High-speed-rail fail

Image via Wired Magazine.

From the Star-Telegram:

As federal officials doled out billions of stimulus dollars last week to jump-start the nation’s high-speed-rail network, Texas picked up just a small piece of the pie.  The $3.75 million that the Lone Star State will receive is a sliver of the more than $8 billion distributed, mostly to states that have plans and other funding ready to go.

Sometimes I get the impression that Texas faces a version of the resource curse.  And as a result, we leave opportunities, like a high-speed-rail corridor on the table because we perceive we are economically buoyed by our energy sector or our “low tax/low regulation” political economy.  The reality is more complicated, as the chart below demonstrates from this Dallas Fed report.  Clearly the existing levels of Texas unemployment are not creating urgency for change in our policymakers, so as long as the median voter is misinformed about our political economy, then collaboration across communities and bureaucracies on needed infrastructure will be sub-optimal in generating employment growth.

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3 Responses to High-speed-rail fail

  1. FNR says:

    I clicked on this link from google, expecting to see the new light rail system in Austin excoriated for being the high-dollar, low-ridership failure it is. Instead, more carping for more govt spending. Unbelievable.

    How many billions were spent on the Austin light rail project? Ridership is a whopping 800.


    What a waste of money. This is what happens when an argument for a fad is led by the false assumption that “other countries…blah blah blah” actually means something.

    • Julio Gonzalez Altamirano says:


      I hear your skepticism. However, it is important to keep in mind that Austin’s Metro Rail and say, HSR between Dallas and Houston, have very different economics behind them. Further, individual design decisions, such as the routes and schedule also matter a lot. Even though I am a proponent of transit in general, it is important to look at the details. Some of the Metro Rail details left a lot to be desired. The details of the potential new light rail system in Austin also leave a lot to be desired and I might even end up opposing that system. Similarly, an HSR system could be designed so poorly, that it is not worth it.

      As I am sure you know, this also applies to all other modalities, including roads/highways, not to mention underlying land use, automobile quality, etc. There is a lot of crappy infrastructure and a lot of crappy design out there for non-“fad” things like highways, airports, and cars, taxi licensing, etc not to mention overall regional transport pretty much everywhere. It seems this is endemic to human activity, not something unique to rail.

  2. This is a greaat blog

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