Friday, 10 January 2014

Going Nowhere Fast

It won't make onto the national news, and ninety-nine percent of America doesn't care....but the Japanese have offered an odd deal for the DC/Baltimore community.  The Japanese government is willing to put around four billion dollars on the table, to help build a high-speed rail deal between DC and Baltimore (a 39-mile stretch).  Currently, with the best that Amtrak has to offer....this takes roughly fifty minutes (on a good day).

The entire project?  Well.....it's carefully woven into the bigger deal.  The Japanese want the US to buy into their standard railway, with their standard high-speed trains.  The entire route envision would be from DC to Boston (don't ask why they picked Boston instead of NY City).  But that would be several years down the line. This Baltimore to DC plan would cost roughly eight billion in today's dollars.  If you figure in incompetence, greed, and foolish behavior....it'll round off at sixteen billion (my figure).

The pay-back?  Well....this is the hard part for folks to get around to accepting.  For the line to ever pay the Japanese back....you'd have to take the standard cost of today's DC to Baltimore Amtrak ticket, and at least double....perhaps even triple....the ticket the cost.  This is the same problem with the LA to Vegas concept....where it'd cost double the current airline cost between the two cities....to ride out on a high-speed train.

How many locals from Baltimore or DC would ride it?  There's an argument over this number.  Several news folks talk of different numbers.  The best practical number is around ten thousand total residents from both communities would enjoy the deal on a daily basis.

How connected is Baltimore to DC?  After living in Arlington for three years.....I came to realize that most folks in Baltimore have zero connection to DC, and the same is true for DC folks.  Folks in both areas are particular about football and baseball traditions.  Jobs?  Well.....generally, there's not that much in Baltimore to draw a guy to live there.

So this whole thing?  Basically, you would be working to create a twenty-five minute ride from the Baltimore station to the DC station.  You can figure another thirty minutes messing around with local connections in Baltimore to get over to their train station, and another thirty minutes to get from the center of DC to your job site.

If they had said there's one single effort....to build one high-speed rail to NY City from DC....some additional interest would have been generated.  It takes roughly three hours now for a guy to make the standard run (which is a limited-stop deal).  If you said it could be done in sixty-six minutes (no stops along the way)....you'd suddenly pick up a good bit of interest.  But then you'd ask how much a one-day single ticket would run, and the $140 round-trip ticket would make this a joke.

So when you hear about this entire high-speed rail deal and how the Japanese want to help finance it.....you know the basic facts.  It's cash flushed down a toilet.....as fast as possible....on something that few would ever benefit from.

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