Opponents say that no amount of ridership will cover the initial cost of creating the infrastructure, nor the continued cost of operations and maintenance. “No mass transit system in the country charges riders enough to offset the expenses of running trains—much less the cost of capital. Amtrak loses hundreds of millions a year,” says author Steve Chapman
HSR is crucial for this country because it will provide not only transportation benefits, but many others as well. It is a way to address serious environmental and ecological concerns by reducing our oil consumption and emissions. Reducing the dependence on foreign oil will free up a huge amount of the national budget by greatly reducing the need to for security spending. Here, the numbers clearly show that an investment in HSR makes sense. We use 25% of the entire world's oil supply, yet we only have 5% of the world's population. We use 20 million barrels of oil every day, 70% of it for transportation. Of those 20 million, we import 2/3, that’s 13 million barrels per day, from foreign sources, many of which are in politically unstable regions. We use 8-10 times more oil per person per day than Europeans, yet they have faster, easier and better mobility than we do
That’s because they’ve made the jump to HSR, and it’s been shown to reduce congestion
and increase mobility. Whereas in the US, “road and airport congestion cost
America over $156 billion per year in wasted time and fuel (Association, 2012).”
This unbreakable bond in the US to car and air travel has caused us to fall woefully behind the rest of the Global North (and in some cases, even Global South) countries. “Of the 32 most developed nations, none has a lower percentage of inter-city rail riders than the U S, a mere 0.3 percent compared to Japan’s world-leading 27 percent
(Selcraig, 2010).” This gap is only
growing as countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Germany and Spain finance
the construction of electrified, high-speed trains that can exceed 186 mph. And
enjoy the benefits. Passenger amenities include Wi-Fi, conference rooms,
cinemas, upscale restaurants… you name it. And most importantly, comfort. When talking
about long-distance travel, the importance of this cannot be overstated. Especially
when compared to the dehumanizing experience that air travel has become.
So it seems to me that there is certainly an extensive list of benefits to be derived from HSR. And, if our legislators could only employ some long-term thinking, the economic questions can certainly be answered.
Surjaputra, S. (2008, July). After years of airline subsidies, how about a payback for taxpayers? Consumer Traveler