Derail train idea

So, Joe Biden thinks that the U.S.A. should build a high-speed "bullet train." The senator needs to look at the statistics on Amtrak. For every passenger who gets on that government transport passenger train, taxpayers have to come up with a $30 or $40 subsidy.

Passenger traffic on trains is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. If commercial passenger trains made money, the Maine Central and the Boston and Maine railroads would still be in operation. They went out of business trying to provide passenger service. They folded.

And Biden wants the government to build a super-speed passenger train? He thinks the U.S. should borrow some more cash from communist China just to imitate Japan and France? Or just to create jobs?

Was he not listening to the tea party folks who gathered a million strong in Washington, D.C., last summer to protest extravagant federal spending?

Has he no concern about the shrinking and devaluation of the dollar? Has he no understanding of basic economics? Or does he want to help bankrupt the nation so that it can be merged into the new world order?

I am reminded of the harebrained cash-for-clunkers program. That certainly didn't help working folks on the lower end of the economic ladder. It just drove up the price of older, good used cars. Thanks to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Harvey Lord, South Paris

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 's picture

Couple of things

Reading the editorial and comments brought a couple of thoughts to mind.
1) What's wrong with the Downeaster? I've used it several times to go to Boston. It was a pleasant but slow trip. There are way too many stops on the way. And it's expensive. It could be a good feeder to a high speed train with very limited stops, except it doesn't go to South Station.
2) There are many countries that successfully use passenger rail. And they have the land mass of New England. Take a look at a map. Passenger rail doesn't work in a large land mass country like the US. Considered it to go to Michigan when my son went to school there. There is even an Amtrak station on campus, but it was going to take something like 28hrs. We made the drive in 16ish hours, depending on how long we got stuck on the Blue Water Bridge.
3) I believe it would be much better spent money on light passenger rail and heavy freight. The amount of freight that can be moved by a train is incredible. Just went to Arizona and they have huge freight trains out there. And light passenger rail can go right on the same streets in cities that are already there.

There is a place for rail, I just don't see it in high speed, outside of specialized corridors.

 's picture

Train travel can be great

Other countries have trains as their main means of transport and they seem to be getting along pretty well. I lived in Asia for a bit more than a decade and didn't own a car. I didn't need one as the trains went everywhere and for the most part conveniently. The major cities I lived in had subway systems that fed directly into the countrywide train systems and it worked really well for moving people. I met a lot of great people on trains and saw a lot of country I wouldn't have otherwise seen.

I have not taken the DOwneaster as I have no real reason to go to Boston. I did fly out of Boston a couple months ago but took the bus because the schedule is much more convenient than the Downeaster.

I think that is the main problem with train service here. No one is used to it and so they don't think about taking the train and since no one thinks about taking the train, they can't provide enough trains for it to be convenient. Kind of a vicious circle. If it were there and comparable to auto travel, I would take it every time.


A few thoughts about train travel

It occurs to me that if we had a better train system that more people would ride them. Then we might not have to jam a third of the population of this country into airplanes every time we have a holiday. We also have cities who experience gridlock every day due to overcrowded highways. By the way who subsidizes air travel? Who pays for those jammed up roads ? Trains also carry freight. The alternative way to move freight is by those big trucks that rip up the roads. Who subsidizes roads? Oh yes the taxpayer. This is not a question of whether or not the government, ie the taxpayer, will subsidize transportation. It's about whether we will have modern efficient green transportation or whether we want to live with an expensive, inefficient and outdated system.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Trains seem to be very

Trains seem to be very efficient at hauling freight but often do a horrendous job of hauling humans.
Took the Downeaster to Boston once for a concert at the Garden. Left Portland and soon noticed that the seat I was in had me riding backwards, which I didn't feel like doing all the way to Boston. Asked the conductor if it would be ok to take a forward facing seat. I was told no, even though the car was empty except for 5 passengers. The reason he gave was that other people would be getting on at other stops. Duhh?
Upon arrival in Boston we were told quite emphatically by the conductor that the train for Portland departed at 11:00 pm, no exceptions. As fate would have it, the concert was 40 minutes late getting started.Consequently,in order to catch the 11: 00 pm train back, we were forced to leave the concert well before its ending. Upon taking our seats on the train we were advised by the conductor, a different one, that the departure would be delayed to accomodate concert goers. So, we sat on the train until 11:45 pm before it departed for Portland.
The Downeaster has seen this Pirate's butt for the last time. I'll take a bus before I'll ever take a train again.

