And thus we saw the Obama administration waste a whole bunch of federal money trying to push "high-speed" passenger rail that only a tiny slice of the population wants.
Practical, level-headed citizens quickly saw this program for what it was -- a massive and poorly focused boondoggle. But that didn't stop train fanatics from seriously proposing silly concepts like the Ohio 3C project -- a train that was so slow it would have taken 6.5 hours to make the 255-mile trip from Cincinnati to Cleveland. A car can make that trip in 4.5 hours, according to Google maps. Speeders routinely beat that time, AND they don't need to hassle with transit to and from the train station.
Proposing such a slow train as part of a "high-speed" rail program was ridiculous. As governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and other places rightly rejected silly train money, the Obama administration changed course and agreed with the idea that high-speed rail only makes sense for a few high-demand, city-to-city routes primarily along the East and West coasts.
Which brings us to the ever-worsening California boondoogle. This has been the one high-speed project in the U.S. that has appeared close to actual construction. Yet massive problems keep popping up. This critical article and this one lay out several of the big problems with the California proposal. Way higher costs than originally proposed. Way slower speeds than promised. Either of these problems are serious enough to second-guess the value of the project. Combined, these two problems are fatal. And the critics found even more good reasons to kill the project, or at least do it much differently.
Face facts. Real bullet trains in Europe and Asia achieve speeds exceeding 200 mph, with some top speeds as high as 300 mph. In the U.S., a train counts as "high-speed" if it can go 110 mph. Hey commuters! You get the burden of increasing your state and federal debt by billions of dollars in return for a precious few trains that cannot go half as fast as the competition in China or France. And yet the ticket prices will rival air travel. Yeah, that's a shining example of American know-how.
So train fans, if you want to impress the rest of us with high-speed rail, then actually build high-speed rail. American trains must go at least as fast as the trains in China -- preferably even faster. Yes, this can be seen as a Cold War-esque, tech-race thing. And in that light, America must not settle for second-class, not-so-high-speed trains.
So either fight to win or get out. If the California train (or any other) cannot go faster than 200 mph, the project shouldn't even start. Don't ask taxpayers to underwrite "alternative" transit that cannot outpace cars and cannot underprice air travel. We have many other, better ways to spend that money -- including not spending it at all.