Monday, December 20, 2010

QotD: Five Year Plan Edition:

From Brian J. Noggle:
Gah, being an economic central planner is hard. Fortunately for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, being a cheerleader for central planning is still easy.
Commuter Rail: Yet another perpetually money-losing way to make you eat your vegetables.

Liberals like commuter rail because foreigners have commuter rail and foreigners are better and hipper and more foreign than you. I mean, who really doesn't secretly wish that they were Dutch or Japanese? Then you'd have a sophisticated accent and you could watch foreign films without subtitles and everybody at the coffee shop would positively genuflect to your coolness!


Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in a trade...

We'll legalize the illegals that leftists think they so badly need at the polls, on a one-to-one basis for out-migration (no returns please) of self-loathing wannabe foreign hipsters and enlightened socialists.

Give me throngs of penniless, ignorant peasants yearning to breathe free and build a better life in place of gov chambers and editorial boards stuffed with redistributionists any day of the week.


Bram said...

It's much better to centrally plan projects like commuter rail than leave it to the free market. In the free market, awful people like me refuse to fund it just because the "Return on Investment" is way below zero. And we write contracts that force contractors and unions - not taxpayers - to eat all the cost overruns. Uncool Dicks.

Anonymous said...

Recently started reading you and most impressed. I am very tempted to question your gender and if you are really a female then maybe you should start a dating service for women like yourself. Just a semi-serious thought. Hope when you read this is comes through as intended; as a compliment.

Boat Guy said...

The trade idea has a lot of merit, though the ratio might be a bit off. I'd also include that the "returns" be conveyed to the oh-so-tender mercies of coyotes for the first leg of their journey and have to get to Europe via shipping container

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the ptb are trying for an end run with a "light-rail" system down wher I live. It will cost over $10,000,000/mile to build; connect two cities that already have a super slab between them; need $170,00/day to break even; and get you there(without your car) in about the same time as if you DROVE. Oh yeah, f you figure on $40.00 round trip cost that means they are figuring on a ridership of at least 4250/day.

But the build cost will all be paid for with stimufu** money from the fed...

ViolentIndifference said...

Anon: If Tam were doing things to make me question her gender and be "not really female", then I wouldn't find that attractive. Perhaps I have, in my definition of female, those things that you don't appear to have.

My take on your words: Tam likes guns (for example). She must not be a girl. If she is she should do something to advertise that she is a boy-like girl.

My take on Tam: Tam likes guns. She is the type of girl that I like.

My definition of "girl" doesn't exclude the qualities that you seem to think don't fit her gender.

[Disclaimer: I'm married. And to a girl that has "qualities" that I like. Not girl qualities, not boy qualities. I don't know Tam and like/love/lust for her only as far as reading her blog.]

Anonymous said...

"if you are really a female"

Anony 8:57, oh yeah. She R srsly hot, vava voom....

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8:57

June Cleaver's middle name was not Tamara.

But then, Tam's middle name is most definitely not June.

These mysteries will be resolved by your further attendance in this class.

Matt G said...

Honestly, Tam, I like commuter rail. Park and ride into the city and get a free bus pass, not have to pay to park in city? Pretty good. I'm wishing we'd hurry up with ours in Texas.

Matt said...

So when I lived in Dallas, I used the light rail system there. First, it saved me personally a TON of money on gas. I averaged 5k miles a year on my car. Second, my company paid 100% of my fare, so it cost me nothing out of pocket to ride it.

A day pass is on the order of $5.00/day. 20 business days a month is $100. I did the numbers once, and just from a gas standpoint, it was cheaper to drive if I was paying for it. Didn't factor in vehicle maintenance, and didn't use the IRS reimbursement rate. Just straight-up gas costs. But, again, it wasn't costing me a penny to ride, so I did.

I also liked being able to look out at the people stuck in traffic on the freeway as we cruised past at 60 MPH.

wv: cracy - Call me cracy, but I liked riding the light rail.

Revolver Rob said...

Light rail sucks, what we need are some frickin' high speed trains, not run by Amtrak and free of TSA-type security check points.

It took the city of Dallas nearly a decade before ridership reached a level to make it relevant. Recently, they opened the light rail here in Austin, ridership is almost 0, because it doesn't actually stop anywhere, where people work (and most conspicuously it does NOT stop at the biggest employer in town >25000 employees), but stops farther south and then requires you to ride a shuttle bus (+15 minutes of commute time) to get there. Let me see...I can spend $4/day to ride the light rail, drive 15 minutes to the Park and Ride, ride 25 minutes to the train station, 15 minutes from station to bus stop, 10 minute walk to my office. OR...I can drive 25 minutes to a parking spot and walk 5 minutes to the office...hmmm....


zeeke42 said...

