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  #861  
Old Posted Feb 21, 2012, 1:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Jonboy1983 View Post
Isn't the country already doing this? I keep seeing ridership increasing on Amtrak as well as other transit agencies. Maybe some transit agencies keep showing declines in ridership because they're fricking cutting back on services, rendering whatever is remaining to seem unattractive and unreliable.

This country is unbelievably backwards. Transit and transportation is what we SHOULD be investing in; NOT CUTTING IT BACK!
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Yes, that's one reason the House written transportation bill is going nowhere fast. All the Republicans who sit in districts served by regional and commuter rail would like to actually retain their seats. Expanding/speeding service on Amtrak and the various commuter rail systems expands the rail constituency as well.

110 mph rail in the Midwest (Detroit and St. Louis to Chicago) will finally tip a definite time advantage to rail away from car travel along both corridors and new rolling stock will go a LONG way to making the whole experience more attractive. In a couple years time even recalcitrant neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin will realize that they've got to get in as well for the sake of their economies.
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  #862  
Old Posted Feb 21, 2012, 4:04 AM
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Originally Posted by k1052 View Post
Yes, that's one reason the House written transportation bill is going nowhere fast. All the Republicans who sit in districts served by regional and commuter rail would like to actually retain their seats. Expanding/speeding service on Amtrak and the various commuter rail systems expands the rail constituency as well.

110 mph rail in the Midwest (Detroit and St. Louis to Chicago) will finally tip a definite time advantage to rail away from car travel along both corridors and new rolling stock will go a LONG way to making the whole experience more attractive. In a couple years time even recalcitrant neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin will realize that they've got to get in as well for the sake of their economies.
Tell that to Ohio and Governor Kasich who committed 1st degree murder the day he took office. He killed progress when he killed the Ohio rail hub project. I guess Indiana is somewhat on board anyway. If they're not then they really should be especially considering these 110-mph trains are pretty much right next door!
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  #863  
Old Posted Feb 21, 2012, 5:44 PM
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It's worth noting that the FRA is not the problem, per se. The FRA simply passes regulations that mirror the best judgment of American railroading, which is grounded in a 1900-era rugged-individual mentality and a fierce resistance to change and new ideas from outside. That railroading community is mainly split between freight-railroad people who are resistant to any passenger rail that restricts the use of their tracks, and railfans (there's a revolving door between fandom and the industry) who are motivated by nostalgia.

C'mon - you come from Philly! The FRA isn't the reason why SEPTA is de-regionalizing the rail network; the FRA is merely a symptom of the wider problem.
A hell of a feedback loop, isn't it?

But from what I hear, the FRA is just plain rogue. Let's see, while the regulations in the main are tailored toward bulk freight transport, we have regulations the freight companies don't like (like putting an F on all engines), regulations the mass transit companies don't like, and a tendency to shoot the messenger (in the most recent case, the Strasburg Railroad). Systemic Failure pointed out that none of the actual railroad companies had any real say in the latest round of regulations--only the unions.

It looks entrenched, but I think it's the weak point. It's what has to give to see real passenger rail investment in this country.

Nexis--The Railroad.net forums beg to disagree. SEPTA is one of the busiest topics there.
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  #864  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2012, 5:12 PM
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Obama's high-speed rail plans hit traffic in Congress


Feb. 29, 2012

By Michael Doyle

Read More: Obama's high-speed rail plans hit traffic in Congress

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/02/29...plans-hit.html

Quote:
Congress and the Obama administration are headed for another head-on collision over high-speed rail. On Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reiterated President Barack Obama's strong support even as a top Republican in the House of Representatives naysayed. Neither side appears ready to steer clear this election year, particularly in differences concerning California. "We're committed to this; there's no going back," LaHood said at a high-speed rail conference. "We need to keep the momentum going."

