Biden Offtrack with High Speed Rail

By Patty Ewing Robichaud on March 23, 2011

Joe’s been working on the railroad
All to our dismay.
Joe’s been working on the railroad
Just a spendin’ all our pay.
Don’t you hear us all a’howling,
As stimulus dollars we mourn.
Can’t you hear the taxpayers shouting,
“Biden, why don’t you go pound corn.”

Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow our dough?
Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow our dough?
 
We’ve been working how to wrestle
Those tax dollars from your grip.
We’ve been working how to wrestle
So our bucks through fingers don’t slip.
Can’t you hear election day a’coming?
Better come up with an idea today.
Can’t you see the Tea Party forming
Coming to take your title away!
 
Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow our dough?
Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow,
Biden, did you blow our dough?
 
We’re now living in some boxcars.
We’re all homeless now.
We’re now living in some boxcars,
It’s all our taxed income will allow.
Brother, can you spare a food stamp?
Michelle will tell us what to eat.
Can’t wait for 2012 and a new camp.
“Conservatives, put us back on our feet!”

I don’t know about you, but the whole high speed rail plan seems ill timed and frivolous to me.  It is Conductor Joe Biden’s pet project, part of his “Seize the Future” strategy – or STFu for short.

Please allow me to derail some of the myths:

First, the areas to be serviced by the high speed rails will really only serve small portions of the US population and only a handful of areas in the nation. But hey, what’s $53 billion tax dollars when you think about the tremendous need (which is dubious at best) for mass transportation for those select few.

In fact, the projected $53 billion is just the federal stimulus part of the equation. States are expected to come up with some big funding, too, regardless of their financial situation – but again, I am sure it will be worth it to the hundreds of rail patrons and the folks who lose their homes/property to imminent domain.
On Feb. 8, 2011, Biden beamed at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station as he unveiled this over-priced boondoggle and said, “I’m like the ombudsman for Amtrak.”

But he is much more than that, as discovered by Michelle Malkin:

Compounding matters now, cronyism runs rampant in the federal rail bureaucracy. >Biden’s lobbyist son, Hunter, sits on the Amtrak board of directors. Amtrak Vice President Eleanor Acheson is a close pal of — you guessed it — Joe Biden. She oversees the very Law Department accused of interfering repeatedly with the taxpayer advocates in the inspector general’s office. Acheson hired Biden’s former Senate staffer Jonathan Meyer as her deputy general counsel. Meyer called it a “happy coincidence.”

In another such fortuitous coincidence, one of the top beneficiaries of the new White House rail bailout is GE Transportation — the leading manufacturer of diesel-electric locomotives. President Obama recently named GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head the new White House jobs council.

Okay, it is time for me to cut Conductor Joe a break – he loves trains, plain and simple. Besides, what could possibly go wrong? Joe is so pro-rail, that he has been called the Conductor for America’s Train to the Future. In fact, he is so well loved by the Amtrak folks that a train station in Wilmington, Delaware, was recently named for him.

True to form, the station was rebuilt using 20 million stimulus bucks – and then went over budget a measly $5.7 million. However, I am sure the folks who go through that station will appreciate the facelift to the station. And Amtrak has a nifty record of financial mismanagement still being investigated, so why not throw them some more money?  (See Amtrak ‘Misled” Congress on Finances. by Jim McElhatton for The Washington Times.)

But here’s the most ironic part of this costly story of reliable, mass transportation: The Amtrak CEO had to arrive by car. The train scheduled to transport him to the ribbon cutting broke down! If this happened in a movie, you would cry foul for unbelievable, wouldn’t you? Too over the top?

Aside from this snarky commentary, I also do not see how safe this travel system would be. For instance, there are rails proposed for California – which is earthquake prone! Now, from what I remember about playing with trains, the faster they go, the more secure and accurate those tracks had better be – physics alone is against a huge, hurtling, diesel-driven, GE-manufactured (another lucky “coincidence” for Obama buddy and jobs council member GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt), metal tube on rails. What will a quake do to rail integrity? What about mud slides, floods, wild fires, and other natural disasters?

Okay, safety, schmafety – you can die in any mode of transportation, that’s a given.

It is about being green and saving the earth. Only, wait, that is not a valid argument either, according to Leland Teschler as published in MachineDesign.com:

And it turns out that rail transport isn’t particularly “green.” Light rail consumes about as much energy per passenger mile as the average passenger car. Measured this way, neither heavy rail nor commuter rail is as fuel efficient as an ordinary Prius.

The situation is similar for emissions of greenhouse gases. Electric powered transit is “green” only when its electricity comes from nuclear, hydro, or renewable sources. In places where most electricity comes from burning fossil fuels (as is the case in the vast majority of U.S. locales), rail transit generates more greenhouse gas than cars.

Surprisingly, there is a much simpler way to reduce greenhouse gases and use of petroleum than with expensive and hardly used rail lines: Stick with ever more fuel-efficient cars and coordinate traffic signals. The Federal Highway Administration claims three out of four traffic signals aren’t properly coordinated with their neighbors. In fact, one signal coordination project in Silicon Valley that cost $500,000 saved motorists about 471,000 gallons of fuel annually, more than paying for the project in the first year. Figuring 19.5 lb of CO2 emitted/gallon, estimates are the project cut greenhouse-gas emissions at a savings of about $200/ton.

The problem with such common-sense ideas, of course, is that they can’t generate the kind of front-page news that trumpets boondoggle rail projects.

Teschler also points out that only 1.5% of urban travelers move by mass transit. What are the odds that number would increase significantly? Joe Biden may wish to bet on it going up – but then again, he’d be betting with our money and has nothing to lose.

To us in Tennessee, where no rail is planned, this is just another big government heist of our tax payer dollars to benefit a few folks up north.

Florida’s governor has declined stimulus dollars for the project.  See the reasoning here: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail.

Here are some pros and cons for California, which is broke and cannot afford a project like this: Master planning.

I think I’ll stick with my Ford Fiesta and the 39.6 miles per gallon it is currently getting. It is still cheaper by far than any train trip I have ever taken and gets me there faster when I want to get there, takes me all the way to my destination, and is ready to go when I am.  Nobody is going to railroad me!

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