Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Planes, trains and automobiles

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Ross reacts to Huckabee’s pander to suburban voters proposal to double the width of I-95:

…America’s transportation infrastructure simply hasn’t kept pace with our population growth, our average commuting time has tripled in the last twenty-five years, and our country needs those extra lanes of traffic. Families need them. Businesses need them. Suburban and exurban voters – the swing vote in elections these days – need them. I understand all the “bridge to nowhere”/Big Dig fears on the porkbusting right, but his is an issue that a sensible pro-business, pro-family Republican Party ought to own – particularly since transportation earmarks, which blossom in the absence of a concerted strategy for improving national infrastructure, are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Ross’s thoughts got the inevitable thread going on the evils of the automobile, and the superiority of trains. But I’ve tended to be of the opinion that choosing between the two is, well, a false choice.

I’m all for congestion pricing, carbon taxation, and sundry other schemes to account for externalities and reduce cost shifting. It seems to me however, that to a large extent, we need not choose between better highway infrastructure and more and faster trains. We can have both, given a sufficiently robust financial commitment.

Now, obviously not every part of the country is a suitable candidate for inter-city fast trains. And not every part of the country needs major highway improvements, either. But my sense is the denser parts of the country need and could make use of both. Because the thing is, in many of the parts of Europe that have excellent rail service (I’m thinking Germany, the Low Countries, Britain, France), they also have superb highways.

Given enough density, it makes economic sense to have both great highways and great trains. In America we’re simply too averse to a robust, well-funded public sector for there to be a realistic chance at emulating our across-the-pond cousins.

Written by Jasper

January 25, 2008 at 1:44 pm