Sunday, July 17, 2011

Macro - Micro - Whatever

The worries I have expressed in previous blogs about the financial viability of New Mexico RailRunner Express can be boiled down to this:  Can a relatively low-density population state support conventional commuter rail / intercity rail when the terminal points are even lower-density population cities than exist elsewhere in the state?

Unfortunately, I think the answer is "no."  At least the answer is "no" in the present economy and for the foreseeable future.  Also unfortunately, I see this as a microcosm of the same situation with high-speed rail. 

I hear you saying that RailRunner doesn't even come close to high-speed rail.  Well, neither did many, if not most, of the projects that got funded under Mr. Obama's first round of funding.

Like RailRunner Express, the projects shouldn't be funded just because there is some interest and the money is there.  The transit board that is responsible for RailRunner is finding out that nobody knew where the fares were going to come from, who was going to ride, where they were going to start their trips, where they were going to end them, and how much they were willing to pay to avoid the hassle of driving the same trips.  (For high-speed rail, this should be read as the hassle of flying.)

Only one of RailRunner's two terminals is in a city of reasonable population density.  (Santa Fe to Belen, NM)To draw a comparison, but with contrastingly higher population densities, this would be like building a high-speed rail line from Springfield, IL, to St. Louis, MO, but making the south terminus at Rolla, MO.  The losses from the extension to Rolla would probably more than cancel any imaginable black ink to be had from the northern leg.

If we're going to fund high-speed rail, let's not just try to build something because the money is there.

© 2011 - C. A. Turek -
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