Commuter rail would be great if it went from where you're coming from to where you're going to when you want to go. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

My girlfriend works in Boston. To get to work from my house requires a 15 minute drive to the station, a 37 minute train ride, and then either a 20 minute walk or a 2 min subway ride and a 12 minute walk.

Driving takes 40 minutes without traffic, and 1-1.25 hours with. So, with traffic it takes about the same amount of time, but with the train if you're 5 minutes late, you arrive at work not 5 minutes later, but 50 minutes later.

perlhaqr said...

Matt G: It's not a problem with "commuter rail" per se, it's more of a problem with commuter rail that makes no goddamn economic sense.

Take the Phoenix light rail system (the one I know most about the costs of due to the efforts of Coyote ( where, due to the costs of construction, maintenance, and staffing, the city/state is effectively providing a $30+ credit to every rider. And this in a state where they've closed all the rest areas and state parks due to budgetary issues.

Revolver Rob: The problem with long distance rail here in America is most of our rail lines are currently run for the benefit of commercial freight. And apparently (I'm taking the word of people who have studied the problem: I have not personally) it's hard to make freight and passenger trains play nice scheduling-wise on the same track.

So short of laying all new track for those train lines (and can you even imagine what the labor unions would make that cost per mile these days?) any increase in passenger rail is going to come at the expense of freight, thereby bumping all that freight out onto trucks, and making the interstates even more cluttered. And, of course, trucking is a lot more expensive than train freight, too.

Anon @ 0930: We've got the same crap here in NM. Our wonderful soon-to-be-ex-Governor Bill Richardson (corrupt dick) built us a rail system that runs literally in the center median of I-25 in some places, between Belen (40 miles south of Albuquerque) and Santa Fe (65 miles north of Albuquerque). And then you're in either Belen or Santa Fe with no f'n car, which is about as useful as being in Los Angeles without a car.

But hey, the Governor got a shiny train set to play with for Christmas.

Borepatch said...

And OBTW, there isn't a single form of mass transit - heavy rail, light rail, streetcar, bus - that doesn't take more energy (BTW/passenger mile) than a stinkin' huge SUV.

When your Chevy Suburban is "greener" than all the mass transit alternatives, you're in a big pit of fail. Well, the hippies are.

On the bright side, educated liberals will apply Sartre's maxim - "Hell is other people" - to mass transit. They'll see that the trains are empty, and nod approvingly while they sip their half-soy decaf latte.

AND the stupid operating costs for all the shiny trains eat the Transportation Department's budget, forcing cutbacks on bus routes which actually do provide services to poor neighborhoods. So the liberals are once again using the soon-to-be-victimized poor as window dressing for their SWPL pie in the sky.

But remember, these people are all smarter than you or me.

Frank W. James said...

Another problem with 'high speed rail' projects and otherwise connecting major metorpolitan areas is all the tillable farmground they destroy in the process.

Once destroyed that stuff don't come back. Right now to avoid massive increases in food cost inflation the USDA is predicting we need 90 million acres for next year's corn crop.

We have 87 million....if we're lucky.

Kiss the Conservation Reserve Program acres good bye because all those highly eroible soils will be going BACK into production.

If you're an environmentalist, Ole Dick Cheney looks benign by comparison to this administration...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Bram said...

Frank - Food costs are jumping because Congress is forcing us to pump corn into our gas tanks as a more expensive, less efficient alternative to petroleum products. More central planning goodness. And Obama has decided we don’t need a Gulf oil industry - so the cost of running my car and Farmer Brown's tractor are both going up.

LabRat said...

Perl said most of what I was going to. I'd pay a graffiti artist quite a lot of money to paint FAIL down the side of the Roadrunner train in a size and style befitting its scale of failure as a concept.

Commuter rail makes sense in older cities- like, say, many European and Asian cities- that were designed before cars, and evolved dense centers of commerce and dense centers of residence that cry out for an easy, fast path betwixt 'em.

In American Western cities like, I don't know, Phoenix and Albuquerque, which only really grew into real cities after the advent of cars and have areas of residence and areas of commerce scattered hither and yon with only semblance of pattern... they make no damn sense at all.

staghounds said...

One of the nicest things about being one of the masters is that you don't really have to make sense.

I've decided that I'm going to imagine all these similar schemes- freeways to nowhere, empty stadia, deserted sustainable industry zones, thousands of perfectly serviceable cars smelted, vacant brand-new trains flashing brightly lit between nowhere and yonder- like Turner Prizes for lobbyists.

The thing itself has no meaning. It only attains meaning with the artist's ability to accrete or avulse meaning onto and ultimately into it, giving the mere term "light rail" (or whatever ) meaning and value by the mere saying of its name aloud in a meeting.

Less injury would follow these cargo cults through simply saying hosanna, appropriating the money, and parcelling it out to the various beneficiaries as a reward for their brilliance.

