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Thread: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

  1. #231
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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Here is a back-of-the-envelope calculation for just one of the societal benefits of a high-speed rail system:

    When a person drives a car, it costs about 30 cents per passenger-mile in external costs (i.e. costs that are incurred by society, rather than by the driver). These externalities include pollution, road maintenance, highway police, emergency services for accidents, congestion, land use, etc.

    So let's use that Tampa-to-Orlando route that keeps being cited as an example of an absurdly expensive boondoggle, with that $3 billion price tag for an 86 mile track. And let's assume a payback period of 20 years (which seems reasonable, given that a high-speed rail system is intended to be a long-term investment). How many people would need to make the round trip between Tampa and Orlando each day via the train in order to justify the cost? Here's how we could calculate it:

    N = The number of customers per day
    $51.60 = The total cost to society for each round trip in a car ($0.30 per mile * 172 miles)
    N * $51.60 * 365 days * 20 years = $3 billion
    N = 7,964

    So roughly 8,000 people would need to make the round trip each day in order to recover merely the EXTERNAL costs to society...and that's not even taking into account the money that would actually be saved by the individuals making the switch. Nor am I including the non-driving related externalities, such as airport congestion.

    How many people travel this route on the highways every day? I bet a hell of a lot more than 8,000. If you could convince a fraction of them to switch to rail, even this route being cited as grossly overpriced would be well worth the cost over the course of 20 years.

    And I bet the numbers are quite a bit better still for places like California and the Atlantic Corridor.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 02-17-11 at 11:53 PM.
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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by Ikari View Post
    To a degree. But not in what we're talking about here. The money you'd save by not building the high speed rail won't significantly increase your personal impact on the economy. However, the thousands of jobs that would be produced because of building the high speed rail would have a significantly greater impact on the economy.
    They wouldn't have any more of an impact on the economy than welfare, or unemployment payments.
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    At least Bill saved his transgressions for grown women. Not suggesting what he did was OK. But he didn't chase 14 year olds.

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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    And obviously you can't understand that people could make exactly the same argument about a high-speed rail system. You're a hypocrite, and I'm done talking to you in this thread. I'd rather debate the issue with someone who actually has the nation's best interests in mind. Your argument is essentially "I don't want any trains competing with my trucks...so I'll pretend to object to it on principle. By the way, pay your damn taxes for the interstate highway system, which is obviously a totally different situation."
    You think that little toy passenger train is going to compete with this?



    Or this?



    Or this?



    If you do, then you have more growing up to do than I thought. When you are more than 18 months out of high school, you let me know.
    Quote Originally Posted by Top Cat View Post
    At least Bill saved his transgressions for grown women. Not suggesting what he did was OK. But he didn't chase 14 year olds.

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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    Here is a back-of-the-envelope calculation for just one of the societal benefits of a high-speed rail system:

    When a person drives a car, it costs about 30 cents per passenger-mile in external costs (i.e. costs that are incurred by society, rather than by the driver). These externalities include pollution, road maintenance, highway police, emergency services for accidents, congestion, land use, etc.

    So let's use that Tampa-to-Orlando route that keeps being cited as an example of an absurdly expensive boondoggle, with that $3 billion price tag for an 86 mile track. And let's assume a payback period of 20 years (which seems reasonable, given that a high-speed rail system is intended to be a long-term investment). How many people would need to make the round trip between Tampa and Orlando each day via the train in order to justify the cost? Here's how we could calculate it:

    N = The number of customers per day
    $51.60 = The total cost to society for each round trip in a car ($0.30 per mile * 172 miles)
    N * $51.60 * 365 days * 20 years = $3 billion
    N = 7,964

    So roughly 8,000 people would need to make the round trip each day in order to recover merely the EXTERNAL costs to society...and that's not even taking into account the money that would actually be saved by the individuals making the switch. Nor am I including the non-driving related externalities, such as airport congestion.

    How many people travel this route on the highways every day? I bet a hell of a lot more than 8,000. If you could convince a fraction of them to switch to rail, even this route being cited as grossly overpriced would be well worth the cost over the course of 20 years.

