant I-75 not I-95.  Guess my east coast roots are showing a little.
  5. Robert Vigh February 3, 2010 / 5:05 pm
    I found a great post by someone over at the DDN site. It gives you an idea of costs and even shows something that I have not, that the current Federal Hwy system is a revenue producer for the government. Here it is:

    @ I wish I had the ability to not send my tax money to subsidized railroads. But as the post below shows, I think I may be covering my own costs on the hwy.
    By Concerned
    February 2, 2010 10:19 PM | Link to this
    Federal Transportation Subsidies in 2006, by Mode Per 1,000 Passenger-Miles Auto, vans –$1.01 Buses $1.50 Commercial aviation $4.23 General aviation $66.27 Transit $165.61 Passenger railroad $237.53 These numbers are reported in The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2283 on June 8, 2009. They go on to report “As the updated data reveal, transit and passenger rail still require the largest federal subsidies per 1,000 passenger-miles to operate, while motorists still provide the federal government with a “profit” because they pay more in user fees and taxes than they receive in federal spending. The key to determining the magnitude of the federal subsidy that the passengers of each mode receive from the federal government is to separate the funding that each mode receives from its users (in the form of user fees) from the funding that it receives from the general taxpayer and from fees paid by users of other modes. For example, the federal highway trust fund relies entirely on fuel tax revenues and excise taxes paid by motorists and truckers. In 2007, these users provided $39.3 billion to the trust fund, yet they received only about 60 percent of those revenues back in the form of federal spending on general-purpose roads. The remaining 40 percent was diverted to programs such as transit, National Parks, Appalachian development, hiking trails, bicycle paths, historic renovation, ferries, administrative costs, subsidies to metropolitan planning organizations, universities, and various programs for community development.” “Likewise, the federal subsidy per 1,000 passenger- miles for intercity buses is relatively low because these buses pay a federal fuel tax related to usage. The same holds true for commercial aviation in which both passengers and the airlines pay up to 17 separate fees, taxes, and charges for an international flight and 10 separate taxes, fees, and charges for a domestic flight. As in the cases of motorists and intercity bus operators, commercial airline passengers are largely “subsidizing” themselves.” “In contrast to motorists and commercial airlines, transit users pay no federal taxes or fees and instead benefit by receiving a share of the taxes paid by motorists and funding from general federal tax revenues. In addition, transit’s per-passenger subsidy costs are also much higher because fewer than 2 percent of passengers use transit, yet transit receives more than 20 percent of federal subsidies. Similarly, passengers served by rail (Amtrak) pay no federal tax or user fee and benefit from a very substantial subsidy provided by the general taxpayers.” As many are prone to say, “You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” These are the facts.

  6. Robert Vigh February 3, 2010 / 5:24 pm
    Southpark, 6:30 Royal Blue polo first rounds on me for any posters.
  7. Jeff of Louisville February 3, 2010 / 6:34 pm
    ” As many are prone to say, “You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” These are the facts.
    ….from a right wing think tank.
  8. Jeff of Louisville February 3, 2010 / 6:46 pm
    Significant lag between relative population loss and decline in number of electoral votes?
    Every 10 years.
    I still think there is a case to be made for supporting rail transportation in places where people do use it and do support it, demonstrated via increasing ridership and political support.  As you can see on this blog and at the DDN comments section, and as has been shown in past referenda on the subject,  Ohioans do not support passenger rail transit (with the possible exception of the Peoples Republic of Cleveland) or longer distance runs like this 3-C thing.
    We are getting $400M that for something that has no public support.
  9. Bruce Kettelle February 4, 2010 / 6:58 am
    RV: The highway trust fund required an $8-billion infusuion from the general fund in 2008.  Last year and this year it is being supplemented by stimulus money (don’t know the amounts yet).  The excise taxes are not enough to keep us on the road.

    Happy Motoring!


  10. jstults February 4, 2010 / 8:52 am

    ….from a right wing think tank

    Well, they are using department of transportation data for their analysis, hard to spin that; it just seems they haven’t updated things (2002 is the last year of data included).

    The highway trust fund required an $8-billion infusuion from the general fund in 2008.

    Couldn’t that be due in part to people driving less during the recession?

    Last year and this year it is being supplemented by stimulus money (don’t know the amounts yet).  The excise taxes are not enough to keep us on the road.

    Funding “Shovel Ready” projects doesn’t necessarily mean the excise taxes aren’t sufficient.  The stimulus is a jobs program right?

