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Ed Glaeser just plain lies about High Speed Rail

by BruceMcF Thu Aug 13th, 2009 at 02:25:07 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Ryan Avent has provided high quality debunking of many of the flaws of Ed Glaeser's ongoing analysis of Cost and Benefits of HSR. His current piece, Ed Glaeser's Rail Fail, does not let us down.

Hell, I decided I'd read Ryan Avent's piece first, before reading Glaeser, so I would not get riled up and start a long rant, only to find that Ryan has explained it more clearly ... and to more total readers, to boot.

But I got riled up anyway. Ed Glaeser in the most recent piece comes out with a blatant lie, and one that'll trap almost all casual readers.


Here's what he says:

As in the previous two posts, I focus on a mythical 240-mile-line between Houston and Dallas, which was chosen to avoid giving the impression that this back-of-the-envelope calculation represents a complete evaluation of any actual proposed route. (The Texas route will be certainly far less attractive than high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, but it is not inherently less reasonable than the proposed high-speed rail routes across Missouri or between Dallas and Oklahoma City.)

The proposed HSR route across Missouri and the proposed route between Dallas and Oklahoma City are 110mph Emerging HSR routes. But Ed Glaeser acts like this part of Obama's HSR policy package simply does not exist. The very GAO study that he uses to estimate the cost of an Express System at $40m per mile says that the cost of Emerging HSR corridor proposals are somewhere inside $4m to $12m per mile. So for the kind of corridors he's talking about, his capital costs are inflated Threefold to Tenfold.

The whole argument falls apart right there. There is no official project applying for an Express HSR corridor based on 1.5m riders per year. All projects expected to serve riderships in the 100,000's to 1m's are 110mph "Emerging HSR" systems or 125mph "Regional HSR" systems. And actual projects to develop 220mph "Express HSR" systems? The projection for the California system is over 30m, and intercity travel on the Northeast Corridor already is far more than 1.5m.

Even if there actually was a project like that, there's no reason to believe that Roy LaHood's Department of Transport would give it a dime. The economic analysis lines up against it, and the politics lines up against it, because the Emerging and Regional HSR projects are the ones that can have trains running by 2016.

Really, what is Ed Glaeser trying to say here? If we ditch the current policy and replace it with the foolish idea of funding Express HSR corridors to serve riderships 1m or 2m, "that would not be cost-effective"?

Well, No Shit, Sherlock!

Last week, this was an omission ... a "failing", a "flaw", even "ignorant misinformation".

But this week, he directly claims that his make-believe project is similar to actual projects. And then points to corridors where that is a flat out lie.

What can I say? Its going to take more than one person to call Bullshit on this lie. Search for news articles with letters to the editor or online commentary that echo this lie ... here is one google search to get started ... and point out that Ed Glaeser has stepped over the line from shoddy analysis to a clear, direct, lie about current High Speed Rail policy.

And I've said it before, but it bears repeating: this Libertarian trick of trying to ignore, dismiss or insult the 110mph and 125mph Emerging/Regional HSR systems is attacking the part of the policy that offers the most benefits to greatest number of rural areas.

My grandkid might live to see the day there is a 220mph Corridor running north out of Nashville linking up to the Ohio and Midwest Hubs and south linking up to the Southeast Corridor and Gulf Coast Corridor ... but for an Emerging HSR line, the only real question is whether we'll have to wait one decade or two before those trains start running.

Thing is, the more we let these kind of one-eyed arguments from Ed Glaeser circulate without pushback, the more likely it will be two decades instead of one.

Display:
... bloody late in the evening for European readers, but a time some California / Pacific NW readers might have a crack at it.

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 Aug 13th, 2009 at 02:27:27 PM EST
Thing is, the more we let these kind of one-eyed arguments from Ed Glaeser circulate without pushback, the less likely it will be two decades instead of one.

Surely that should be "the more likely" in the last comma.

(Sorry for being a grammar nazi - too riled up right now to do anything substantial.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 13th, 2009 at 06:20:13 PM EST
Oops, I forgot where else that coda written for the Hillbilly Report had ended up.


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 Aug 13th, 2009 at 09:56:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are Glaeser and the NYT carrying water for the auto industry?  It is hard to believe that this concerted campaign is just based on their misunderstanding of the proposals.  Glaeser received his PhD in Econ from the U. of Chicago in 1992.  What are the probabilities that he is NOT a staunch supporter of "Mainstream Economics"?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 14th, 2009 at 02:39:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... mainstream economist. Non-mainstream economists at Harvard are not in the Economics department.

