Reason | Justin Monticello -- High-speed rail lines began popping up in Europe and Asia in the early 1980s. Passengers were exhilarated by the futuristic trains rocketing between cities on glass-smooth rails at upwards of 200 miles per hour.
With high-profile roll-outs in France and Japan, bullet train mania was underway. And then reality set in.
"The costs of building such projects usually vastly outweigh the benefits," says Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, the 501(c)(3) that publishes this website. "Rail is more of a nineteenth-century technology [and] we don't have to go through these headaches and cost overruns to build a future transportation system."
Supporters, who claim that most high-speed rail systems operate at a profit, use accounting tricks like leaving out construction costs and indirect subsidies. If you tabulate the full costs, only two systems in the world operate at a profit, and one breaks even.
But politicians can't resist the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and imagery of sleek trains hurtling through the lush countryside. So the projects keep coming. ...