    The trust has been hammered because its main source of funding is the gas tax, which has not been increased since the Clinton administration. The high cost of gasoline has resulted in less consumption and, therefore, fewer dollars flowing into the trust fund.
    Highway Trust Fund is Nearly Out of Gas

    So we haven’t increased the tax in eight years to keep up with inflation and we are just now running out of money?  That seems like it is consistent with the study cited above about subsidies to different transportation modes (motorists were pulling more than their weight until recently).  Seems like an easy fix too, raise the gas tax.  This would appeal to fiscal conservatives who worry about deficits (or libertarians who like use fees) and greens who worry about CO2.  Then we’d be paying as we go, and curbing consumption of fossil fuels at the same time.

  11. Greg Hunter February 4, 2010 / 10:43 am
    Two birds with one stone with respect to the debate on trains and overall government policies.  The benefits of taxation on business as well as the European response (investment in jobs) vs the bailout of the banks.

    Some large companies are surprisingly resilient. The Siemens factory added 500 workers here in the depths of the economic crisis last year, beginning production of new gas-burning turbines that are the most powerful Siemens makes but emit substantially less carbon dioxide than older models.
    In Europe, fuel is heavily taxed, and there are substantial subsidies for producing alternative energy. Such incentives serve a dual purpose: supporting employment at green-oriented companies in the short term and, Europeans hope, giving their companies a strategic advantage when the global economy and demand pick up.
    At Siemens, for example, with revenue increasing 11 percent from 2008 to 2009, its broad green portfolio is now growing faster than its other businesses, Barbara Kux, the chief sustainability officer at the company, said.

  12. Robert Vigh February 4, 2010 / 12:56 pm
    Greg, I dont think a link to an article quite covers the argument to this point.

    Besides, if their government wants to take from their populace to subsidize power facilities, then we can buy from them at a reduced price, because their citizens will in turn be subsidizing us. They will basically be exporting their wealth. Our workers here will have to find a different industry. Either that, or we see which government can take the most from their populace without imploding!

  13. Greg Hunter March 18, 2010 / 9:16 am
    Train from Barcelona to Madrid – This is the type of system we should strive to achieve.  One of the ways would be to cut out certain stops and provide alternative transportation mechanisms to get on the train.  Dayton should not be a stop utilizing say a high speed train to FLA, but Dayton may be a stop with a high speed train from say DEN to DC or NYC.  Mixing markets for certain trains would satisfy more people and communities.
    Please note in the article the Train is both FASTER and USES LESS FUEL than a car or a PLANE.  So get on the BUS GUS and GET WITH THE PLAN STAN.
  14. jstults March 24, 2010 / 4:57 pm

    “We believe the engineering and design work provided by this initial $25 million investment will give us the information needed to fully understand and refine the scope of work, costs and benefits for passenger rail in Ohio,” Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jolene Molitoris said in a press release Wednesday.

    “While there is a lot of solid data and evidence now, we believe the results of this next phase of work will provide policymakers the information they need to support this important job-creating investment for Ohio,” Molitoris said in the release.
    Feds give OK for Ohio to spend $25M on rail plans

    I guess there’s not much question what decision those studies are going to support…

  15. Greg Hunter March 25, 2010 / 9:30 am
    Skip the study and go right to building.  Buffet bought the rail roads, nuff said.
  16. jstults May 6, 2010 / 11:59 am

    Based on the available evidence, we conclude that rail promoters appear to be particularly prone to cost underestimation, followed by promoters of fixed-link projects.  Promoters of road projects appear to be relatively less inclined to underestimate costs, although actual costs are higher than estimated costs much more often than not for road projects as well.
    Further subdivisions of the sample indicate that high-speed rail tops the list of cost underestimation, followed by urban and conventional rail, in that order.
    Underestimating Costs in Public Works Projects: Error or Lie?