I think, as I said previously, it is more the Libertarian push ... so indirectly funded by Big Oil, sure, but the effect is through the ongoing stream of column fillers for lazy column writers ... out of Cato, Heritage, and Reason.

Libertarians have an inside track into prestigious mainstream economics, since the utility theory fantasy is a mathematical specification that requires ignoring or disbelieving many of the same aspects of reality that a Libertarian must ignore or disbelieve.


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 Fri Aug 14th, 2009 at 03:10:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... assault on the car transport system, as would be, say, handing over one of every three main city streets to exclusive use by buses.


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 Fri Aug 14th, 2009 at 03:13:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neither does the funding to the Emerging High Speed Rail Corridors compete with the intent of "Cash for Clunkers", which is to provide immediate stimulus for the auto industry. Meanwhile, EHSR provides longer term stimulus to the overall economy through investment in rail infrastructure which, when complete, will provide upgraded regional transportation alternatives.  Credit should be given the rail infrastructure investment both for the ability to forgo some additional investment in air transport infrastructure while reducing transportation related pollution.  But perhaps libertarians oppose individuals effectivly having more  choices for regional transportation.  Perhaps they think that the airlines built the airports.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 14th, 2009 at 05:49:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have thought for some time that libertarians find trains evil less based on a coherent analysis than because they so visibly and inescapably remind them of things that they would really rather forget.

Once you ignore the roads and airports (and flight controllers, and ground radar, and international traffic sign standards...), car and air traffic looks almost like a perfect free market of individual choices (if you squint a little).

And it's easy to ignore the roads and airports, because they're just there. They don't actively do anything. And flight controllers and ground radars are things you only see when they fail.

But with trains... with trains, you have the inescapable fact of schedules, pre-planned routing, large monopoly operators, and so on and so forth. And it's all in your face, and impossible to ignore.

Of course, the fact that their gurus and preachers are funded by people who have a vested interest in torpedoing rail does not help either.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 14th, 2009 at 06:25:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... independent on automobiles, and dependent instead on common carriers for some of their transport, the more people there will be pointing out the massive public operating subsidies and private cross-subsidies for the car transport system.


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 Fri Aug 14th, 2009 at 06:50:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BruceMcF:
the more people there will be pointing out the massive public operating subsidies and private cross-subsidies for the car transport system.

bingo

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Aug 15th, 2009 at 07:55:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have thought for some time that libertarians find trains evil less based on a coherent analysis than because they so visibly and inescapably remind them of things that they would really rather forget.

Among the things that ORGANIZED libertarians, such as The Cato Institute, hold dear, but desire to keep out of the light, is their liberty to prostitute themselves and their philosophy in return for money=power.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Aug 15th, 2009 at 04:25:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... here ... Cato, the Reason Foundation, and Heritage are three "Libertarian" propaganda mills that have adopted the fight against HSR as one of their causes.


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 Sat Aug 15th, 2009 at 10:03:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is very true today. But, what an irony: Ayn Rand was a big admirer of railroad baron James J. Hill, the (truly admirable) builder of the Great Northern railway; and advanced the view that Hill was great and the other builders of transcontinentals were crooks because the latter depended on government subsidies...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Aug 20th, 2009 at 01:59:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, right. Monopoly power isn't a problem as long as it's "private" monopoly.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 02:23:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To turn this on the head: I say yes :-) That is, I think a big monopolistic railway that is integrated (owns its own track, runs fright and passenger alike) is preferable to open-access and separated operations... That is, Japan's or (until recently) Switzerland's way of having private railways is preferable to the open-access model we are now implementing EU-wide.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 21st, 2009 at 01:29:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it is, as long as it's regulated. Rail is a natural monopoly, and attempting to fuck around with it to make it look like a stock exchange or oil spot market is always going to break it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Aug 22nd, 2009 at 09:35:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh, LOL. I would have missed this. But; he claims Houston-Dallas would be just 1.5 million a year? Because that's the level of air traffic now? Ah come on...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Aug 20th, 2009 at 02:02:05 PM EST
Its absurd ... also, his capital costs may be high, since East Texas ought not present the kind of geographic obstacles faced by the California line, with the need to climb out of both the Bay area and the LA Basin into the Central Valley.

There's some argument in the earlier piece where he justifies it on the basis of the much weaker public transport network in Houston and Dallas, but if there is a 300km/h Express HSR corridor, there will be both substantiall capture of current road mode share but also new generated traffic.

And of course, if the numbers don't quite make the cut for Express HSR under the current transport market, its still a slam dunk for a 200km/h Regional HSR corridor.


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 Aug 20th, 2009 at 10:01:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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