But congressional Republicans, even some who've backed high-speed rail in the past, are resisting with equal vehemence. "If the president thinks his proposal is going to (fly) for high-speed rail, he's pipe-dreaming," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told the same rail conference. Obama has proposed spending $2.7 billion on high-speed rail in fiscal year 2013, atop more than $8 billion previously provided under a stimulus bill that passed while Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. In part because other states, including Florida and Wisconsin, turned down federal funding, California alone has picked up some $3.6 billion for its high-speed rail plan. The state's initial plan calls for constructing a 220 mph line between Bakersfield and Merced.

.....
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  #865  
Old Posted Mar 1, 2012, 5:34 PM
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With the gas price where it is, Obama has the upper hand on this one.

He could make it a slam-dunk by releasing some oil from the reserve to lower prices in the short-term, and of course the rail options coming online would give people an alternative in the long-term.

What he shouldn't do is remain quiet about the issue... being proactive is the only choice if he doesn't want to diminish his chances of re-election.
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  #866  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2012, 1:06 AM
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While I support the president on his overhauling the nation's rail system, you cannot logically expect him to make any noise about this during election season.....

I say again, not enough people who WOULD be in the Obama camp care and the GOP crowd will tackle this as "wasteful spending".
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  #867  
Old Posted Jun 29, 2012, 5:46 PM
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A high-speed rail dream unrealized


June 28, 2012

By C.B. Hall

Read More: http://crosscut.com/2012/06/28/op-ed...merica-europe/

Quote:
The federal high-speed rail (HSR) program lately championed by politicians and administrators in the other Washington is fading into history. In his remarks at the March 15 launch of a $22.7-million seismic-upgrade project at Seattle's King Street Station, Federal Railroad Administration chief Joseph Szabo spoke instead about "high-performance rail." The transportation funding bill currently in the Senate makes the same emendation in referring to the measure's meager appropriation, $100 million, for passenger rail enhancements. Some experts are meanwhile using the term "higher-speed rail," downgrading the once-regnant HSR by interposing a lowly r, giving us HrSR.

It adds up to a recognition of some of the idea's flaws and, some would say, of its insurmountable obstacles. First of all, the program would cost lots of money. Here in the Eugene-to-Vancouver, B.C. Pacific Northwest HSR corridor, $1.5 million gets you the preliminary engineering for an overnight parking track — not the track itself, or even its final engineering — for an Amtrak train less than 800 feet long. On the opposite side of the country, planners are pricing an expansion of HSR access from New Jersey into Manhattan in the $10-15 billion range.

Still, with what some might call chump change, some states are making their trains substantially faster. Washington and Oregon are not among them. Oregon spent $72 million on its 133 miles of passenger-rail track between 1994 — two years after the feds designated the mileage part of the HSR corridor — and 2008, with zero schedule improvement to show for it. Since Washington state's passenger rail program began in 1994, Olympia has devoted $98 million to capital investment in track and signaling systems between Portland and Seattle, but that sum has not improved running time, either. The only timetable improvement has been the 25 minutes saved by virtue of the trains' tilting mechanism, which allows for higher speed in curves. The trip still takes three and a half hours and the train never goes faster than 79 mph. Meanwhile, the discount BoltBus service launched in May is advertising Seattle-Portland travel times as little as three hours and 15 minutes.

.....



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  #868  
Old Posted Jun 29, 2012, 6:40 PM
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If this helps the public understand that these upgrades are not really hsr and plants the seed of mainstream interest in TRUE hsr, with speeds over 180 on dedicated track, I say let the new downgraded distinction stick. Even with all these noble and refreshing investments in Amtrak operations aimed at boosting speed and the passenger experience, Americans should not be fooled into not believing that we are still 40-50 years behind the railways of our developed contemporaries oversees.
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  #869  
Old Posted Jul 3, 2012, 8:32 PM
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High-speed rail between Jacksonville and Atlanta? (Florida Times-Union)

High-speed rail between Jacksonville and Atlanta?

July 2, 2012
Florida Times-Union

By Larry Hannan
High-speed rail between Jacksonville and Atlanta?
Larry Hannan


Image courtesy of the Florida Times-Union.

