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The High Price of Transportation

April 6, 2011

One of the most baffling stories about public transportation I’ve ever heard has played itself out over the past several months.

The decision to try and spend money slated for passenger rail improvements on roads instead has happened in many other places besides New Jersey, including Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida, who have all rejected high speed rail (HSR) funding. The high up-front costs of rail transportation and the operating subsidies it usually requires makes it suffer from considerable sticker shock. But attempting to divert money already approved for rail to road maintenance is at the best insane.

The national road network and automobile transportation are subsidized to a high degree, otherwise road transport wouldn’t be economically viable in competition with rails. (Remember that the early American railroads put almost everything else in the transportation sector out of business, including a number of toll roads.) Passenger rail, since the enaction of the Interstate Highways act, has received only a trifle in comparison of the quadrillions of dollars we have spent on roads and highways since then.

If the automobile weren’t such an inseperable part of the American dream as handed down to us by the Greatest Generation, people might be able to realize what an efficient money pump the car in their garage is. A pump that is very efficient at sucking money out of the economy and flushing it away down rivers of concrete.

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