Author Topic: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.  (Read 20421 times)

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Offline livehard

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #35 on: November 02, 2011, 04:00:24 PM »
These projects never get a rate of return atrractive enough for a private investor. thats why some govt official forces money out of the public's  pocket for these things.  We basically have a relatively inexpensive car/plane situation here in the US.

Oh wait, that's right... Europe actually disproves everything you just said. Nothing like ignoring facts.

We're talking about the US genius

Offline Dark Castle

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #36 on: November 02, 2011, 04:01:52 PM »
These projects never get a rate of return atrractive enough for a private investor. thats why some govt official forces money out of the public's  pocket for these things.  We basically have a relatively inexpensive car/plane situation here in the US.

Oh wait, that's right... Europe actually disproves everything you just said. Nothing like ignoring facts.

We're talking about the US genius
No shit, you obviously missed what he's saying, nice one being a sarcastic jerk without actually understanding what he was saying.

Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #37 on: November 02, 2011, 04:12:49 PM »
The three of you need to knock off the insults now.
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Offline Scheavo

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #38 on: November 02, 2011, 04:22:10 PM »
These projects never get a rate of return atrractive enough for a private investor. thats why some govt official forces money out of the public's  pocket for these things.  We basically have a relatively inexpensive car/plane situation here in the US.

Oh wait, that's right... Europe actually disproves everything you just said. Nothing like ignoring facts.

We're talking about the US genius

And why is the US exceptional? If it works in Europe, it could work here. Maybe some tweaks to the system need to be instituted, but it's wrong to say that high speed rails don't give a return on their investment. Private enterprises face a different issue, namely land rights, so you're not going to see them get involved in infrastructure like this without the government.

Offline Dark Castle

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #39 on: November 02, 2011, 05:21:19 PM »
These projects never get a rate of return atrractive enough for a private investor. thats why some govt official forces money out of the public's  pocket for these things.  We basically have a relatively inexpensive car/plane situation here in the US.

Oh wait, that's right... Europe actually disproves everything you just said. Nothing like ignoring facts.

We're talking about the US genius

And why is the US exceptional? If it works in Europe, it could work here. Maybe some tweaks to the system need to be instituted, but it's wrong to say that high speed rails don't give a return on their investment. Private enterprises face a different issue, namely land rights, so you're not going to see them get involved in infrastructure like this without the government.
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Offline Super Dude

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #40 on: November 02, 2011, 05:36:22 PM »
Somewhat off-topic: anyone ever been on the bullet-train in Japan? That thing is fucking awesome. I would totally be down for us building something like that here.
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #41 on: November 02, 2011, 05:40:53 PM »
Somewhat off-topic: anyone ever been on the bullet-train in Japan? That thing is fucking awesome. I would totally be down for us building something like that here.

The proposed Cali HSR would go faster than any of the current generation Shinkansens.
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Offline Super Dude

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #42 on: November 02, 2011, 05:43:19 PM »
Holy mother of God, let's do this. How is it in terms of energy/carbon efficiency?
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #43 on: November 02, 2011, 05:48:22 PM »
Very.  It depends on what the electricity used is generated from, but it's about 5 times as efficient in terms of energy expended per passenger per km as automobiles.
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Offline Super Dude

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #44 on: November 02, 2011, 06:02:44 PM »
Basically meaning that in the end, it pays for itself. ;)
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #45 on: November 02, 2011, 06:23:38 PM »
Basically meaning that in the end, it pays for itself. ;)

It pays for itself simply by the profit it generates.

But it also delivers massive economic, social, and environmental positives as well.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #46 on: November 02, 2011, 06:24:24 PM »
IF enough people use it.
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #47 on: November 02, 2011, 06:25:29 PM »
No reason why not.  It's been profitable everywhere else.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #48 on: November 02, 2011, 06:30:01 PM »
No reason why not. 

Yes, there are plenty of reasons why not.  Go back and read my and El Barto's posts.  Do you have any hard facts about the coastal population of California significant numbers of them would use it?  No, of course you don't. 
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Offline Dark Castle

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #49 on: November 02, 2011, 06:34:21 PM »
No reason why not. 