Then the damage would end, at least.

(Isn't there some electrical phenomenon, or machine, that makes a thing that looks like a bolt of lightning, but carries no damaging current? Perfect metaphor for that train. (Last night I rode just such a train, there were more train cars than there were passengers.)

staghounds said...

And I meant "vacant brand-new trains flashing brightly lit through the darkness between nowhere and yonder"

Frank W. James said...

Bram: Actually when crude oil reaches $100/barrel, ethanol blended gasoline makes economic sense with or without the 44 cent subsidy, even when corn is over $5/bu CBOT price.

All commodity prices are going up and one of the reasons is they are the last place for the rich to put their money. Interest bearing instruments no longer represent good returns. Secondly, the world is growing short of certain commodities. As for ethanol being responsible for food cost inflation; Americans only put 17% of their disposable income in food while the Europeans put over 31% toward their daily food purchases. All ethanol has done is eliminate the grain bin surpluses we saw in the 1950's and 1960's; 27% of the '09 corn crop went to ethanol production. Without ethanol that quantity would have been a drag on the market and help to bankrupt ever more grain farmers.

Washington may be the problem, but it's NOT because of ethanol...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Ancient Woodsman said...

One part of the problem: a hybrid Escape costs $7K+ more than a gas one and the savings never works out in the end; you do get, though, a huge bucket of unicorn-fart scented smug to go with your latte, and a bigger one than you'd get with a Prius even. If saving the planet costs more, it won't happen without 'fair share' redistribution of wealth & central control. Which worked oh, so well elsewhere in the, with some foreigners 'n' stuff.

'Nother part of the problem: if .gov treated big business 100 years+ ago like it did w/the .gov-motors buy recently, we never would have lost our trains & electric trollies (U.S. Grant maybe telling us in the Panic of '73 'they were too big to fail'?), never would have developed private autos to the extent we did, never would have the industrial capacity to win WWII, would all be speaking German or Japanese by now...oh, it all really connected? Nah. If we never developed SUVs there would be no global warming - or, something like that.

Central Planning? Just like a colonoscopy, it's given to you by someone who has not had one, isn't getting one, and is more than happy to help you get yours.

NotClauswitz said...

What's worse is High-Speed Commuter Rail, that's something just ugly-on-stilts nearly beyond comprehension.
Rather than bringing people together and creating harmony and promoting peace, it's going to bring distant predators to the lamb-pens, divide cities into status-zones, and create new classes of political identity based on which side gets the sunshine and hills and which gets the swamps and culverts.

European cities with living-pens on the outskirts, feed by railway to the work-zones in the city interior were an anachronistic development based on feudal power and much "takings", that made having those trains run on time seem to rilly matter. The semi-civilized savages who inhabit such cities display their pseudo independent status by 1.) Their refusal to ever RUN to catch a train. Never let them see you run. You only run when you need to get to the air-raid shelter in a hurry, and those aren't serviced by the trains.

Later those same trains were used for a reverse movement of a specially-selected population group to a new destination: hell on earth. That's real identity-politics in action so beloved by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit stunned and disappointed in the seemingly clueless comments made here by people whose views I have come to respect, based on some perceived personal convenience or financial benefit.

As nearly always, follow the damn money...if a thing is not self-sustaining based on what you pay to buy or use it, it only means that someone else is paying your way.

And that's the simplest definition of socialism, no matter what is the subject or who is the beneficiary or how it is justified.


Matt said...

Hey AT - Don't know if I'm in that "respect" category or not, but I was pretty up-front, I thought, with my reasoning for RIDING the train. It was enlightened self-interest. In my situation, it was to MY personal benefit.

Never said I supported the imposition of light rail on other communities, or the expansion of it where it was already failing. Just that it was personally of benefit to me in that time and place.

And I don't think anyone else on here has supported it per se, unless my reading comprehension skills have completely failed me today.

Anonymous said...


per se, de's all Greek (or Latin) to me.


Geodkyt said...

LabRat nailed it.

Why do most Americans own cars?

Because we have to. The geography and population distribution demand it. (Yes, you can live in a city like NYC or DC without a car. Contrary to the unreasoned beliefs of most prominent dilettante social engineers, NYC and DC are aberations, not typical US regions.)

In addition to the very different way in which major US cities grew up as opposed to their European counterparts, there is the fact that teh US is simply much larger. (This also impacted how the US viewed "adequate range" in military aircraft.)

European nationsare the size of US states or regions. Germany is about the size of Montana. Bulgaria is about the size of Virginia. France is about the size of the Mid Atlantic states. All of Europe is slightly larger than the United States.

What would be a major trip to a European is merely an exceptionally long commute to an American -- an unusually, but not fantastically long commute.

staghounds said...

