Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My colleague Richard Little makes me revisit my view on High Speed Rail

He writes to the Wall Street Journal:

The decision by the Obama administration to add more funds for high-speed rail needs to be read in the context of the Environmental Protection Agency's intention to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions ("U.S. Commits $13 Billion to Aid High-Speed Rail," U.S. News, April 17).

High-speed electrified trains, properly designed and located, could provide much needed interurban passenger capacity while minimizing these emissions. Although high-speed rail probably won't "pencil out" financially in the short term, in the longer view the rail transportation system won't be competing with cheaper options from the past. The EPA decision could place significant limits on additional highway capacity and the ability to add to the number of flights at already overcrowded urban airports.

Under these conditions, what appears too costly today may, in fact, be a prudent investment for tomorrow.

I had not considered his counter-factuals before. Such is always the problem with benefit cost analysis.


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