Yes, there are plenty of reasons why not.  Go back and read my and El Barto's posts.  Do you have any hard facts about the coastal population of California significant numbers of them would use it?  No, of course you don't.
But you have none that say it won't, and if it was originally voted upon, surely people must want it?

Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #50 on: November 02, 2011, 06:42:08 PM »
But you have none that say it won't

I never said it won't.  I'm repeating for probably the third or fourth time now:  I'm hesitant about whether it will work.  That's not the same thing as saying it won't work.  It might.  But there are reasons why it might not, so it is really dumb to just blindly assume that it will. 

...and if it was originally voted upon, surely people must want it?

Whether people thought it was a cool enough idea to vote "yes" on really has little bearing on whether enough people will use it on a regular enough basis to justify the cost and make it successful.
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Offline Dark Castle

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #51 on: November 02, 2011, 06:45:03 PM »
The fact that people voted for it shows there is a general interest, and like others have said who use them, if they're big in the rest of the world, there's no reason to think the U.S.A. won't jump on them, in a time of high gas prices, endless highway projects, I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd rather have this alternative.  That's all I'm saying.

Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #52 on: November 02, 2011, 06:49:42 PM »
The fact that people voted for it shows there is a general interest

No it doesn't.  It could merely mean that loads of people who have no use for such a thing whatsoever who showed up for the polls to vote on other items ran down their ballot cards, arrived at that issue, and said to themselves something along the lines of, "well, gee, trains are pretty cool.  I don't want to be the guy to hold this up if people want it, so I guess I should put 'yes.'"

...high gas prices, endless highway projects

Are you familiar with California at all?
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Offline Super Dude

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #53 on: November 02, 2011, 06:56:06 PM »
In any case, Dark Castle's comment does bring to mind the issue that USA has been the Johnny-come-lately on a good number of things, particularly in recent years. I can see no reason why having a high-speed rail would be a *bad* thing. Maybe not an unambiguously good thing, but never a bad thing.
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Offline Dark Castle

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #54 on: November 02, 2011, 06:56:44 PM »
The fact that people voted for it shows there is a general interest

No it doesn't.  It could merely mean that loads of people who have no use for such a thing whatsoever who showed up for the polls to vote on other items ran down their ballot cards, arrived at that issue, and said to themselves something along the lines of, "well, gee, trains are pretty cool.  I don't want to be the guy to hold this up if people want it, so I guess I should put 'yes.'"

...high gas prices, endless highway projects

Are you familiar with California at all?
Yeah, I've been through there often with my biological dad as he used to be a trucker, gas prices were much higher than anywhere else we'd drive, and yeah it's already congested traffic-wise. Also that was me generalizing I think it would be cool if the entire nation had rails eventually  ;)
Also you're generalizing a shit ton of people as idiots who don't care which is highly unfair to generalize people as, especially when it comes to voting.  People usually research stuff to be voting on before just blindly voting on something.  Sioux Falls, where I live is voting on a new arena center so we can attract bigger clientele and sports, and the amount's of caring in the entire town is unbelievable, and it's being voted on Nov. 8.  Mostly everyone voting's going to know the whole situation and facts because it's been covered, and the public has been very involved.  Something as big as a rail such as this is going to be a subject people will want to know about and not just blindly vote.

Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #55 on: November 02, 2011, 07:00:48 PM »
In any case, Dark Castle's comment does bring to mind the issue that USA has been the Johnny-come-lately on a good number of things, particularly in recent years. I can see no reason why having a high-speed rail would be a *bad* thing. Maybe not an unambiguously good thing, but never a bad thing.

It's a bad thing IF (and I'm not saying this necessarily is the case, but just hypothetically IF) it costs a lot of money and resources to create and doesn't get used, in which case it is a waste of money and other resources, and would unjustifiably scar more otherwise usable Central Valley farmland and hillsides with unusable railroad tracks.
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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #56 on: November 02, 2011, 07:03:23 PM »
The only downsides to HSR I could imagine are the things El Barto posted. However, if HSR ends up being as easy to use as current trains, they will be extremely successful.

Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #57 on: November 02, 2011, 07:05:04 PM »
Regardless of urban sprawl, the populations of the areas connected are so large, there would still be lots of ridership.  Particularly among those traveling for business.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #58 on: November 02, 2011, 07:10:25 PM »
Yeah, I've been through there often with my biological dad as he used to be a trucker, gas prices were much higher than anywhere else we'd drive, and yeah it's already congested traffic-wise.

Yes, but you are failing to realize a few really important facts.  (1) The endpoints of this railway line are going to be in S.F. and L.A.  Both are very congested areas that are hard to quickly get in and out of.  (2) The two main routes between the S.F. and L.A. areas are relatively congestion free once you are not in the S.F. and L.A. areas.  What this means when you put those two facts together:  If you are not VERY close to a station, it is much more efficient and less hassle to drive the S.F.-L.A. drive than to drive into one of those two cities to take a train.  And as Barto pointed out, the public transportation infrastructure that you would need to link to those stations so that you could easily access them from farther away without driving and having to deal with parking is severely lacking.

Also you're generalizing a shit ton of people as idiots who don't care which is highly unfair to generalize people as, especially when it comes to voting.  People usually research stuff to be voting on before just blindly voting on something.  Sioux Falls, where I live is voting on a new arena center so we can attract bigger clientele and sports, and the amount's of caring in the entire town is unbelievable, and it's being voted on Nov. 8.  Mostly everyone voting's going to know the whole situation and facts because it's been covered, and the public has been very involved.  Something as big as a rail such as this is going to be a subject people will want to know about and not just blindly vote.

Awesome for Sioux Falls.  This isn't Sioux Falls.  The vast majority of the electorate here is not in touch at all with the vast majority of ballot issues that come up in a given election.  Every single election, the ballots are flooded with all kinds of issues for the voters to vote on.  The vast majority of people don't even know what most of the issues are before going to the polls.  They go to vote for their local guy or their presidential candidate and that's it, but then end up voting on anything else on the ballot that looks cool.  That's just a fact of life here.  The rail was on the general ballot, and most people here had no idea what it would entail or what it would cost before voting.  Sounds unbelievable, but that's exactly how it played out.  So, yet again, let me repeat that I am not necessarily against this.  But I am merely pointing out that the fact that a majority of California voters, many of whom live so far from where this railway line would be located that they will NEVER use it, voted for this does NOT necessarily mean they researched it and would be willing to use it on a regular basis.  In fact, do you even realize that not all that many people actually travel between S.F. and L.A. on a regular basis?
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Offline Super Dude

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #59 on: November 02, 2011, 07:13:26 PM »
MBTA seems to work just fine. Hell, for what it takes me to fill up my car in a week, I can commute by rail for a little over a month.
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #60 on: November 02, 2011, 07:17:24 PM »
Let's compare the 10 largest cities connected by the French TGV to the 10 largest cities connected to the future Cali HSR.

France:
Paris (2.18 milion)
Marseille (839,000)
Lyon (472,000)    
Nice    (347,000)*
Strasbourg (273,000)*
Montpellier (252,000)*
Bordeaux (232,000)*
Lille (226,000)
Rennes (210,000)
Dijon (152,000)

*LGV under construction

California:

Los Angeles (3.79 million)
San Diego (1.31 million)
San Jose (946,000)
San Francisco (805,000)
Fresno (510,000)
Sacramento (489,000)
Bakersfield (347,000)
Anaheim (336,000)
Riverside (304,000)
Stockton (292,000)

That's city populations.  Not accounting for the metro areas.

In 2009, the TGV carried 122 million passengers.  California is expecting the Cali HSR to reach 100 million per year by 2030.  Seems very doable.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2011, 07:22:49 PM by GuineaPig »
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Offline zxlkho

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #61 on: November 02, 2011, 07:19:44 PM »
In fact, do you even realize that not all that many people actually travel between S.F. and L.A. on a regular basis?