    And I bet the numbers are quite a bit better still for places like California and the Atlantic Corridor.
    source for your numbers? Besides the back of your own envelope?

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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    But the notion of "paying for itself" or "being profitable" is a red herring, because that's not the point of government services. The point of government services is to provide a benefit to society. I do not know if other AMTRAK routes provide enough of an economic benefit to society to justify their costs...but I do know that you can't measure that strictly by looking at the government's balance sheets.



    A faster train would have more demand, because highway travel would no longer be viewed as a cheaper substitute.
    It is, if I'm paying the ****ing bills. When you make too much money to qualify for the earned income credit, you might see it that way, too.
    Quote Originally Posted by Top Cat View Post
    At least Bill saved his transgressions for grown women. Not suggesting what he did was OK. But he didn't chase 14 year olds.

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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by whysoserious View Post
    Oh come on man. I know it is kind of funny (I think it was even derived from an SNL skit), but Al Gore clearly did not say he invented the internet or any other silly statement like that. Poor guy won the popular vote and did not get elected. Can't that torment him enough?

    Poor Al Gore. He just wants to catch ManBearPig!!
    Yeah... I hear he's super cereal about catching ManBearPig

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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by Whovian View Post
    source for your numbers? Besides the back of your own envelope?
    My apologies. Here is the source for the externalities per passenger-mile for automobiles.
    http://www.vtpi.org/tca/tca00.pdf
    Last edited by Kandahar; 02-18-11 at 12:31 AM.
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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by phattonez View Post
    But is it worth the resources?
    For high speed rail in Florida, absolutely. That would turn the Florida economy around. Imagine what it would do for the Orlando economy if South Florida families could just hop a train and be at Disney World in an hour. Or if yuppies from Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa could be down in South Beach in an hour. Or if the trains that constantly ship goods back and forth between Florida's eight major metro area could be from south Florida to the panhandle in a matter of hours instead of a full day? It would do so much for commerce in Florida it is unimaginable. Absolutely worth it.

    Increasing connections among people is what boosts the economy. Look at everything from the internet to the interstate. Whenever you bring people together they trade. Normally I wouldn't be advocating for the government handling high speed rail, either, but the corporatist quasi-free market we have no sure won't come up with this on its own. A true free market would have high speed rail in heart beat, but corporatist suppression favoring the oil-based economy keeps that from happening.
    Last edited by Guy Incognito; 02-18-11 at 12:59 AM.

  9. #239
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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    Businesses borrow money all the time to finance long-term assets, as well they should. Are you against all corporate finance too?
    They sure do, so why aren't private companies doing it with this project? The whole government involvement in infrastructure is rotten to the core.

    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. Psalm 24
    "True law is right reason in agreement with nature . . . Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature [and] will suffer the worst penalties . . ." - Cicero

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    Re: Florida scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama

    Quote Originally Posted by Ikari View Post
    The internet was conceived by scientists wishing to share data faster. And all these things are specific areas of research, they are not base scientific research.
    Base scientific research, like the Wright Brothers? You know, those guys that were the first to fly? And as far as I can tell, Tesla did not get government money, but don't quote me on that.

    As it stands, the specialized research can be done in companies once the base research necessary to develop the technology has been achieved. That's how a lot of the technical companies come to be in fact. There are many scientists, grad students, post docs, etc. who work on something in academia, develop some good techniques for AR coatings or laser doubling. When they leave, they start up small start up companies which focus on these specific forms of research. They are able to take the that base research already done and refine it into something which becomes a consumer product. New Focus, Sigma, Spectra Physics, etc. all started out in that manner.

    Yes, specialized research can be done by private companies once the base research and discoveries have been made in academia, funded by the government. This is one way in which government and the private sector interact.
    So there was no "base scientific research" before government payouts? Interesting.

    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. Psalm 24
    "True law is right reason in agreement with nature . . . Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature [and] will suffer the worst penalties . . ." - Cicero

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