The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: Planes, Trains and Europhoria

Many liberal/progressives in America suffer from a debilitating disease known as “Europhoria.” This is a pathological envy of all things European. It also includes a belief that anything from a socialist country in Europe is better that anything American. The disease most often appears as a desire for socialized medicine or more government regulation of business. It also has more subtle manifestations such as buying a Saab or Renault or listening to Edith Piaf. Recently, a long dormant variation of Europhoria has resurfaced among American leftist: the desire to herd us all onto trains. Well, not “all” of us, just you peons who are clogging up the roads and filling the atmosphere with the recently discovered deadly pollutant known as “carbon dioxide!”

You see my friends the answer to all of our problems is so simple. It’s just sitting there waiting for us to discover that we can have full employment, economic growth, universal healthcare, a reduced carbon footprint, peace in the Middle East and a healthier, whiter smile if we just build a few high speed railroad trains at select points around the country!

Passenger trains are like liberal talk radio, if they were economically viable some rich capitalist Republican would already be running those businesses. Before we get into building new systems perhaps some sanity will hit the Obama Administration and they will examine the profit and loss statements of already existing passenger systems in America. The words “fat chance” comes to mind.

Amtrak is a black hole within a bottomless pit falling into a sinkhole of dollars. Amtrak which began operations in 1971 had its second best year ever in 2009 losing “only” $32 per passenger. In other words for each person who got on to an Amtrak train in 2009 we could have bought each of them twelve gallons of gas and had enough left over for several million burgers at McDonalds and not had the legacy costs. In 2008, the last year for which I could find complete records they showed a total loss of over $230 million. The total debt being carried by Amtrak is just a shade under $8 billion, coincidentally the amount the Obama Administration wants to use from stimulus money for three new “high speed” rail projects.

At the state level California, now over 30 billion in debt, is touting a new rail link from LA to San Francisco. The cost is proposed to be $45 billon with an annual operating cost of $1 billion. Let’s now imaging something that hasn’t been done since the Polk Administration and say by some miracle the State and Feds can bring this thing in on budget and operate the system for $1 billion a year. The proposed cost of a ticket from downtown LA to San Francisco is $55. At that price they would have to get a little over18 million folks a year to ride the train or just under 50,000 a day. Let me put that in prospective, if each train car held 100 passengers that would mean you have to pack 500 cars a day to break even! If you figure 10 cars per train that would be 25 trains a day going each way, one each hour plus one extra, 24/7 all of them absolutely packed full. I know this is starting to sound like one of those junior high word problems but at that rate how many years would it take to pay off the bonds for construction? The answer is never! No, you don’t have to show your work.

Cities are not immune from this train lunacy. The City of Cincinnati is currently running a $100 million dollar plus budget deficit but has just approved over $700 thousand for a study of a proposed 2 mile trolley system. The proposed system would create 40 permanent jobs at a cost of $220 million or roughly $5.5 million per job. To put this in terms we can all understand if this trolley could make $1 million a year it would be paid off when we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of me finally getting my personal jet pack!


7 Responses to The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: Planes, Trains and Europhoria

  1. You may want to check your figures in the future before spewing your rhetoric.

    The Cincinnati Streetcar will cover 6 track miles and cost only $128 million. Future extensions that would bring the line to a total 7.9 track miles would then only raise the costs to a total $185 million which is still well below your $220 million figure that seems to be pulled out of thin air. Do you have any evidence to support your numbers or claims?

    Additionally, the operating budget deficit that you cite is also incorrect. The deficit is not $100 million, but rather $51.5 million. And interestingly enough, the Cincinnati Streetcar is not taking a single penny from the City’s operating budget. The majority of the funding for the proposed $128 million six-mile route is coming from grants and private contributions. The money that the City is contributing will come from the capital budget which is used for projects exactly like this.

    As for the job creation aspect, it’s just like any other piece of infrastructure. Highway construction creates ZERO permanent jobs, but the temporary construction, engineering, and planning work is valuable…then there is the economic return on investment. The Cincinnati Streetcar is projected to spur $1.4 billion in economic investment in the form of new housing and businesses all of which will help create permanent jobs.

    If you want, you can find all this information and more online here:

  2. 5chw4r7z says:

    These arguments are getting really tired.
    When we don’t like something, lets slap the European label on it because whatever they are doing there will never work here.
    Another Cincinnati phenomena, roundabouts, the burbanites hate them and call them European; they’ll never work here for Americans. I guess because they require you to think, and thinking is European also and therefore evil.