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Offline Riceball

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #62 on: November 02, 2011, 07:28:39 PM »
For any kind of project costing that kind of public dosh, a cost-benefit analysis needs to be done to establish whether there will be a benefit from the piece of infrastructure. There is no point saying "well its going to cost 25 centillion dollars, that sounds like a lot, so lets not do it".

In my view, I like the notion of High Speed Rail as a mass transit system for a number of reasons:
 - Its faster, more direct, more efficient and cleaner than x number of people using a car each or each person having a seat on an air plane.
 - Its safe.
 - Its easy to maintain (from what I have read)
 - Once scale economies build, the marginal cost of additional capacity is negligable.

But, you need to be mindful of:
 - What impact will this have on air travel demand?
 - Is the population density in and around the stations or rail-line high enough to warrant the high investment cost?
 - Are people going to want to use it as oppose to their car? (this to me is an issue which is glossed over quite often)
 - Do people need to travel sufficiently often between the proposed destinations?

You also need to take into account the implicit opportunity cost of spending that kind of money (which is where the CBA comes in) and also the impacts on broader markets (air travel, used cars, petrol, radio stations, newspapers, personal technology). Its a game changer, no doubt about that, and it can greatly enhance the productivity of the local economy. But a thorough, rigerous cost benefit analysis is absolutely vital.

Based on the densities highlighted in the previous post, it sounds like California would be a fine place for rail - on the user side anyway.
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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #63 on: November 02, 2011, 07:31:12 PM »
Barto, you ever take the light rail to get around in Dallas?  Not that it's "high speed rail," just curious.

-J
Yeah, a couple of times.  I live half a mile from MB station,  so if I'm going to Fair Park or Victory it makes sense.  They'll run special trains for AAC events,  so that's convenient as well.  Really,  it's only for specific trips to one specific place and back.  On two separate occasions I looked into riding it somewhere and discovered it was a terrible solution.  The station closest to Starplex is a mile away on MLK,  and I'm not fast enough, big enough, or well armed enough to take that challenge.  Looked into riding it to the zoo and discovered that it was going to take 45 minutes and decided I'd rather pay $10 to park.

This is exactly why I think HSR is a poor fit for most of America.  European cities were either walkable or had great light rail.  You ride a train into SF and your first stop will be the Avis counter.  That's the case landing at SFO as well,  but when it's actually a drivable distance,  like LA-SF,  then  the train doesn't look quite as good as driving, IMO.


edit:  GP:  those are interesting numbers.  It raises the point that it's hard to tell what things will look like 20 years from now.  100m/year seems absurd,  but it's certainly likely that if the thing existed,  there might be a steady increase in people using it.  I still think that it won't be convenient enough for the projected ridership to even come close, though.
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Offline GuineaPig

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #64 on: November 02, 2011, 07:39:03 PM »
Just to throw in another comparison, the Canadian government recently got the results of a study looking into high-speed rail in Québec/Ontario.  The report estimated a $20 billion cost for ~1200 km of rail; roughly 3/4 electrified, 300 km/h+, the other 1/4 diesel at 200 km/h.  Predicted that the system would start generating a yearly profit of about a billion instantly.  For comparison's sake, here's the list of cities it would hypothetically connect:

Québec/Ontario:
Toronto (2.50 million)
Montréal (1.62 million)
Ottawa (812,000)
Hamilton (505,000)
Québec City (491,000)
Laval (369,000)
London (352,000)
Windsor (216,000)
Oshawa (142,000)
Trois-Rivières (126,000)
Kingston (117,000)
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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #65 on: November 02, 2011, 07:40:18 PM »
In fact, do you even realize that not all that many people actually travel between S.F. and L.A. on a regular basis?


I know you do live in California, but how exactly do you know this?

