Bullet Trains

For years there’s been talk in our area of building “bullet trains”—trains that run in excess of 200 miles per hour. Talk centers around three different routes: Downtown Fort Worth to Downtown Dallas, Dallas to Houston, and the I-35 corridor from Fort Worth to Austin and San Antonio.

Some of the talk involves private financing with the revenues from passengers paying the cost of building and operations. Others talk of taxpayer financing, with a heavy contribution sought from our bankrupt federal government.

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram article put the cost of the Fort Worth-Dallas line at $4.4 billion and the Dallas-Houston line at $10 billion. No estimates were given for the I-35 corridor train.

Surprisingly, private financing appears to be a real possibility for the Dallas-Houston route, but the Fort Worth-Dallas route, costing less than half as much and in all likelihood producing much more traffic, seems to hinge on federal grants and local taxpayers.

This makes no sense to me. If a $10 billion project can line up private financing, why can a $4.4 billion project which would draw much more revenue per mile do the same?

An even more basic question in my mind is why would we build something that there’s not enough demand to pay for? Whether it’s mass transit, Amtrak or whatever—if enough people are willing to pay to use it for it to be self-supporting, then go for it. On the other hand, if demand is insufficient to carry the load, why should a bunch of already overloaded taxpayers shell out the money for it?

Lest I be misunderstood, let me hasten to say that I love railroads. I grew up in an era in which passenger trains were THE mode of transportation, and I started riding trains to visit kinfolk before I started to school. I miss the days of passenger train service and wish we still had it. But I also understand the railroads suffered financial losses providing the service, and I don’t blame them for dropping it.

As much as I’d love to get on a train and be in San Antonio in less than two hours, avoiding the parking lot they call I-35, I don’t believe in boondoggles at taxpayer expense. Build the lines if projected revenue makes sense to private financing sources, but don’t blow taxpayers’ money on uneconomical ventures.

What do you think about taxing our citizens to pay for ventures that are not economically feasible? Why do you think so?

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We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

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For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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3 Responses to Bullet Trains

  1. I agree, David. A for-profit business would do a better job. Cheers, Ashley

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  2. I’d definitely have to agree with you that if the taxpayers want it, they will fund it. Sounds like there’s not enough folks really wanting this. Or maybe there’s not enough who can afford it, that’s probably the more likely scenario.

    Here in California we’ve paid a lot of money to “improve” our highways and add carpool lanes, which so few people use it’s a joke. If they’d simply open up those lanes for regular traffic, we would be all jammed up in the two remaining lanes. It makes no sense to me.

    And, like you, I love trains. There’s something romantic about a train. My dad used to be a line cook on a train way back before I was born, but he often told stories about his rail days.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    • Interesting, Patricia. My grandfather worked for the Fort Worth and Denver (now BNSF) for 48 years, and my wife’s dad worked for the Texas & Pacific (now Union Pacific) for 40 years. Guess we both have railroads in our blood.

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