  17. jstults July 8, 2010 / 11:31 am
    On early Dayton rail (h/t Jeff of Louisville) :

    Dayton could have had the Cincinnati to Columbus railroad, it is said, but many prominent citizens here opposed railroad connection: stage-line proprietors, hotel owners and some manufacturers and dealers. In a society founded on antagonisms, those who hold investments in obsolescent lines of activity organize to resist innovations. Arguments familiar to modern ears were no doubt urged; the danger of making Dayton a dumping ground for goods manufactured elsewhere and thus depriving the Dayton hotels and stores if this new and speedier transportation whisked travelers from Cincinnati to Columbus in half a day, with no necessity for stopping over. A delegation went up to Columbus to oppose the proposed route through Dayton. Merciful oblivion has fallen on the names of these public-spirited Daytonians.
    Biography of Dayton

  18. Greg Hunter July 21, 2010 / 10:08 am
    Ahh the greatest web site ever…… Plus we get a Nuclear Sub man commenting.  Love it.  I like this technology and I love that the good ole USA can do it if we have the political will to attempt it.  However with lawyers and bankers in charge I doubt the capital will be provided to get it done.  I also love the French model being indirectly espoused.
  19. Greg Hunter March 11, 2011 / 10:32 am
    Hello Conservative and Libertarian Train haters.  There are a couple of connect the dot articles out there today about trains and sprawl.  Finally the DDN talks about number of houses built versus population loss and some people say there was no house bubble in Dayton.  The figures do not bely the data.  Now onto trains and the conservative hatred of something that is obviously “back to the future“.

    But there is another way to look at the numbers: Amtrak passengers pay more of the cost of their transportation than do drivers on the interstate. About 62 percent of Amtrak’s operating expenses, according to the Department of Transportation, comes from fares. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the percentage of highway spending paid for by users—in the form of gas taxes and tolls—is headed below 50 percent.

  20. Jesse March 12, 2011 / 8:35 am
    Once again you are able to use socialism to justify socialism.  I don’t think that any of the people you are talking about justify the use of public money on roads. I know that Robert and I have never done so…I don’t think that Bandit, Bubba or Mamma ever have.
    The positions of the “Libertarian Train Haters” on this site seem to be pretty consistent.  If I may summarize, “Let the market dictate into which investments money flows so that we do not see the excessive funding of any one malinvestment.”  You name two investments that the all-wise and mighty government either made directly (roads) or encouraged directly (home building & “ownership”) in the statement above and then clamor for them to make another (trains).
    Respectfully submitted,
    The Laizzez-Faire Advocate & Governmental Malinvestment Hater
  21. David Esrati March 12, 2011 / 9:12 am

    @Jesse- And- who owns the airports? Who pays for them? If airlines owned the airports- do you think we’d have competition?

    The taxpayers subsidize a lot of infrastructure- for the shared good. You may never ride a train- some people may never take a bus, others never fly on airplanes- yet we pay for them all.

    Because we all use roads- that’s OK?

    Of course- the gas tax is supposed to pay for them- but it doesn’t.

    Why the vitriol against trains? is it that they are too energy efficient? That they can be faster than airplanes for trips under 300 miles? I’m just mystified why the backlash against a system of high speed trains in this country. If you’d ever ridden one- you’d know they are safer, faster and more comfortable than any other form of transit.

  22. Greg Hunter March 12, 2011 / 10:38 am

    Once again you are able to use socialism to justify socialism

    And once again Jesse, et. al., you cannot cite one example of a functioning free market economy.  Our founding fathers knew what was best going forward, hence it was a Democratic Republic.  Certain rights the mob (democracy) had no say, or a little or as much the Supreme Court would allow.  I have studied the “free market” and I am of a mind as outlined in the Wiki on Free Markets:

    Because no national economy in existence fully manifests the ideal of a free market as theorized by economists, some critics of the concept consider it to be a fantasy – outside of the bounds of reality in a complex system with opposing interests and different distributions of wealth.

    Fantasy, get it like Dilithium, it is a “cop out” argument and due to fact that the Libertarians can jump on the band wagon with the short sighted victory against trains you may claim it as a victory for “free market” advocates.  Unfortunately “this win” comes at the expense of Ohioans and Ohio’s future.  Really what happened to the America that thought about the future and built a society around that principle, instead of a “knee jerk” reaction?