Once I drove to see some friends in North Yorkshire. When I hove up, they asked me whence I had come.



Britain is the size of Illinois and has the populations of Calfornia and Texas in it.

Bram said...

Frank - In an actual free-market, we would start mixing ethanol into gas as soon as it makes economic sense. We would also offer ethanol-free gas to those people with older cars or boats.

What a free country wouldn't do is force everyone to buy a particular product just to make some campaign donors happy.

Geodkyt said...

Better yet, Bram.

Cut loose the nuclear engineers. Pebble beds in every town!

We should quit torching my future grandkid's soda bottles!

If electricity is cheap enough (dollars aren't as relevant as in terms of "resources used to deliver it" to the end use), then electrolytically produced hydrogen can remove all but a scant fraction of hydrocarbon fuel burners from the planetary energy budget (starting with the Western world).

Got juice? Got seawater? Then you got an effectively unlimited supply of fuel. So what if, on a "Total Energy Cost to End Use" basis, the hydrogen sucks wind. . . if the electrons are cheap enough to waste on it.

Additionally, with electricity that readily available, electric ground vehicles start to become a LOT more attractive -- if nothing else, than for vehicles with predictable daily routes that can be planned around teh battery range, like the mailman, city bus, FedEx guy, etc.

Quit burning that valuable petroleum as {shudder} fuel. We need that crap for the chemical industries, fertilizer production, and a few areas where the utility of petroleum fuel outweighs the waste of actually burning it up (like military vehicles, most commercical aircraft, emergency generation systems -- hydrocarbon fuels store better and yield more payload miles for the same total system volume and weight, unless your fuel fraction is so large that raw fuel mass is a show-stopper, like a Saturn V.)

John B said...

sophisticated accents?!? the supermodels have such a hash of Parisian, and Brazilian they sound like Monty Pythoners with nappies on their head......

Anonymous said...

John B, it seems the sophisticated accents of the supermodels at issue here are more Texas drawl and Midland twang...


Anonymous said...

Actually you CAN make commuter rail/light rail, trams, etc... work. They DID, in the US, for decades.

The midwest there was a whole network of light rail all over the states that ran all sorts of places (it's kind of cool actually) that also did light freight- the UPS of it's day.

You used to be able to take the street tram from NYC to Boston (town to town along US 1) or the rail, express.

BUT that was organic growth serving concentrated populations and industrial facilities. (Everyone white collar used to have to work "insode the loop" in Chicago, or in downtown.midtown Manhattan now they can work wherever there's a telephone and internet.) The alternative was horses on CRAPPY roads, or hoofing it on the shank's mare, bicycles...or even slow, uncomfortable, dangerous cars.

Cheap cars, good roads, relatively inexpensive energy made it feasible to SPREAD waaay out. Cost of Time > cost of transort.

Reversing that is like peeing against the wind.

Even if you only use your car once WEEK it's vastly more efficent to do all your errands than messing around on public tarnsit for hours a day.

Frank W. James said...

Bram: We don't have an actual free market. At least not since Washington dictates through distribution of federal highway appropriations what MPG, air pollution, not to mention seat belts as well as the fuel used by the new vehicles sold in your particular state.

To complain about Washington's rule over a 'free market' and its dictates is akin to complaining about how unconstitutional the federal income tax is.

That could be the case in a 'pure' sense, but you're still going to lose because the Federal government is the Big Dog and the Big Dog rules.

Ethanol was a means to an end and that end was to lessen the agricultural surpluses that cost the Federal government billions in loans and storage fees over a number of decades. That it was done by a Republican Administration is why there was less of an outcry that would have been heard with either Carter, Clinton or Obama.

My guess is, unless crude oil goes below $60/barrel, ethanol is here to stay. The government doesn't want to deal with storing and buying 27% of the corn crop every year or the financial ruin ignoring such a surplus would create in our agricultural sector and all its associated industries.

One of the minor motivations of the Cash For Clunkers program was to get more new vehicles on the road that could use higher ethanol blends in their fuels.

Love it or Hate it, Ethanol is here to stay because of economic factors far outside its own cost/benefit ratio...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Anonymous said...

Yes, the problem with principles is you have to choose between pure or pragmatic. And the drive to survive and provide for one's own will win every time.

I'm pretty impure myself, having helped guide my son to take the 8K first-time homebuyer and my daughter the 6.5K trade-up freebies. I hate the astoundingly absurd and obtuse thought process behind these and all the so-called stimuli...hardly freebies any of 'em, and it makes me feel a little dirty just typing this. But hey, my kids needed houses and somebody was gonna take that dough, right? But I do recognize and admit my hypocrisy.

What of sugar subsidies, Mr. James...parallel with corn? Or is pragmatism crop-specific?