The High Speed Rail Boonedoggle Comes To Colorado

I hadn’t known this was in the works until just now, but we Coloradans apparently have a high speed rail line of some sort in the works.  Yesterday, the Colorado Department of Transportation named a new director for the new Division of Transit and Rail.  Showing the true nimbleness of government, this is apparently the next step of implementing legislation enacted in May of 2009 establishing the new division.

Back then, the spin was that this new project would “complement[ ] the landmark FASTER bill (Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery), which Gov. Ritter signed into law on March 2 and will create new jobs and result in safer bridges and roadways across the state.”  Don’t you feel safer?  And can’t you just feel the Economic Recovery?

In introducing this project, Gov. Ritter also proclaimed that “[m]oving people by transit and rail are part of our state’s past and they will be a major part of our future.”  Moving people by horseback and stagecoaches are also part of our past.  Maybe they should try that next. 

Anyway, what evidence do they have that anyone other than bureaucrats and union labor actually wants or needs high speed rail in Colorado?  For the most part, once you get to your destination out here, most people need a car to get anywhere else. 

I, for example, am second to very few adults in being car-independent.  I live in central Denver and walk or ride a bike to work 90% of the time.  My wife and I also walk or use cabs to go out in the evening.  But I would never even consider taking light rail, high speed or otherwise, to Boulder, Colorado Springs, or anywhere else along the Front Range (where most of the people in Colorado are). 

That is because once you get there, you are stuck wherever they drop you, and towns out West tend to be spread out over considerable territory.  And if you are there for recreation, you pretty much need a car to drive up into the mountain playgrounds.

Moreover, these systems never pay for themselves.  They also never attract the ridership that proponents claim they will. 

But they do tend to get named after the politicians who fund them.  With our money.  Say thank you.

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Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Have you read the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority (RMRA) HSR study report? See http://www.rockymountainrail.org/RMRA_Final_Report.html and you will learn that others have a different viewpoint from yours and assessed other needs other than moving around town like you do on your bicycle. You and your wife have taken the rational approach to live where you want to express your life in work and recreation. Not many others have taken that choice. In the RMRA final report you will find different needs identified including the I-70 corridor need to transport skiers to the high country to support their recreational choices; the Denver – Pueblo Front Range corridor expressed needs for commuters and business travelers to avoid the 1-2 hour trips behind the wheel of a car during rush hours. These needs were expressed in public meetings. Several HSR technologies were analyzed to meet these needs at various levels of “high” speed from a modest train speed up to 79 mph to over 220 mph. Several paths were analyzed to assess the average speeds compared to autos which I have experienced up to 90 mph along I-25 during rush hours. The impact of following current railroad corridors was compared to new rail rights of way in “green” (rural) areas away from city centers. Several alternative technologies and routings were found to be better than break even. Note, these are not the city buses you see as you pedal to work or play. The HSR report was prepared before the ARRA HSR planning grants were announced so that plan must be retrofitted to meet the longer HSR route through New Mexico (which purchased right of way from Belen, NM to Trinidad, CO from the BNSF RR several years ago) and down to El Paso, TX. Note that these plans don’t expect riders to be seeking recreation destinations although they (you) could carry their bicycles aboard to explore new areas along the route.


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