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For every investment in HSR there is also an alternative use of the money. In order to become a fast, safe and affordable alternative to car travel, local and regional public transport is in desperate need of funding.

This is clean BS, and the worst kind of zero-sum thinking. In the USA, local, regional and intercity public transport is in desperate need of funding. Public transport functions best if modes for different distances and capacities, which are in effect different levels of a hierarchic system, are linked up at hubs. The accessibility via the other levels increases the utility of each mode (you get more HSR passengers with a subway link to the station resp. you get more light rail passengers with a link to a HSR station). It doesn't make sense to pick out one level of public transport, even less to make them run for the same money.

What is debatable is the ratio of funds earmarked for the different modes. However, given the severe underfunding on all public transport fronts and the hundreds of billions given to road construction, it is silly to look for a re-division of funds already earmarked for public transport rather than a re-division between road and rail.

A tragic example is the terrible commuter-train accident in Belgium earlier this year. Belgium is investing millions of euro in HSR, and at the same time the safety standard of local trains has deteriorated to a point where lives are placed at risk.

Gah. No, the safety system did not deteriorate, it was outdated and its upgrade was very sluggish.  But that doesn't mean that there was no investment at all: new trains are purchased (and already have the new Belgian safety system -- including one of the collided trains!), and Brussels's and Antwerp's suburban rail system was expanded resp. its lines were upgraded and partly quadruple-tracked in parallel with high-speed line construction.

Of course, again, Belgium could do a lot more in terms of rail investment. (In particular, more new suburban trains.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 02:05:48 PM EST
Exactly. This is not just zero-sum thinking, but a right-wing belief that the only tax revenues we have available are whatever government collected in a given year - that we can't ever go out and get more from the rich.

Here in California I keep using the argument that "a rising tide lifts all boats" (yes, it's cribbed from Reagan, but it works) - that greater investment in HSR will fuel public support for connecting transportation services.

However, I've also found that people who make this argument, that we have limited funds available and should spend it elsewhere, are really just looking for excuses to oppose HSR.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 02:38:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which makes it so odd reading that same argument from a swedish green. As a local politician in Stockholm who sees national rail taking precedence over local he probably means it though.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 04:56:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... but the zero sums are confused. Its combining the wrong things together in the fixed sum framework.

Suppose there is a specific amount of money available for transport. That money may then be budgeted to local and intercity transport. It would be irrational to do the initial allocation by technology, when both local and intercity transport have to be provided.

If the money available to intercity transport is limited ~ for example, if the Eurozone countries have made a political decision to impose an artificial shortage of money on themselves, even though they have substantial labor and equipment resources available, and HSR would save energy resources relative to alternatives ~ the capital cost for providing a given transport capacity via air, road and rail needs to be examined, as well as the capitalized cost of the operating subsidies required by air, road and conventional passenger rail.

Where HSR provides sufficient full economic benefit to justify its full economic cost, it will typically generate an operating surplus, so that is a capitalized benefit to offset the capital cost of building the line and buying the trains.

By contrast, for local transport, the most beneficial local transport may require substantial operating subsidies. So if there are not unlimited funds for ongoing operating subsidies, then dedicating the intercity capital funding to HSR frees up operating funds to provide operating subsidies to local transport.

Indeed, for areas where common carrier local transport is marginal, a multimodal connection with an HSR station provides an additional traffic anchor that increases farebox recovery ratios and increases the amount of local common carrier transport that can be provided with the same operating subsidy funding.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 04:25:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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