The governor of Florida, Rick “the crook” Scott, has turned down federal money for a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando. My first reaction was: well big surprise here, a Republican/Tea Party governor turning down an infrastructure project. Since reading the article though, I have been giving the entire project a little extra thought.
At this moment in time there are places in the United States where high-speed rail would work (the Northeast corridor for instance) and places where it wouldn’t work (the Dakotas?). Arguments about density and cost-benefit and all that can be made over and over again and most times the numbers aren’t too thrilling if you are a train advocate. That being said there are some other issues that need to be taken into account when you have a project of this nature. First and foremost it’s an infrastructure project meaning an investment in the future. If you build something for the long term, then a lot of your long-range projections will be off because we aren’t fortunetellers who can peer into the future. One of the Republican arguments against rail investments is that it won’t be competitive. Yeah, I can see the point, but is the interstate system competitive? I don’t really think so, but I don’t hear anyone (but I could be deaf) yelling that we need private roads everywhere to compete with the federal roads.
Does anyone reading this know where I could find a chart comparing subsidies that road, airports, and rail receive per year? I would love to have a look at what the numbers say. Remember that development as a whole follows the pattern that the government lays out. If you don’t believe that then you just have to take into account that suburbs, the way we have them today, wouldn’t be possible without highways and the interstate system (and cheap oil but that is another post for another day). The American low-density existence wouldn’t be possible without this system. So why can’t we offer the Americans another option: that they wouldn’t have to live in the suburbs and could ride a train? I thought Americans liked freedom of choice. I hope they spend all that federal money somewhere else, where the people like having jobs and would like to diversify their transport options for any variety of reasons, plus they like offering their kids new futures. Didn’t America used to be about optimism?