  23. Jesse March 12, 2011 / 5:02 pm

    Airports.  Interesting topic.  Let’s assume that no “public” support went to airports.
    Some options that might develop in the free market are 1) Airports dedicated to specific airlines 2) Airports from which you can get on any number of airlines.  It would seem to me that because of the gigantic start-up cost and value of property in some locations that the 2nd option would be optimal and that in some less densely populated areas the 1st option would be optimal.
    I didn’t say that it was okay we are forced to pay for public roads.  I have often posted links to http://mises.org/books/roads_web.pdf a book by Walter Block that is the greatest single analysis of the issue.
    And with regard to the “if you had ever ridden one” statement…I have been pushed onto trains in Okayama, Tokyo, Osaka & Hiroshima.  This isn’t about me hating “progress” or being against efficiency, comfort, etc.  It isn’t about me being ignorant as to some experience that you have had.  It is about the logic that says, “we must steal from you to do what is good for you.”  You who advocate this model encouraged public roads, the idea that every American should own a home, the public school system, Social Security, Medicare, etc.  They are all broken, bankrupt and terribly inefficient…yet your answer is always, “The rich don’t give enough.  The rich steal from the poor.  The people who argue against us are just stupid, ignorant and unenlightened.”
    The three best researched periods of essentially Laissez-Faire periods are 1) Iceland from the early 900s through 1200 2) The American West from 1830 through 1900 and 3) Early Pennsylvania during a 10 year period where William Penn was unable to reestablish control of the population.
    The fact that none exist today is not a point for you.  It is, in fact, a logical fallacy. It can be classified as an appeal to common practice or an appeal to tradition.
    The people who consider it to be outside of the realm of possibility because it isn’t currently occurring are obviously succumbing to logical fallacies.  That is like saying in 1850, “because no man has ever flown, it is a fantasy that it will happen.”  It is really even worse than that because at least in 1850 the airplane hadn’t been invented yet.  Today all that would have to happen to allow Laissez-Faire markets to develop is the withdrawal of the State and an acceptance of private property.
    Funny that you didn’t link the remainder of the article. I did it for you.
    “These critics range from those who reject markets entirely, in favour of a planned economy or a communal economy, such as that advocated by Marxism, to those who merely wish to see market failures regulated to various degrees or supplemented by certain government interventions. For example, Keynesians recognize a role for government in providing corrective measures, such as use of fiscal policy for economy stimulus, when decisions in the private sector lead to suboptimal economic outcomes, such as depression or recession, which manifest in widespread hardship. Business cycle theory is used by Keynes to explain ‘liquidity traps‘ by which underconsumption occurs, in order to argue for government intervention with central banking. Free market economists consider this credit-expansion as the cause of the business cycle in refutation of this Keynesian criticism.”

    I have posted many times the link to the http://www.auburn.edu/~garriro/macro.htm best simple description I have ever seen that describes the failure of Keynesianism.  Please just look through the power points.
    And finally, I am not “copping out”.  I have been consistent in my dislike for public funding across the board.  I am not trying to stop trains because they are trains.  That is an odd assertion that isn’t backed up by any evidence at all.

  24. David Lauri June 18, 2011 / 8:30 pm
    The Per Square Mile blog has a fun post, U.S. not dense enough for high-speed rail? Think again, comparing the population densities of American states and European countries and showing which have high speed rail:

    Ohio and Florida—both of which unfortunately rejected rail funding—are about as dense as France, a world leader in high-speed rail.

  25. Ice Bandit June 19, 2011 / 8:21 am
    Ohio and Florida—both of which unfortunately rejected rail funding—are about as dense as France, a world leader in high-speed rail.
    …which begs the questions, dear DL; is the French system profitable or does it rely on massive government subsidy? Furthermore, why is Ohio and Florida’s decision to reject HSR unfortunate? And perhaps most importantly, why do advocates keep referring to this project as high speed rail when one could commute from Cincy to Columbus faster on a 10 speed? Last time we looked, Ben Bernanke and the Great Helmsman were 24-7 at the printing presses of the Treasury (a subsidiary of Parker Brothers) and begging Republicans for a debt ceiling hike, so is this an appropriate time for Uncle Sugar to be exercising taxpayer largesse on an industry that consumers rejected before most of the folks reading this blog were born?…
  26. jstults January 2, 2012 / 3:25 pm
    More on “ancient suns long dead”: Flibe Energy
    Find more details in Kirk Sorensen’s many Google TechTalks.
  27. David Lauri January 28, 2012 / 8:14 am
    Today’s Doonesbury reminded me of an exchange on this thread. In the comic Garry Trudeau has journalist Roland Hedley say to Ron Paul:

    The fact is, your philosophy is pure utopianism. No modern society could function under a libertarian government, which is why none exists.

    Of course, Jesse, if he were still commenting on Esrati.com, would tell us that this is “a logical fallacy, … an appeal to common practice or an appeal to tradition.”
    Fallacy or not, I still got a chuckle out of it.

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