Does it really matter how fast the train goes?

Two minutes for $450 million?  That’s what Americans will get as part of President’s ambitious high-speed rail program, which has broken new ground in the running for “Huge Infrastructure Projects That Nobody Except Labor Unions  Want.”  If Americans were dismayed by the prospect of a $40 million “”Bridge to Nowhere,” what should their reaction be to a pocket-picking on this scale?

Obama’s choo-choo Christmas gift had already run into difficulty when three governors rejected the initial proposals for their states, including Florida governor Rick Scott, who declined the government’s offer to build a 90-mile link between Tampa and Orlando. The money was subsequently offered to New York and New Jersey, who are now crowing with delight as they mock Governor Scott.  According to the New York Times:

Governor Scott took a verbal whacking from New York and New Jersey lawmakers who had gathered to announce the distribution of $2 billion in federal transportation money. It had been meant for Florida until Mr. Scott, a Republican, rejected the Obama administration’s proposal to build a fast train line between Orlando and Tampa.

But if Florida does not want the money, the Northeast is happy to have it.

“If you want to award hundreds of millions of dollars for high-speed rail,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said, “you need not ask New York twice.”

Another Democratic senator, Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, joined Mr. Schumer in taking swipes at Mr. Scott. “A governor that rejects transportation money is penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Mr. Lautenberg said.

Why was Scott so “pound-foolish?”  In his rejection, Scott pointed to three major flaws in the plan. First, the scheme required Florida to pony up $3 billion during the worst economic environment it has witnessed since the Depression.  Second, the government’s assumptions regarding ridership were inflated to numbers approaching silliness:  projections called for 3 million riders a year, when train ridership for the entire northeast corridor, with eight times the population, was only 12 million riders, leaving Florida with a money-losing white elephant that it would be compelled to subsidize indefinitely.

So — what do the riders of the Northeast get?  We searched the Times article covering the award and here’s the lone tangible benefit offered:

That investment should allow new Amtrak trains to cover a 24-mile segment from New Brunswick, N.J., to Morrisville, Pa., in as little as 9 minutes, down from about 11 minutes now.

Wow.  No pulling the wool over Senators Schumer and Lautenburg.  They know a great deal when they see it.

Okay — why are these guys so hot for this obvious piece of flummery? Again, from the New York Times:

“It’s a huge grant, and it’s going to create a lot of jobs,” said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat whose district covers parts of Manhattan and Queens.

Similarly, regarding the Florida decision:

The rail line had been expected to create thousands of new jobs.

Nothing wrong with that.  People in this country need jobs, and the Cannibal can have no objection to the government’s funding necessary improvements to our infrastructure.  That bit of mealy-mouthed lip service dispensed with, we also note that spending $50 billion on building rail lines that no one will use, or upgrading existing services to deliver trivial improvements, looks like exactly what it is:  the Democrats pandering to big labor in exchange for its support.

And why do we doubt Senator Schumer’s bona fides?  Because at the same time he is proposing to save riders two minutes, he has also announced his intention to introduce legislation requiring screening of train passengers:

“Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public,” the New York Democrat said at a news conference.

Welcome to the senator’s world.  Does he know how many people ride on a train? Can you imagine them all taking off their shoes?  He’ll save you two minutes, but you’ll stand in line for an hour or two for your three hour train ride.  And who will do this screening?  Do the initial T-S-A come to mind?

Obama has asked for $50 billion for high-speed rail.  Since no government cost estimate has come close to the actual final expense, we feel safe in saying that this “initiative,” if accepted, will run into the hundreds of billions.  How much of this will wind up in union coffers?

Oh — and in case you were wondering why so many European nations — and Japan — have high-speed rail lines, when we don’t?  Because they all lose money.  They only survive through government subsidy.   Governor Scott knows this.  So do Senators Schumer and Lautenberg.  Guess which one of them has your interests at heart?