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.