 's picture

I think a train is a horrible

I think a train is a horrible idea for this state...A big waste of money..But isn't that what Obama is all about?

RONALD RIML's picture

Don't think 'a' train - but many trains and routes, Mary.

One train would be a waste of money. There's economy in scale. More train lines - more freight, less trucks. Quit thinking so conservatively.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yeah, it'd be great fun

Yeah, it'd be great fun spending half a day taking a train ride from Auburn to Portland.

Jim Cyr's picture

Funny HA HA HA

The Airline Industry getting the Bailout at will, I guess that justifies the More Spending concept? It does not mean it's right! Do we not need REFORM in the expenditures of our hard earned monies? Big Brother needs to stop stealing from what we truly earned for our families dining table! I must repeat the Mantra = " WE HAVE A SPENDING PROBLEM"

Barry King's picture

I agreed with you Jim,

I agreed with you Jim, because I believe that WE have a problem with what "THEY" spend our money on!

Jason Theriault's picture

Good Spending <> Bad Spending.

I don't disagree that we need to reform spending, but we need to be smart about it. Programs that look dumb are far more vital than you realize.

Example - The Icebreakers that were cut from the stimulus package. You may say "Why do we need these?! Cut em". Hell, most people did say that. I didn't, because one region has three things in common:
1. The largest unclaimed oil field.
2. Important shipping routes
3. Strategically important region

Where is this? The Arctic. It is believed to have a 25% of the worlds undiscovered oil. It is becoming a viable alternative and MUCH more geopolitical stable) than the Panama and Suez canals.

Oh, and the Russians have set the eyes on it. Canada and the US both have rights to the region, but we need to be able to work up there, and one of the things we need is icebreakers. But hey, it's cool, lets cut spending. I bet the Russian will let us borrow one of theirs, I mean they are building a bunch of them.

Ok, I got a bit off topic there. But it all comes down to the same thing. Just chanting "No Spending" is short-sighted. There are things it is good to spend on, and working towards a rail system for the United States is one of them.

Jim Cyr's picture

Derail, Right On, Now!

Good article Mr. Lord, They just refuse to understand we have a "SPENDING" problem. It's all about control! And as if another Government Boondogle will bring this economy back on the tracks (sorry about the bad pun)! If the "Private sector" can not make it work with fiscal responsibility, then we are to ASSUME Big Brother can? Just another joke from those attempting to tear down Free Enterprise and Capitalism!

Jason Theriault's picture


It's kinda funny you never hear the whole "spending" argument when it comes to programs that happen in Republican districts, like the parallel development of the GE engine for the F-35.

And this isn't even funding for Welfare or poor people or health care. This is capital investment in our country. This program isn't about trying to fix the economy, it's about trying to be proactive. It will cost us FAR more if we wait in terms of economic hardship and lost productivity. And cut it out with this "private" sector BS. The Airline industry gets 14 billion a year in federal spending and bailouts whenever needed. They get money from the Military for participation in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. They are hardly free enterprise.


Tea Party very noisy and relatively small

Should government be eliminated? Perhaps that is what the Tea Party wants. They are a very noisy and very small minority, but with the absurd costumes and even more absurd spouting of the conventional according to "the guy at the end of the bar," they make for great video for the evening news. The result, even people who know better assume the Tea Party speaks for lots of voters.