"No one will be buying tickets anytime soon, but a recent study has found that a long-term plan to connect high speed passenger rail lines from Atlanta to Jacksonville is economically feasible.

And while the idea of high speed rail on the First Coast might sound as realistic as a Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes reconciliation, local transit officials say the idea could help the region turn the Prime Osborn Convention Center into a transportation center. But high speed rail supporters say no new major projects are likely to get going until one of the existing projects is completed and becomes a success. They lament that the idea of high speed rail has become politicized in a tough economic environment.

The study, presented to the Georgia State Transportation Board last month by consultant HNTB, recommended building a high speed rail line from Atlanta to Savannah, and then to Jacksonville. Stations along the route could include Brunswick, Griffin and Macon..."

http://jacksonville.com/news/florida...le-and-atlanta
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  #870  
Old Posted Jul 3, 2012, 11:03 PM
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What a crappy map... do they have any idea where Savannah is?
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  #871  
Old Posted Jul 3, 2012, 11:10 PM
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If this helps the public understand that these upgrades are not really hsr and plants the seed of mainstream interest in TRUE hsr, with speeds over 180 on dedicated track, I say let the new downgraded distinction stick. Even with all these noble and refreshing investments in Amtrak operations aimed at boosting speed and the passenger experience, Americans should not be fooled into not believing that we are still 40-50 years behind the railways of our developed contemporaries oversees.
Democrats bungled it. They could have sold higher-speed rail as a low-cost, responsible, modest way to upgrade our transportation network during a tough economy. That would have given ammo to the opponents of the California project, but it would have helped build a national consensus for rail that might eventually float all boats.

Instead, Obama lumped all rail investments into the HSR category, which really doesn't help anybody distinguish between the crazy-expensive 220mph systems and the modest 110mph systems. Ohio's planned line didn't even meet that standard, with a 79mph top speed and an average speed so low that could be equaled on horseback.

Democrats just don't understand modesty, do they?
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  #872  
Old Posted Jul 6, 2012, 7:09 PM
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You could argue neither do Republicans with their hyperbolic bullcrap they pull.....but yea Dems really messed up the message here.

Frankly more of those "low-level" higher speed rail projects should have been pushed and highlighted because they'd cost less than what Cali is doing and could potentially yield more interest in people riding the rails again.

There has to be a MASSIVE change in opinion by Joe Blow and people on the hill before we do anything relative to what Japan or France is doing, so I say we focus on those modest increases FIRST, to whet peoples appetite.
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  #873  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2012, 2:53 AM
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Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
Democrats bungled it. They could have sold higher-speed rail as a low-cost, responsible, modest way to upgrade our transportation network during a tough economy. That would have given ammo to the opponents of the California project, but it would have helped build a national consensus for rail that might eventually float all boats.

Instead, Obama lumped all rail investments into the HSR category, which really doesn't help anybody distinguish between the crazy-expensive 220mph systems and the modest 110mph systems. Ohio's planned line didn't even meet that standard, with a 79mph top speed and an average speed so low that could be equaled on horseback.

Democrats just don't understand modesty, do they?
I vehemently disagree. GOP/Tea Party opposition to spending knows no bounds, and certainly isn't influenced by messaging.

And you realize Ray LaHood is a Republican, right?
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  #874  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2012, 3:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
Democrats bungled it. They could have sold higher-speed rail as a low-cost, responsible, modest way to upgrade our transportation network during a tough economy. That would have given ammo to the opponents of the California project, but it would have helped build a national consensus for rail that might eventually float all boats.

Instead, Obama lumped all rail investments into the HSR category, which really doesn't help anybody distinguish between the crazy-expensive 220mph systems and the modest 110mph systems. Ohio's planned line didn't even meet that standard, with a 79mph top speed and an average speed so low that could be equaled on horseback.

