Edward Glaeser, one of the nation’s leading urban economists, thinks that high-speed rail is a waste, especially when it is planned for areas such as Alabama and Oklahoma. Not only is this inefficent, he notes, “intercity rail travelers are wealthier than car travelers,” so subsidies to high-speed rail are regressive.
“The case for subsidizing urban mass transit, like the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, is certainly debatable,” says Glaeser, “but it is much stronger than the case for subsidizing rail links between non-coastal cities.” Glaeser dismisses claims that high-speed rail will promote economic growth, saying that “no serious evidence supports such claims.”
Meanwhile, a Government Accountability Office report on Obama’s high-speed rail plan raises many of the same questions posed by the Antiplanner. Noting that the Federal Railroad Administration has no reliable estimates of costs, ridership, and benefits, the GAO questions whether it is appropriate to spend billions of dollars of stimulus funds on an unknown and untested program.