I really should just dedicate this site to illustrating the insanity that I “rant” about from time to time. Here is Warren Meyer (who’ll be visiting us in Rochester next month) on quite possibly the Worst American Rail Project Ever:
The Rail Runner collects about $3.2 million a year in fares and has an annual operating budget of about $23.6 million. That does not include about $41.7 million a year in debt service on the bonds — a figure that include eventual balloon payments.
At the end of the day, riders are paying $3.2 million of the total $65.3 million annual cost. Again, I repeat my reaction from four years ago to hearing that riders really loved the train. Of course they do — taxpayers (read: non-riders) are subsidizing 95.1% of the service they get. I wonder if they paid the full cost of the train ride — ie if their ticket prices were increased 20x — how they would feel about the service?
Of course, the Railrunner folks are right on the case. They have just raised prices, which “could” generate $600,000 in extra revenue, assuming there is no loss in ridership from the fare increases (meaning assuming the laws of supply and demand do no operate correctly). If this fare increase is as successful as planned, they will have boldly reduced the public subsidy to just 94.2% of the cost of each trip.
… The line carries around 2000 round-trip passengers (ie number of boarding divided by two) a day. It is simply incredible that a state can directly lavish $60 million a year in taxpayer money on just 2000 mostly middle class citizens. That equates to a subsidy of $30,000 per rider per year, enough to buy every daily round trip rider a new Prius and the gas to run it every single year.
… One thing I had not realized, the trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe that I did in my rental car in 60 minutes takes 90 minutes by “high-speed rail”.
Trains – is there anything more symbolic than this? And of course, what Warren should have added in his piece is not just that taxpayers are subsidizing a few middle-income people to the tune of $30,000 per person per year, but that people die because of this. Just because those people are not easily seen does not make it less true. But don’t let that distract you. This project surely kills more people than all GM foods in human history combined may have killed, to name one dramatic example.