Democrats just don't understand modesty, do they?
Yours has to be the most completely false assessment I've ever heard of this issue. The fact is that Republicans publicly equate HSR with communism and that everyone should be driving in their cars. GOP governors actually had enough insanity to reject funds for HSR. They rejected it on the basis of "cutting costs" while they ignore the jobs it would create. Privately they will cut costs only selectively to fit in with their corporate campaign donors' wishes then sell you on how "fiscally conservative" they are. It's insane.

At least California has the brains to progress.
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  #875  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2012, 6:24 PM
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IMO, we, as a nation, are taking the wrong tact in all this.

Simply put in place a plan to increase the average speed on all private and publically owned rail lines, 1 mph per year. More and longer sidings on private lines. Public private partnerships to increase speed either through or around citiesThe costs would start small, and, the benefits would be immediate.

With ten years every class 1 railroad would be running at least 20% more efficiently. Within 20 years, passenger trains could run on these lines with as fast an average speed as in 1950. Within 50 years, speeds would be averaging well over 65 mph system wide.

To put the passenger dynamics in scale, the fastest West Coast to Chicago trains during the stream line era averaged a bit under 50 mph. A coast to coast train averaging 65 mph would take 40 - 42 hours coast to coast. Imagine freight trains doing that. Imagine passenger trains running at the same speeds or faster (5 mph over average is fairly easy to do with proper sidings and multiple track main sections).

Such chanage would also be the most cost effective, as the beginning years of the change would be fairly low budget, and, bigger projects would be completed by the time average speeds needed to be increased significantly.

Of course, there would be an immense amount of politicking involved in what constitutes line X's base line speed, and, whether line X base speed should be bundled into a cluster of lower speed lines and averaged out. But, IMO that could be dealt with.

IMO we are dealing HSR in the US through hurt ego tainted glasses, and, need, instead, to just go about 'relentlessly'* improving average speed year after year.

*The great key word for Lexus advertising since it's inception.
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  #876  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2012, 1:43 AM
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Yours has to be the most completely false assessment I've ever heard of this issue. The fact is that Republicans publicly equate HSR with communism and that everyone should be driving in their cars. GOP governors actually had enough insanity to reject funds for HSR. They rejected it on the basis of "cutting costs" while they ignore the jobs it would create. Privately they will cut costs only selectively to fit in with their corporate campaign donors' wishes then sell you on how "fiscally conservative" they are. It's insane.

At least California has the brains to progress.
Am I seriously the only liberal who thinks it's a bad thing when the government throws billions of dollars behind some boondoggle? The goal of any government program should be to achieve the greatest benefits for the lowest cost, while fending off those politicians who are trying to bring home the bacon (i.e. avoiding bridges to nowhere).

Every successful HSR system in the world was built on top of a successful conventional-rail system. Germany hasn't even really built dedicated HSR lines; they just upgrade the legacy systems by eliminating the slowest segments. Having a strong conventional-rail system means you have a populace that's used to riding passenger trains and supports big, expensive investments in new technology like HSR. Republican politicians don't oppose rail for the hell of it. Republican voters don't see the point, so neither do the politicians. It's time we changed that.

The proper way forward for rail in America is to run the ball and gain four or five yards at a time, not to shoot for some Hail Mary. (See? I just made a football analogy - it isn't hard to talk to most conservatives.) We need to focus on incremental improvements and gradually claim a larger budget for rail as the small improvements begin to build political support.
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  #877  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2012, 4:30 AM
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Am I seriously the only liberal who thinks it's a bad thing when the government throws billions of dollars behind some boondoggle?
No. Before I registered here, I was fairly anti-HSR (though still very strongly pro-transit). I felt it was a project with high costs, marginal benefits and geared more towards ribbon-cuttings and greenwashing than anything else. It wasn’t until I really read up on the Florida project, which garnered the enthusiasm of the likes of SNCF and one of the JR divisions and was structured so as to minimize risk to the public. I’m guessing I’m probably more liberal than you, too (I’d also like to note that intercity rail’s pretty much a blip on most liberals’—or people’s—minds, which is something most railfans tend to forget).

