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More on high-speed rail

My post yesterday generated a lot of traffic and reader comments, so let's keep it going.

As I said Wednesday, I think high-speed rail is a good idea -- in theory.

Given pollution caused by auto emissions, unstable gasoline prices and the susceptibility of air travel to both price spikes because of fuel costs and terrorists, high-speed rail could be an important piece of public infrastructure.

But if we're going to do it, we need to do it right. And we need to make sure it makes economic sense.

First the doing-it-right part.

High speed trains When Eisenhower proposed a nationwide interstate highway system, he wasn't talking about taking two-lane roads and making them super highways. But that's kind of what the thinking is behind high-speed rail, hence travel speeds that would lag way behind the systems that operate in Europe and Asia.

I look at New York's proposal for high-speed rail and I come away thinking it's kind of like the plan to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into the foot of Main Street to create Canal Side while leaving the Skyway up in the middle of it. When I look at the model, I'm not focused on the canals and shops, I'm asking why the noisy, polluting eyesore is still there and why can't we do this right. 

Does high-speed rail make economic sense?

The key question isn't so much "would fares be subsidized?" -- although that's certainly a fair question --but would it help promote economic vitality?

In the case of Buffalo, for example, would connecting to, say, Toronto, promote economic growth by presenting opportunities? How? What else would have to happen to exploit the opportunity? Can we get there from here?

And where exactly are the Canadians on this?

(Sorry, but this region has a lot more to gain with a link to Toronto than points east. Not that going east doesn't have potential merit. But I'm looking for the biggest bang for the buck.)

These are questions that ought to be considered right now. Getting at those answers would allow for some sort of cost-benefit analysis and clarify the other pieces that would have to fall into place. Only then could an informed decision be made.

As it is, there's too much "sounds like a good idea" and/or "if we build it they will come" thinking at play.

I'm sure thought has been put into at least some of these issues and I'd appreciate reader comments that can help fill us in.

The Buffalo Pundit, by the way, has a third installment of an interview with Sam Hoyt on high speed rail.

tagged

Economic Development | State government
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