Tagged: hsr RSS

  • jimmy 8:19 pm on March 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , economy, hsr, ,   

    I just love (sarcasm, btw) how in the face of $14 trillion in debt and a $1.3 trillion deficit the favorite target of some deficit hawks has become $10.5 billion in high-speed rail funding (I say “some” because I consider myself to be a deficit hawk and I don’t share this view). I really wonder if the governors of Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio were paying any attention whatsoever in school when they learned about how we got out of the great depression? Come to think of it, they probably went to the same schools as the people who thought it would really solve all of our economic problems to give a bunch of money (although calling trillions of dollars a “bunch of money” is kind of like calling the Pacific Ocean “some water”…it’s technically true, but grossly misleading) to the guys who created the problems in the first place (again with an analogy: “so, Mr. Murderer, what say we make your punishment a few days where we pretend to consider putting you to death, and then we give you an AK-47 and let you roam the streets again; sound fair?”).

    Interesting fact: Japan has the oldest HSR network in the world, and China has the largest (and fastest…did we still want to beat China? Because we’re losing this battle, too. Just saying.). Unemployment in Japan is 5.1% and in China it’s ~4.5% (as with all things China, it’s not entirely clear). In America it’s 8.9%.

    Oh I know unemployment probably has very little correlation with HSR networks, but I figure it’s as close as the HSR-deficit correlation, and it’s just as illogical.

    Speaking of illogic, I should remind the governors that I just got a carrier pigeon that the National Association or People Who’d Rather Live In The Stone Age is sending a “thank you” stone tablet in support of your bold deficit reduction efforts. It’s being sent by Norfolk Southern rail, so it should arrive within 36 hours.

  • jimmy 12:55 am on February 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: hsr, , qe2, the fed,   

    Everybody concerned about huge infrastructure costs (like tens of billions for high-speed rail) need to remember that we’re talking about a span of one or two decades for these projects. That comes out to “only” a few billion dollars a year (using Amtrak’s Northeast HSR ideas as an example: $117 billion over 30 years = $3.9 billion/year). Remember, the government dropped $300 billion basically overnight to bail out the banks, spent $50 billion on General Motors and are still in the process of propping up the stock market via $600 billion from the Federal Reserve. (Thanks in large part to the latter the two former bailouts have recouped much of their original costs. But still.)

    I’m not a huge fan of many of these bailouts, but I think it’s worth pointing out that while Amtrak is requesting $117 billion over a 30 year period, the Federal Reserve is spending almost that amount EVERY SIX WEEKS right now to try and create jobs. Meanwhile, the folks doing HSR in California say they’ll create almost as many jobs (half a million vs Ben’s 600,000) for less than a tenth the cost. You do the math.

    Actually, I’ll do the math. Bernanke’s “QE2″ (quantitative easing, round two) is costing the federal government $600 billion and has created 600,000 jobs over the course of ~6 months. The California High-Speed Rail project (the only project in America that’s actually happening…Amtrak’s Northeast idea is just that…an idea so far) is estimated to cost from $42 billion to $60 billion (depending on who you talk to and their opinions of the project), with the funding coming from the state budget, federal budget and private sources. A flyer on the project’s website (PDF link) states that it will create 600,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs over 25 years. To even out the comparisons a bit I’ll simply look at those construction jobs and assume that they all happen without 5 years (I know it’s kinda random, but construction is supposed to start next year and end in 9 years, so it’s a fair assumption I think). QE2 is spending roughly $2 million/per year/per job created. CA HSR is projected to spend $20,000 per year/per job created. The time frame is slightly longer, but who knows how quickly HSR (or any infrastructure, for that matter) projects could start digging if we diverted even a tenth of the Fed’s money to some of these “shovel ready” infrastructure projects.

    Believe it or not, I’m open to debate about how HSR projects could be better fiscally managed, but I just thought I’d throw those comparisons out there for some context.

  • jimmy 7:45 am on August 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: hsr, , ,   

    I recently began using Google Reader (in case you had missed my multiple tweets about that!) to try to streamline my intake and processing of news and information. This move has had mixed results. I think it’s made my ability to process pieces of information more efficient, but that has lead me to believe that I’m invincible, so I promptly loaded Google Reader with over 2 dozen feeds, a quarter of which are extremely high volume (top 5 feeds produce 125 messages per day).

    In trying to overcome this sudden flood of messages, I’ve been doing more headline skimming and less full-story reading than I used to (it’s actually pretty amazing and amusing how deep a picture of the days news I can get just from the nuances between CNN, Al Jazeera and New York Times headlines), but this too has lead to a new problem: headline-writers interpreting the news in their own ways. I mentioned this just earlier this evening but I’ve discovered another instance of it: two news stories about the same survey recently commissioned in regards to citizens feelings towards the California High Speed Rail project. Both articles gave the same exact nu8mbers from the survey, but one story was titled “High-speed rail supported by three-quarters of survey respondents” and the other “Voters: Slow Down the California High Speed Rail Project“.

    Um, yeah, slow down the presses. How is it that the citizens of California overwhelming support the project, but want it to slow down? Well, it’s actually pretty straight forward, and I think both article writers were kooky and using the numbers to their advantage.
    Here’s the survey data:
    34% “said they would like to see the rail built as quickly as possible,”
    42% “would like to see the high-speed trains built despite some concerns over cost and timing” and
    13% “solidly oppose” the project.
    I assume the remaining 11% were undecided (I was gonna make a joke about those remaining opinion-less 11%, but it’s apparently too late at night for my brain to produce such a wittyness).

    The catch, as any sane person can plainly see, is that 42%. While I guess you can technically count them as supporters despite their concerns, I find it disingenuous to lump that group with the “support with no concerns” crowd in the headline of the story, especially when the resulting number is as large as 76%. On the other hand, show me in this survey where those 42% said they had all withdrawn their support, a logic leap that the other article seems to be making in order to make the claim that “a 19 percent drop from the percentage of voters that approved Proposition 1A” had occurred. Maybe in a perfect world nobody should vote for something they don’t 100% agree with, but this is not a perfect world, our government’s are all screwed up right now and their are bound to be issues with any huge government-run project. I find it really hard to believe that every single one of the 54% of voters in 2008 who voted for HSR had no reservations about it while still giving it the go-ahead. I would have, if I lived and voted in California.

    So. The moral of the story is: beware of headline writers and always apply critical thinking to the news you read. Although maybe apply slightly less than me. Because 4 paragraphs at 4am about one survey in a state I don’t live in might be kind of overkill.

    Oh well.

  • jimmy 7:42 am on May 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: hsr, , , ,   

    I love how a big argument against trains is that of the so-called “last mile problem,” meaning the problem of just being dumped somewhere with no way to get around (whereas when you drive, you’ve got your car with you, obviously). It’s a valid point, but what amuses (and saddens) me is that flying has THIS EXACT SAME PROBLEM and nobody has argued it for a century. They went about solving it. Duh.

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