Sunday, November 21, 2010

Charlotte Observer Editor Wets Underoos Over Rail Line

Just last week the editorial board at the Charlotte Observer was lamenting the huge debt and budget deficits that the federal government has incurred. This same newspaper lauded the Bowles – Simpson Debt Commission on their austerity programs to cut cost and raise taxes. Boy, what a difference a week makes. Associate Editor, Jack Betts in this Sunday’s editorial is applauding a government subsidy to build a high speed commuter train on the eastern seaboard:

Now, 40 years later, as North Carolina and other parts of the South cope with the effects of dramatic population growth, traffic congestion and the post 9-11 inconveniences of airplane travel, the Obama administration is pushing for a remake of a rail passenger system that once was the predominant way of moving people about the country. The administration is making available more than $10 billion in grants to 31 states to create a system of high-speed trains that could link 80 percent of the nation's population by 2035. It will cost many billions of dollars.

And here's the thing: North Carolina finds itself well-positioned to tap into that funding to rebuild its rail lines and significantly increase its ability to help move people up and down the East Coast. That will happen if rail planners succeed in linking the Northeast Corridor of existing fast trains between Washington and Boston with the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, sending fast trains from Richmond south through Raleigh, Charlotte, and Atlanta with connections to South Florida.

These progressive spendthrifts at the Charlotte Disturber are about as fickle as a five year old. Give them a new shiny government program and their eyes glaze over and you begin to see a wet spot expand in their Underoos. You can feel the excite in Mr. Betts prose at the prospect of a state funded rail system:

The rail division at the N.C. Department of Transportation has worked with existing Amtrak service and contracted for operation of state-supported trains restoring daily round-trip service between Raleigh and Charlotte with connections north and south. Those trains, especially the state-sponsored train sets, are clean, comfortable and a bargain for travelers who don't own cars or don't want to fight traffic in the Triangle, through the Triad and into Charlotte.

Amtrak is a bargain because they are highly subsidized by the American taxpayer:

According to the Congressional Budget Office, “only 16 percent of Amtrak’s long-distance passengers use sleeper service, at a subsidy that ranged in 2004 from $269 to $627 per passenger and exceeded subsidies for coach service by at least 50 percent and sometimes more than 100 percent per route.” These losses are made up by taxpayers. During these increasingly tough economic times, taxpayers do not need to be additionally burdened by paying for turn-down service and pre-paid movies. This unprofitable activity is one reason that Amtrak has received $37 billion of taxpayer subsidies since 1970

Mr. Betts reminisces about the resurrection of the old Orange Blossom Special line from New York to Miami. He however omits the fact that the line was built by men of vision who took the risk of investing their own time and money; they were entrepreneurs.

The Orange Blossom Special eventually went bankrupt due to the vicissitudes of the housing market in Florida. This new project is dependent upon taxpayers; dreams of progressive newspaper editors; and the vicissitudes of politicians.


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