I doubt there's much in the way of statistics, but I'm inclined to agree with bosk here.
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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #66 on: November 02, 2011, 07:56:37 PM »
Something that occurs to me is that SWA operates 25 flights a day between DAL/HOU.  Roughly the same distance as LA/SF.  That leads me to believe that plenty of people are making that trip.  LAX to SFO is 11 flights,  plus you've got BUR, ONT and SNA/OAK and SJC running flights as well.  Clearly there is some commuter traffic going on over those distances.  More than I initially thought.
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Offline Scheavo

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #67 on: November 02, 2011, 08:03:45 PM »
I don't get why American's are supposed to be so exceptional, and not do what every other country does. Quicker, cheaper, less stressful traveling is going to be used. People do not like traffic, they do not like being stuck in traffic, and if you gave people a quicker option, Americans are going to use it. It's human nature.

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #68 on: November 02, 2011, 08:53:38 PM »
Yeah, I've been through there often with my biological dad as he used to be a trucker, gas prices were much higher than anywhere else we'd drive, and yeah it's already congested traffic-wise.

Yes, but you are failing to realize a few really important facts.  (1) The endpoints of this railway line are going to be in S.F. and L.A.  Both are very congested areas that are hard to quickly get in and out of.  (2) The two main routes between the S.F. and L.A. areas are relatively congestion free once you are not in the S.F. and L.A. areas.  What this means when you put those two facts together:  If you are not VERY close to a station, it is much more efficient and less hassle to drive the S.F.-L.A. drive than to drive into one of those two cities to take a train.  And as Barto pointed out, the public transportation infrastructure that you would need to link to those stations so that you could easily access them from farther away without driving and having to deal with parking is severely lacking.

Also you're generalizing a shit ton of people as idiots who don't care which is highly unfair to generalize people as, especially when it comes to voting.  People usually research stuff to be voting on before just blindly voting on something.  Sioux Falls, where I live is voting on a new arena center so we can attract bigger clientele and sports, and the amount's of caring in the entire town is unbelievable, and it's being voted on Nov. 8.  Mostly everyone voting's going to know the whole situation and facts because it's been covered, and the public has been very involved.  Something as big as a rail such as this is going to be a subject people will want to know about and not just blindly vote.

Awesome for Sioux Falls.  This isn't Sioux Falls.  The vast majority of the electorate here is not in touch at all with the vast majority of ballot issues that come up in a given election.  Every single election, the ballots are flooded with all kinds of issues for the voters to vote on.  The vast majority of people don't even know what most of the issues are before going to the polls.  They go to vote for their local guy or their presidential candidate and that's it, but then end up voting on anything else on the ballot that looks cool.  That's just a fact of life here.  The rail was on the general ballot, and most people here had no idea what it would entail or what it would cost before voting.  Sounds unbelievable, but that's exactly how it played out.  So, yet again, let me repeat that I am not necessarily against this.  But I am merely pointing out that the fact that a majority of California voters, many of whom live so far from where this railway line would be located that they will NEVER use it, voted for this does NOT necessarily mean they researched it and would be willing to use it on a regular basis.  In fact, do you even realize that not all that many people actually travel between S.F. and L.A. on a regular basis?
What you're failing to understand here is that if this does get built, it's pretty much guaranteed to drastically expand.  Also, why is it okay to say my point isn't valid because I used a personal example, in which the biggest city of South Dakota.   stuff like expansion or big projects, people like to know what the fuck they're voting for, that's why I brought up that example.  It's not an invalid statement just because it's not the same location.  And as Scheavo said just before I posted this.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2011, 09:06:49 PM by Dark Castle »

Offline Cool Chris

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Re: Why "high-speed rail" is dumb.
« Reply #69 on: November 02, 2011, 09:04:18 PM »
Ok, so I know it isn't high speed rail, but this is what I have to deal with in my local area, and since I don't travel ever, all I really know.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009229227_stpreview17m.html

Quote
Voters first said yes to light rail 13 years ago, and now, $2.6 billion later, the success of this megaproject depends on individual choices of thousands of ordinary travelers like Frost.

The initial line from downtown to Tukwila opens this summer, followed by service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport around the end of the year, for a total 16 miles.

Sound Transit predicts an average of 26,600 riders a day in 2010. Early studies said population growth would help the corridor carry 45,000 by 2020, if no extensions were built. Rail would reduce freeway congestion in the South End about 1 percent.

2.6 billion dollars for a project that will reduce congestion by 1%?

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