High Speed Rail, Pure Fantasy

Published July 17, 2006

[This letter was published in The Los Angeles Times on July 17, 2006]

Dear Editor:

We can always count on former presidential candidate and Massachusetts governor Michael H. Dukakis to provide a textbook example of how large infrastructure projects are sold using myths rather than reality. In a June 7 op-ed titled “L.A.- S.F. Train Is a Quick Traffic Fix,” Dukakis and Arthur H. Purcell tout the purported potential for a California high-speed rail system to reduce traffic congestion on highways and in the air. But the system’s planning documents make no such promises.

Even with high-speed rail, traffic congestion between California’s largest urban areas will rise by more than 25 percent by 2020. As for air congestion, less than 10 percent of air travel between the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay area is between LAX and SFO, as airlines have taken steps to relieve congestion by moving to other airports for most of these short flights. The high-speed rail planners predict one-half of air passengers will switch to rail. This is completely implausible, but consistent with the naively optimistic projections of other large infrastructure projects California has undertaken.

Wendell Cox
O’Fallon, IL

Wendell Cox is a former member of the Amtrak Reform Council and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and a senior fellow for The Heartland Institute.