High Speed Rail From Nowhere …

March 26, 2012

A company with close ties to Nevada Senator Harry Reid (the sepulchral Democratic Senate Majority Leader) is about to get a $4.9 billion dollar government loan guarantee to build a high-speed rail line from Las Vegas to … LA?  San Francisco?  Phoenix?   No, to a tiny, down-on-its-luck city in California’s high desert, nearly 100 miles from downtown LA, Victorville.

The idea, strongly supported by the Obama Administration, is that car-loving people in the LA basin and in San Diego will drive a hundred miles or more, ditch their cars in dusty Victorville, then ride a 150-MPH bullet train to Las Vegas.  The trip from Victorville to Vegas is roughly 200 miles – an easy 2.5 hour drive that gets you into Vegas with your car (and mobility) intact.  Or, you can park and wait around for the next train, and cut the trip down (once it gets going) to around 1.5 hours.  The cost is estimated to be $100 round trip – but like all major projects, the actual price per ticket will be from $75 to infinity – we just have no idea.

Now, I’d like to offer a few caveats here.

First, more than a decade ago, I created (for a client) a strategic marketing plan for the creation of a high-speed rail line from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.  I did lots of studies, and read many other studies, and concluded that this would only work if the train went to LA (at least as far into the LA basin as Ontario, the gateway to the LA basin).  The biggest traffic bottleneck between LA and Vegas is the El Cajon Pass, which connects Victorville with Ontario, and bypassing that would be a major incentive.  We looked at a train that started and stopped in Victorville, and realized that it would lose one of the biggest incentives of the whole trip – the challenge of just getting out of the LA area.

Next, I’d like to make it clear that I am what’s known as a “rail fan” – I’ve subscribed to railroad magazines, built model railroad layouts, gone on photo expeditions to rail yards and major junctions, and taken train trips that are “there and back again,” just to enjoy the pleasure of train travel.

So I’m personally psyched by trains, and I know from my professional work that a high speed train could be made to work.  But not this way.

I find it ironic that plan comes from the man who did more to decimate business in Las Vegas – President Barack Obama – than any other individual.  Remember, he told business – and government agencies and employees – to stay away from Las Vegas, a statement that poured gasoline on the fire that was destroying the city’s economy.  This same President is now trying to revive this moribund city (we have the highest foreclosure and bankruptcy rates of any major city, and one of the highest real unemployment rates as well) by building a high-speed train that will cost billions of dollars, take a decade or more to build, and pour money into the coffers of a developer known to be major political and campaign finance supporter of Harry Reid and … President Obama.

One more thing.  Rail advocates once before thought that a train would revitalize Las Vegas. Billions of dollars were poured into creating a monorail that connected the hotels on the East side of the Strip, from the Sahara to the MGM, with a detour to the Convention Center and what was then the Hilton.  The slow-moving monorail is fun to ride, but not exactly convenient (to get to it in the MGM takes – it seems – a half-mile hike).  A great idea.  Except the monorail did so poorly that it’s gone into bankruptcy.  Will the same thing happen to the high speed bullet train?  What do you think?

Once more, Obama is doing the wrong thing, at the wrong time – and Harry Reid, the Senator from Nevada, is trying to create tens of thousands of construction jobs … in California.

And so it goes … Democratic business as usual in the great Silver State.



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2 Responses to High Speed Rail From Nowhere …

  1. […] company with close ties to Nevada Senator Harry Reid (the sepulchral Democratic Senate Majority Leader) is about to get a $4.9 […]

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