Freemark corrects Glaeser on HSR

I’ve posted a lot about transit lately, so I promise to post on something else soon.  However, this thread is worth following up on.

The New York Times has been running a four-part series, now concluded, considering the possible benefits and costs of a hypothetical high-speed rail line.  There has been much protesting about Glaeser’s analysis, in particular, about his failure to include population growth, and worse in my opinion, a failure to include any analysis of an alternative to rail and what those benefits and costs may be.  Yonah Freemark, writing at the Infrastructurist, comes up with his own set of numbers and sees a much brighter future for HSR (even in Texas).

This reevaluation of Glaeser’s argument seems to upend his primary conclusion that the construction costs of the high-speed line would vastly outweigh the corridor’s benefits. While he figures that a 240-mile train system would result in a net annual loss of around $500 million, this analysis – using his own economic benefits model – shows a net benefit of $30 million a year (see our PDF for the math). High-speed rail between Dallas and Houston, then, seems like an eminently sensible thing to do.

One thought on “Freemark corrects Glaeser on HSR

  1. Brendon- This is an interesting analysis. I don’t think it is transit.

    An increasing trend I’ve observed is the inappropriate grouping of passenger rail with transit. For example, CTIB may be supporting passenger rail projects like Northern Light Express, which have nothing to do with urban transportation systems. Similarly, investments in the Union Depot or a Hennepin County Rail hub could be branded as “transit projects” by both sponsors and opponents. In turn, actual transit projects may see reduced appropriations or decreased prioritization as a passenger rail agenda is advanced.

    This doesn’t mean I’m against passenger rail. It just needs to be evaluated against comparable, competing modes, namely rural interstate highways and airports, and funded accordingly. I fear that transit sources of funding -at all levels- will begin to siphon scarce transit dollars towards intercity rail projects.

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