Transportation efficiency means more that just cost per passenger mile.

In a letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register, Lauren Lasswell asked, “Why do we support a transportation system that’s incredibly inefficient?”  (See link below to Lasswell’s letter published 8/14/20.)  She advocated for more public mass transit.  She wrote, “…the gas and money saved… would be astounding.”  She does not account for the fact that the vast majority of roads are paid for by fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, much of which would go away if people moved away from passenger cars to mass transit.  Also not mentioned is that our freely made individual decisions make it clear that most people prefer the convenience and time saved by using their own passenger car to go quickly and directly from any place to another.

No welfare for train passengers.

Passenger trains across Iowa are not and will not be economical.  Most people prefer to travel by car or by plane.  If cost is a problem, then people travel by bus.  Today, trains are mostly a romantic way to travel – at a very high cost.  Passenger trains are economical only in the most densely populated parts of our country.  (“Economical” meaning that passengers pay the full cost.)
I have always thought it would be wonderful to take Amtrak’s California Zephyer from Iowa to San Francisco through the Rocky Mountains.  My wife and I have been fortunate to travel by train in Europe several times.  We have loved it.  Travel by train turns a trip into an adventure that is interesting and fun.  But train passengers don’t pay their own way.  It doesn’t seem fair to make taxpayers pay for the relatively high cost of train travel, especially when inter-city buses are available at a much lower cost.  Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for other people’s vacations.
Over the years, Federal highways have been paid for by user fees: the federal gas tax.  That is the way it should be.   (Recently, there have been stimulus funds that have subsidized highways, but that has not been true for most of our history.)  If there were some way that train passengers would pay the full cost of the service they receive, then it might be proper for our government to help coordinate the effort.  But, if there is no realistic way that passengers are willing to pay the full cost, and especially since people have an available alternative that costs much less, then taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize passenger train travel.  We need to oppose the current effort to get taxpayers to pay for a passenger rail system across Iowa.

Liberty and happiness.

Randy Barnett, legal scholar, wrote this in the October issue of Reason magazine:

“… you can’t make your happiness contingent on getting a libertarian society. The struggle for liberty will never end because there are always going to be statists. There are always going to be people who enjoy security over liberty, because that’s another part of the natural instincts that people have. And so the best that we can ever accomplish is keeping liberty alive. And you can keep liberty alive just by being a libertarian yourself, and writing about it, and getting other people to be. Even if the society you live in is not, you can at least keep the idea of liberty alive, possibly liberty itself.”

Here is a link to the entire article:


Passenger trains are inefficient.

On Sunday, June 24, 2012, The Des Moines Register published an opinion by John Whitty, a member of their Young Adult Contributor’s Board. Whitty wants taxpayers to fund high speed passenger rail across Iowa. He wrote, “It’s time for Iowa leaders to come to the same realization that Western Europe, Asia and select cities in Northeast United States came to years ago: Fast, efficient transportation at the regional level has proven to yield broader and stronger economies.” First, all of the geographic areas he referred to have much higher population densities than Des Moines or Iowa. Second, even in those areas with the higher population density, train systems most still have a much higher cost per mile traveled than for either car or bus. Third, cars usually get people from their origin to their destination faster. Fourth, highways are mostly paid for by users while trains are heavily subsidized. Finally, people prefer cars while government planners prefer trains.