High Speed Rail: Too Costly or Imperative?

by kespeland on February 1, 2010

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says high speed rail would be a boon for Louisville.  A federal grant recently awarded to the Georgia Department of Transportation would help it examine the feasibility of a route from Chicago to Atlanta, with stops in Louisville and Nashville.  But George Mason University transportation economist Dr. Kenneth Button says high speed rail isn’t worth the trouble.

“The difficulty with high speed rail is it costs an awful lot of money and the return is negligible. If you look at Europe, there’s one line that covers its costs, Paris-Lyon, and there’s one line in Japan that covers its cost, Tokyo-Osaka.  If people aren’t willing to pay to travel by rail, why should the taxpayer subsidize it?”

Button says tickets are expensive, and so is the development of the necessary infrastructure.  He says the better option for the environment would be to charge people for the trips they already take via automobile, which would encourage them to drive less.

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