On the one hand, we prefer public conveyances to private ones. The idea that someone will operate a machine to take our SWNIDish self from where we are to where we want to be delights us. It renders the world like a huge theme park for our personal enjoyment.
And we find modern trains to be the most pleasant of public conveyances. The ride is smooth, the cabin spacious, the noise negligible, and the view intriguing if not always beautiful.
On the other hand is grim economic reality, which we grimly enumerate as bullet points:
- Obama's proposed funding won't pay for more than a tiny fraction of what he proposes.
- Americans complain that if they take the train, they still need a car when they get to their destination. This seems true for all but that tiny fraction of the population that is willing to brave municipal public conveyances. Hence, Americans will generally drive even when they have attractive public transportation options.
- Rail is a more comfortable experience, and at its modern peak faster, but buses are still marvelously cheaper, more flexible and just as effective in getting cars off crowded highways. Case in point: the cost to take the esteemed Megabus from Cincinnati to Chicago is today about the same cost as taking the train over the same route fifty years ago. We speak not in inflation-adjusted dollars but plain dollars: $15 would get you a ticket on the B&O in 1959, and it'll get you on the Megabus today. And the bus trip takes less time than rail did then, hardly longer than a trip in a private car today and at less than the cost to gas the car for the same distance.
- And the truth is that Obama won't have the money to finish what he's proposing as the barest start. See the esteemed Charles Krauthammer today if you doubt this patent truism.