But I think you’re fairly wrong about most conservatives and rail, (at least outside of areas where conservatives take trains,like Chicago, and the occasional exception). As Ch.G, Ch.G notes, it’s mostly about hostility towards any and all spending but it’s combined with a couple of other thing. One is the fact that, historically, Americans roads have been funded by the government while American rail has privately funded, so there’s already longstanding precedent for not providing government funds for rail.

The other big factor is culture war played out through mode choice, which has grown out of debates over of transit funding and construction. For instance, during the height of the Tea Party, it wasn’t hard to find examples in newspaper comments that referred to intercity rail as light rail and complained about undesirables using trains to come to their communities. Furthermore, a number of the commonly-touted benefits of intercity rail, particularly environmental ones (which I’d say personally say often verge close to greenwashing) and congestion reduction by “getting people out of their cars” played into this; these aspects are culturally unpalatable to many conservatives. Unless there is a direct, easily imaginable benefit, like commuter rail in suburban Chicago or light rail in suburban Denver, it is hard to get your median, more-likely-to-live-in-the-exurbs conservative voter to support rail, intracity or intercity.

The fact that rail is (unless you live in North Dakota, Montana or West Virginia) primarily an city-city mode of transport. There is some support for rail from conservative elites—the LaCrosse paper endorsed Walker with the reservation that he should support the Milwaukee-Madison line, and Walker subsequently applied to fund Hiawatha improvements with rail money—and both of those cases came from the fact that LaCrosse and Milwaukee already have intercity rail service, and the Milwaukee service is fairly successful. Still, when it came time to do something as simple as putting the Talgos on the tracks, the Republican-controlled legislature wasn’t willing to pay for it. The Republican Party remains strongest in the outer suburbs and rural areas and gets its money from people who generally don’t have to worry about congestion. A few business travelers in Milwaukee won’t overcome that big structural issue.

Better messaging might help on the margins or with CEOs-for-cities types, but in general I think the idea that all we need is clearer arguments and hokey metaphors is kind of insulting. What it all comes down to is that many Republicans (and Democrats) oppose rail out of their own self-interest—they don’t want to pay for something they imagine they’ll never use (and in the minds of older voters who remember the shift from trains to planes and automobiles, an outdated thing they’ll never use, which, given US regulations and track conditions, is more accurate than a lot of the more zealous intercity rail advocates are willing to admit). It’s the same issue with things like science funding, medicaid, and even non-fiscal matters like net neutrality—if voters don’t feel like they need them, their representatives won’t vote for them.
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  #878  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2012, 7:41 AM
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Thanks for your detailed response.

I guess I can't fathom the depth of the self-interest that grips many conservatives. I'm a fiscal conservative who believes that there are numerous things we need to do communally (healthcare, education, policing, transportation, etc) but only within the overall framework of thrift and responsibility.

I don't really click with the Paul Krugman, Keynesian liberals who wave their hands at any cost - artificially pumping money into the economy shouldn't be an end to itself. Government programs exist to create tangible outcomes, and you can get more and better tangible outcomes by holding costs down whenever possible. Money (to me) is something real and precious, not to be squandered - it's not an abstract concept and certainly not a policy tool. This kind of thinking runs into practical problems, too - states and cities don't set monetary policy, so they have to raise funds for "stimulus" through taxes, and they're lucky if the net economic effect is a wash.

To bring it back to rail, it's galling that the Robert Cruickshanks of the world display such indifference to the staggering $40bn cost of CAHSR and have little interest in cost reduction. What they're missing is that politically, the pricetag could be the difference between life and death for the overall project.
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  #879  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2012, 9:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Wizened Variations View Post
IMO, we, as a nation, are taking the wrong tact in all this.

Simply put in place a plan to increase the average speed on all private and publically owned rail lines, 1 mph per year. More and longer sidings on private lines. Public private partnerships to increase speed either through or around citiesThe costs would start small, and, the benefits would be immediate.

With ten years every class 1 railroad would be running at least 20% more efficiently. Within 20 years, passenger trains could run on these lines with as fast an average speed as in 1950. Within 50 years, speeds would be averaging well over 65 mph system wide.

