Ed Glaeser Flat Out Lies about High Speed Rail

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Crossposted from The Hillbilly Report, crossposted to Agent Orange

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Ryan Avent has provided high quality debunking of many of the flaws of Ed Glaeser’s ongoing analysis of Cost and Benefits of HSR. His current piece, Ed Glaeser’s Rail Fail, does not let us down.

Hell, I decided I’d read Ryan Avent’s piece first, before reading Glaeser, so I would not get riled up and start a long rant, only to find that Ryan has explained it more clearly … and to more total readers, to boot.

But I got riled up anyway. Ed Glaeser in the most recent piece comes out with a blatant lie, and one that’ll trap almost all casual readers.

Here’s what he says:

As in the previous two posts, I focus on a mythical 240-mile-line between Houston and Dallas, which was chosen to avoid giving the impression that this back-of-the-envelope calculation represents a complete evaluation of any actual proposed route. (The Texas route will be certainly far less attractive than high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, but it is not inherently less reasonable than the proposed high-speed rail routes across Missouri or between Dallas and Oklahoma City.)

The proposed HSR route across Missouri and the proposed route between Dallas and Oklahoma City are 110mph Emerging HSR routes. But Ed Glaeser acts like this part of Obama’s HSR policy package simply does not exist. The very GAO study that he uses to estimate the cost of an Express System at $40m per mile says that the cost of Emerging HSR corridor proposals are somewhere inside $4m to $12m per mile. So for the kind of corridors he’s talking about, his capital costs are inflated Threefold to Tenfold.

/Update{ Actually, as you can see from the map on the right, the current proposal for the corridor “across” Missouri is in yellow, which is  90mph (even if the legend is a bit small at that size) … but it is certainly plausible that this might be updated under the present Federal DoT framework, in order to qualify for Emerging HSR funding by reaching and maintaining 110mph. }Update/

The whole argument falls apart right there. There is no official project applying for an Express HSR corridor based on 1.5m riders per year. All projects expected to serve riderships in the 100,000’s to 1m’s are 110mph “Emerging HSR” systems or 125mph “Regional HSR” systems. And actual projects to develop 220mph “Express HSR” systems? The projection for the California system is over 30m, and intercity travel on the Northeast Corridor already is far more than 1.5m.

Even if there actually was a project like that, there’s no reason to believe that Roy LaHood’s Department of Transport would give it a dime. The economic analysis lines up against it, and the politics lines up against it, because the Emerging and Regional HSR projects are the ones that can have trains running by 2016.

Really, what is Ed Glaeser trying to say here? If we ditch the current policy and replace it with the foolish idea of funding Express HSR corridors to serve riderships 1m or 2m, “that would not be cost-effective”?

Well, No Shit, Sherlock!

Last week, this was an omission … a “failing”, a “flaw”, even “ignorant misinformation”.

But this week, he directly claims that his make-believe project is similar to actual projects. And then points to corridors where that is a flat out lie.

What can I say? Its going to take more than one person to call Bullshit on this lie. Search for news articles with letters to the editor or online commentary that echo this lie … here is one google search to get started … and point out that Ed Glaeser has stepped over the line from shoddy analysis to a clear, direct, lie about current High Speed Rail policy.

There’s a Road Train going nowhere …


  1. BruceMcF

    … merely calling it ignorant and such.

  2. TomP

    when you’re nice.  :-)

Leave a Reply