Friday, November 14, 2008

Watch Out for Big Rail

Mr. Setty referenced the article earlier but this quote is hilarious:
And then you’ve got the rail transit lobby. The transit lobby is about 4 or 5 times bigger than the highway lobby. People always think there’s this huge highway lobby, but the highway lobby is very small compared to the transit lobby. And there’s enormous profit to be made. The average urban freeway in America costs about 5 to 10 million dollars per lane mile, and the average light rail line is cost up to 80 million dollars a route mile. So obviously there’s a lot more profit to be made building rail than there is building highway and so naturally the companies like Parsons-Brinkerhoff and so forth – Bechtel –that build transit are going to be lobbying for it.
Of course this is all bs, but if we (I'd be all about being a part of big rail if it existed) had as much power over the road folks as Randal says, I think we'd see a different landscape in congress and in our communities. Perhaps big rail is bigger than we think or perhaps it has a different name, the livable communities movement.

H/T ASD

19 comments:

295bus said...

Randall's crap is just too easy to refute.

First of all, note the contrast of lane mile for freeway vs route mile for transit.

A route mile for a freeway would be at least two lanes, right? (But really quite a few more).

Not to mention that 80mil/route mile is an upper end (and includes stations, etc), and 20mil/lane mile is more like an actual low end for freeways (adding lanes to existing freeway right-of-ways--and not counting interchanges).

The rail lobby stuff is just ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

What is also interesting is that Bechtel has also done highway projects.

Remember the Big Dig in Boston?

In transit, Andrew aka ASD

Anonymous said...

Freeways are at least 4 lanes wide, so then they are $20-40 million a mile, about the same price per mile as HSR!

Also a basic double track rail line can range from $3-10 million a mile.

The whole "rail lobby" thing is just nuts. Railroads don't even defend their own business interests or else there would still be 260,000 route miles of track in the USA and not the current 140,000.

arcady said...

But to some extent there's some kernel of truth in this. Yes, rail projects are still quite rare, but there does exist an industry of big companies that design and build rail projects, and I strongly suspect that they are behind a good part of the gold plating one sees on such projects. And I remember in the SFO BART station, the plaque commemorating the opening of the extension explicitly mentions the Bechtel and Parsons Brinkerhoff corporations. If we want to get more rail built, and to do it cost effectively (not like BART to SFO), we need to get these corporations under control.

Anonymous said...

http://www.archive.org/details/GoingPlaces

Jeff could you please put this video on your blog some how?

Thanks, ASD

Anonymous said...

Arcady, the same thing can be said about streets being paved with gold. The cost over runs with highway projects are crazy too along with the roads to no where.

Loren said...

Randal O’Toole, of course, the "Anti-Planner" himself. Where does he get his numbers from? He seems like he's combining the best case for a freeway with the worst case for light rail. An urban freeway needs not only the road by itself, it also needs land acquisition, bridges, interchanges, etc., and that can add up.

Anonymous said...

http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=430#more-430

Well on O'Toole's own blog he mentioned a 6 mile highway in the Houston area(Fort Bend County Parkway Tollroad) that was $2.5 million a lane mile. So that's $10 million a mile.

http://www.fbctra.com/

Still with O'Toole things don't add up.

Anonymous said...

Highway Debt any one?

http://www.necn.com/Boston/New-England/Western-Mass-drivers-may-get-break-from-tolls-/1226703694.html

Justin said...

Rail lobby? ha! That is the problem. There is NO rail lobby. No lobby to tell lies, to give bribes to senators, and to get approval for enormous projects like the Big Dig, and DIA, that always go over budget, and never open on time.
What a crock.
Rail needs a voice to hit back at these liars, and crooks.

Rhywun said...

I think O'Toole's major point--and I hang out in libertarian circles a lot so I know how these people think--is that he wants "people to live in whatever kind of city they [...] want to live in". From this he assumes that every city wants to be Houston. He completely ignores the enormous pressure for housing in the handful of truly urban cities left in America (NY, SF, Chicago, Boston, etc.), which indicates to me that there is a *shortage* of the kind of city that many people want to live in. I can speak from personal experience, that if once-great cities I used to live in (Buffalo, Rochester) hadn't degenerated so badly, I might have stayed there instead of moved to NYC.

Then of course he manipulates statistics even worse than the people he accuses of doing the same thing. My favorite is "the highest density development in America is Los Angeles". Well, perhaps that is true if you expand the region enough to include all the sprawl and then compare that to other expanded regions that don't sprawl as much, but in the end... what's the point? The reason people drive everywhere in LA has nothing to do with density, which I'm sure he knows full well but chooses to ignore because it doesn't suit his argument.

cjh said...

There is a politically powerful rail lobby...

It is, however, a FREIGHT rail lobby.

Alon Levy said...

The New York City Subway's rolling stock consists of 6,400 cars. A new subway car costs 1.3 million dollars. In other words, renewing the entire fleet would cost 8.3 billion dollars.

Now, compare that to cars. The subway takes about 2 million cars off the road. A new car costs around $20,000, so we're talking about 40 billion dollars.

This is more lopsided than it seems. A subway car's shelf life is about forty years; an automobile's is five to ten years. So subway trains cost about a fifth as much as the cars they displace, and need to be purchased about five times less often.

Ian said...

i'm sure some data can back what wiki says:

1 light-rail track = 8 lanes of freeway in capacity.

so do the math now. oh right, rail's cheaper, of course!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the real estate which each automobile requires when a sole occupant vacates the vehicle. And the insurance required.

295bus said...

Randall believes people have the right to live anywhere they want, as long as its suburban.

He's not so concerned with the rights of people who want to live in walkable communities, or conveniently close to work, just don't care about yards, or just would be happy to pay less $$ for a smaller place, but are thwarted by anti-density NIMBY zoning!

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

295 it reminds me of Henry Ford, You can have any color of car as long as its black.

Matt Fisher said...

Not again! Randal O'Toole's comparison of the "average" cost of a ROUTE mile of LRT compared to the "average" cost a LANE mile of a freeway is not a valid comparison. In fact, the "average" cost for a route mile of light rail O'Toole misleadingly cites is overestimated, in my opinion. Perhaps O'Toole, who claims to be environmentally concerned, might be better informed if he knew what the real truth was, not make more shit up about a "rail lobby".

His argument of a supposedly powerful rail lobby, compared to a supposedly small highway lobby, is exaggerated hyperbole. I never thought in America it would be this big. And Bechtel is a WAR PROFITEER IN IRAQ!!!

O'Toole knows he wants auto supremacy. His hyperbole is really to convince people that automobiles will always reign supreme, unchanged. He must think we're not spending enough on highways, and we spend far too much money on rail, when it's the highways O'Toole supports that get far more money, and have a larger lobby behind them.

Anonymous said...

cjh said...
"There is a politically powerful rail lobby...

It is, however, a FREIGHT rail lobby."

They still face a lot of the same problems that passenger trains face.

Where are the FREIGHT railroads when comes to trying to get rid of property taxes on track?

Tax policy also helped to kill streetcars.

The street infront of you residence is not being accounted on any thing close to a profit or loss basis, why should track not be treated the same way?