Although I'm politically conservative, as most of my readers know, I'm also pro-subsidy when it comes to Passenger Rail. I have speculated on a few occasions on how we can get more private money into Passenger Rail, but the bottom line is that there is just too tiny of a liklihood of turning a profit on passengers.
I don't necessarily think it's impossible any more. I'm convinced that many governmental agencies that now run Passenger Rail of all kinds are rife with waste and could be substantially closer to profitability if that waste was curtailed. But as a practical matter . . .
Here's the kicker. For once, I agree with Mr. Obama. While I don't see it as one of his Sputnik moments, I do see the opportunity to evolve Passenger Rail into a premiere form of transportation for America as a moment similer to Lincoln deciding to support the transcontinental railroads. There are just certain challenges that are too large and too risky in the short term to be funded solely by private funds. But they can be funded to a greater degree by private funds if public money is there to make the investors see the - pardon the pun - light at the end of the tunnel. I would be much more likely to invest a billion of my own dollars in HSR, if I could see that I would be able to start getting a return in the short term, while the longer term returns are still out in the realm of dreams.
Here's the other kicker. I disagree that any HSR money should be put into the hands of existing or even new government agencies. I think that the money should be set up so that private enterprise can start the projects just as though Uncle Sam were simply another investor. With proper oversight and with private money added, business can get its feet wet - see where the efficiencies are and see where there's money to be made - in what is essentially a new way of doing things for rail. The absolute last thing we should do is give money to Amtrak for HSR.
There are a lot of places we should not be spending public money - healthcare for instance - but we should not lose sight of the importance of transportation for economic stability and defense strategy, and simply for the welfare of the general populace.
©2011 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org