But maybe they should experience life without government - no schools, no road maintenance, no fire or police protection, no airports, a food supply that is "safe" if you believe guys like Jack DeCoster, rivers than run green with slime or have a head of foam. But, by God we'll be free and have a few extra bucks to pay for...hey - the stores are empty!

Federal funds subsidize roads and so, are a subsidy to the bus companies as well as EVERY family with a car. If you want to take the family to Orlando this spring, you'll probably be using the MOST heavily subsidized form of travel in the world - air.

Railroads are efficient movers of people and freight. The old private railroads failed precisely because the government built roads and people decided they couldn't live without at least one set of wheels - most families have two or three. Wait 15 minutes for a train - fuggedaboudit.

We pay lip service to weaning ourselves off fossil fuels whether they originate in Texas or Saudi Arabia. But, when ideas threaten to become action, the rightwing takes its cue from oil state senators like Coburn and Cornyn, give President Obama a stupid nickname, slap their bellies in mirth, and hop in the old gas guzzler to go down to the corner store for something cold.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Pirate couldn't really

The Pirate couldn't really tell if your post was favoring rail travel or simply an opportunity to rag on the Tea Party and other conservative elements.

Barry King's picture

I could tell, Pirate!

One line communicated his support FOR rail travel; "Railroads are efficient movers of people and freight."
Everything else he said was right on the money, too. If you have HBO, Pirate, try to watch a documentary titled "Gasland", then tell me how much sympathy YOU have for conservatives.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Being one, Barry, the Pirate

Being one, Barry, the Pirate has a great deal of sympathy for all conservatives. The only things HBO ever presented that was ever worth watching was the Sopranos, Deadwood and Six Feet Under. I guess this is where you and I shake hands.

Jason Theriault's picture

$425 billion

$425 billion is what it cost, in 2006 inflation adjusted dollars, to build the interstate system.

Does anyone here think that was a waste of money?

To build a proper high speed rail system will cost alot of money, but if it's done right, it could pay for itself in economic growth and eventual fares. And the time to build it is now, not in the future. Why?

Have you seen gas prices? They are only going to go up. So if we get the system built now, we won't be caught with our pants down when the price of air travel far exceeds rail and rail becomes viable.

Or we can think so short term we end up shooting ourselves in the foot.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"To build a proper high speed

"To build a proper high speed rail system will cost alot of money, but if it's done right, it could pay for itself in economic growth and eventual fares."...
If the above is true, Jason, why is AMTRAK such an abysmal financial disaster?

 's picture

Because AMTRAK in not a real "system"

Amtrak has such a limited schedule and a limited service area that it doesn't truly qualify to be called a "system". A proper system would have feeder trains from outlying areas bringing people to the main station that would then move them to a larger hub. Other nations have it down and we need to emulate them. Granted, a ton of money would be involved for this to happen, but it could and, I think, should. We used to have a trolley system in place that most say was marvelous until we fell in love with autos and auto travel. This has led to us building cities all spread out and now we need cars to go to grocery stores and Home Depot. If we built cities up instead of out, we could have a useful mass transit system.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The oBAMa administration

The oBAMa administration can't even keep itself on track. Biden thinks this government will be successful in keeping a high speed train on the rails? There is one guarantee in this equation; the Pirate will not be a passenger.

RONALD RIML's picture

Would you change your mind

If high speed trains ran on pavement? ;)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

In a heartbeat. That'd be

In a heartbeat. That'd be some kind of circus, wouldn't it?

 's picture

the high speed bullet train

the high speed bullet train cannot be used on the current rail lines. It needs to be straighter and that would require the confiscation and destruction of private property to build it. It is just one more way for the government to try and control how people travel. No matter how much politicians want to change human behaivor, people are people and won't readily accept that. The only way to make it work is to raise gas taxes so high it is prohibitivly expensive for the average person to drive, but that will ruin the economy, making it impossible for anyone to travel, and create resentment among the people who used to be able to afford it and those who will be able to. It will mainly be the politicans and their friends. Vote those fools out, all of them.


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