    Amtrak is not profitable because people don’t like trains, it’s because underutilized routes are mandated in obscure legislation and doomed to unprofitability. Yes, politics are why Amtrak is unprofitable.

    As for Cincinnati spending, this had been hashed over so many times I can’t believe it’s still brought up. See unlike your household governments run on budgets. Therefore operating budgets can’t raid capital funds. You can’t take money the state gives you for roads, bridges or the streetcar and spend it on trash pickup. I don’t know how it works in Europe, but that’s not how it works in America.
    As for how much the streetcar will make, that’s not its reason to be, the reason to build the streetcar is it’s an investment and for all the development that will follow. We just fought it out with the CAVE men* who argued this point but whose answer to the question, why is Cincinnati the singular place in the world where the streetcar won’t work” was “because” yeah pretty compelling.

    There are many business men just waiting to open restaurants, bars and retail at the streetcar stops with properties already touting the fact they’re on the route for sale. The streetcar will create way more than 40 jobs, and it will link the University of Cincinnati with its 35,000 students with downtown and its 50,000 works. All those people within walking distance of the route.
    I thought it was amusing you mentioned newly a discovered pollutant known as “carbon dioxide!” Because the train will run on something that Cincinnati has had for over 100yrs, it’s called electricity. YEAH! Crazy stuff right?

    Bob Schwartz
    Having a blog doesn’t absolve you from thinking or doing research. You should try it sometime, it won’t hurt.
    You can start here, next time you bring up Cincy, know what you’re talking about.
    Cave men *Citizens Against Virtually Everything

    • jeffreyjena says:

      Dear Bob and Randy

      I was going to cite the places where I got my facts but why? Would you say, “oh I apologize for being a name caller and thinking you did no research.”

      No, you would make other argruments outside the facts and when you ran out of that you would start the name calling, Enjoy your trolley!

      • No one is calling anyone names. I just said you need to check your facts. The numbers you cited in regards to Cincinnati are factually incorrect.

        I specifically provided you the location where you can find all of the documentation on the Cincinnati Streetcar project including feasibility studies, economic impact reports, financing plan, proposed route, and much more. I’d be interested to see your sources because if I were to venture a guess I bet they come from a non-legitimate source.

        Your blog has ZERO credibility if you’re unable to use correct data and unwilling to correct the false information that you have masquerading as fact.

      • jeffreyjena says:

        OK since you seem to be sincere

        All of you data ispulled from the city websites and surveys and of course we both know that governments never massage the stats.

        My info on the size of the deficit came from a wcpo TV report available on You Tube and the NAACP website

        My info on the cost of the Trolley also came from several website including the group calling for a vote on the tolley

      • Well I figured you got your Cincinnati Streetcar data from COAST – a fiscal conservative group that has been fighting the project. The official documents that include capital and operating costs estimates are found in the documents I provided.

        These are official not only because they are City documents, but because this is the information City Council has been using when they vote on the project. The approval City Council gave the project last year was for the $128 million figure and route I described.

        Furthermore, those studies and documents were for the most part not put together by the City. If you take the time to open them up and read them, you’ll realize that they’ve been put together by private companies. The economic impact report was not only put together by a private company, but also verified by economists at the University of Cincinnati.

        Over the course of the debate, COAST managed to round that $128 million figure up to $185 million, which was then rounded up to $200 million, and hell why not bump it up to $220 million. You may not agree with the official documents in terms of their projections or estimates, but in the end they are the official documents. When discussing any project that is the information you need to use…otherwise you’re either indirectly or directly misleading people.

      • jeffreyjena says:

        Those evil fiscal conservatives! Always wanting governments not to spend money they don’t have! Like that great stadium idea! Look how well that’s working out. Isn’t it great we asked the citizens to kick in to help Billionaire Mike Brown have a place to make more money! I’ll tell you what, I am not a betting man but if I were to I would be willing to bet everything I own against $5 from you that if this trolley is built it will end up coming in at well over 250 million and not make it’s operating costs in any of it’s first three years. Can you name any recent large government project that has come in on budget? Do you collect trolley transfers or something? BTW can you name one busiess that is waiting on the trolley to open downtown? All the best!

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