To put the passenger dynamics in scale, the fastest West Coast to Chicago trains during the stream line era averaged a bit under 50 mph. A coast to coast train averaging 65 mph would take 40 - 42 hours coast to coast. Imagine freight trains doing that. Imagine passenger trains running at the same speeds or faster (5 mph over average is fairly easy to do with proper sidings and multiple track main sections).

Such chanage would also be the most cost effective, as the beginning years of the change would be fairly low budget, and, bigger projects would be completed by the time average speeds needed to be increased significantly.

Of course, there would be an immense amount of politicking involved in what constitutes line X's base line speed, and, whether line X base speed should be bundled into a cluster of lower speed lines and averaged out. But, IMO that could be dealt with.

IMO we are dealing HSR in the US through hurt ego tainted glasses, and, need, instead, to just go about 'relentlessly'* improving average speed year after year.

*The great key word for Lexus advertising since it's inception.
This is fine and is part of the solution. But it's only half of the solution. The other half, is strategically building true, HSR lines, which do not share freight rail tracks.

If we could just get the Federal fuel tax raised to 25 cents per gallon and the highway/transit split adjusted to a 70/30 split (where it needs to be), then we could proceed with this full scale solution and stop with all the political compromised half-way solutions to our highways, HSR and metro transit systems.
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  #880  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2012, 5:01 PM
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I don't really click with the Paul Krugman, Keynesian liberals who wave their hands at any cost - artificially pumping money into the economy shouldn't be an end to itself. Government programs exist to create tangible outcomes, and you can get more and better tangible outcomes by holding costs down whenever possible. Money (to me) is something real and precious, not to be squandered - it's not an abstract concept and certainly not a policy tool.
Not to get too off-topic, but Keynesianism isn’t spending for the sake of spending, but trying to manage demand to keep the economy in good shape. The simplest explanation I could find after a couple of minutes’ googling was from Robert Neild of the Royal Economics Society, “if demand was managed so as to employ the economy just to the full and foreign trade was kept in balance, the government's borrowing (or repayments of debt) would match the savings (or dis-savings) of the private sector: the balance in the budget was now the tail, not the dog.” In the UK this approach was pretty successful in dealing with the debt-to-GDP ratio, which was reduced from a staggering 227% in 1945 to 45% in 1980.

Where people like Cruikshank get mixed up is that they assume that any form of government investment is good. If you talk to actual economists involved in policy-making, few would endorse big infrastructure projects along the lines of CAHSR. I’ve argued about this in the CAHSR blog comments—if you want to stimulate demand, you have to find the shortest path between the government and the consumer’s wallet. This is why so much of the stimulus was in the form of tax cuts (and those tax cuts were hidden as well as possible in order to make sure they wouldn’t go straight into savings, which is usually the case). Another good example would be a proposal by Biden’s former chief economist, Jared Bernstein, to do energy retrofits of schools and other government buildings—these would be quick to design, quick to install, and it isn’t hard to hire people who could do the work. HSR, in contrast, takes a long time to plan, requires specialized skills only held by a handful of firms, and construction timelines that span multiple business cycles, making it choice poor stimulus. Ryan Lizza wrote an excellent article on the genesis of the stimulus in the New Yorker in which he noted that Obama really wanted a big signature project (a national smart grid was his first choice), but his economic advisers shied him away from it, noting that big projects don’t necessarily have a big multiplier.

That Cruikshank uses the term “stimulus” to describe a mostly California-funded system is almost as ridiculous—California isn’t a sovereign nation therefore doesn’t have all the tools necessary for Keynesian policies and needs to do things like balance its budget (full disclosure: I’m going to be applying for graduate school in a field in which the University of California system’s fairly strong, so this does have some effect on me). Even if we set aside the fact that they should be able to build their full HSR system with what they’re paying, that’s also money that could go to things like schools, urban transit, food aid, an earned-income tax credit, hiring more research assistants or any other beneficial policy (okay, maybe not that last one ).
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