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(and let's face it, that's the best case, for Europe and the US), economic growth is not required to justify the cost. It's more a matter of the cost of not doing so. For example : maintaining real estate value in cities served by HSR, rather than seeing them collapse as other modes of transport become impracticable.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 06:32:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maintaining real estate values IS an economic growth justification for rail.  

But that's a good question.  I'm not sure the math holds out for rail (or any other new mode of transportation) without economic growth.

Here's a proposition to ponder: Without economic growth, there is no need for any expansion of transportation infrastructure.

by santiago on Mon Nov 15th, 2010 at 11:35:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes and no. Within the foreseeable future, we'll have to replace the entire car fleet and petroleum support infrastructure anyway, just to retain current capacity. So the decision is not between doing maintenance on existing infrastructure versus building a new system, but between which new system to build in order to handle any given transportation task.

Even if this were not the case, the case for an upgrade to the infrastructure that results in lower resource use for the same service would depend on your planning horizon. If the service cost, including depreciation, is lower for the new mode than the old mode, then there exists a discount rate for which an upgrade is viable.

Finally, it is possible to have growth in terms of the quality of service rather than in terms of the number of ton- or passenger-kilometers travelled. Rail offers a number of advantages over airplanes and cars - they are more comfortable than either; unlike planes, you don't have to go through a gauntlet of goons to get on; and unlike cars you're not driving yourself, so you can use the time for more interesting pursuits.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 15th, 2010 at 01:53:58 PM EST
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