Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is jealously a reasonable justification for policy?

Should jealousy dictate policy? Talking Points Memo seems to suggest it should with their pro-rail "Jealous Yet America?" post. In a photo tour of high speed rail (HSR) trains around the world they ask if America is "jealous yet." There isn't much to say about phrasing transport policy debate like this, but we hear too often that we should build HSR because Europe is doing it or China is doing it and the US is in danger of getting left behind. I've never been sure of what we will be left behind, but I've seen it a number of places as the efficiency gap. Whatever that gap is it really depends on ridership and occupancy, plus you have to look at the types of trips made. In any event, I know Bambardier of Montreal is excited about the US proposal because actually they make high speed trains, unlike any US company. But I don't think the US HSR is sold as being good for Canadian jobs.

Obviously Talking Points Memo doesn't set policy, but reviewing their slideshow and recent articles and comments from transit advocates it is pretty easy to see hat many people think a valid reason to pursue policy is because some other country is doing it, and they are jealous. I think that's a pretty silly reason to pursue any policy, yet alone a HSR network that may cost as much as $500 billion or more. For a more reasonable discussion of the pros and cons of HSR, read the current posts at World Streets here and here.
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