Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This is about a really, really stupid idea.

The 3-C passenger rail project is a really, really stupid idea.

With all the discussion about turning down $400 million and where it would go, everyone debating the idea has allowed themselves to get distracted from that very important point.

It's simple.

Ohio can't afford it.
There is no demand for it.

First off, let's focus on why we can't afford it.

From the Dispatch:
...the $400 million grant covered only about three-fourths of the cost of upgrading tracks and buying new trains. And that doesn't even count the $17 million or more per year in subsidies that would be required to keep it running.
So under the original projections, Ohio will need to pony up about $135 million more in start-up costs in addition to the "$17 million or more in subsidies".

Additionally, the likelihood that these costs are accurate is also in doubt. Look at one of the largest government infrastructure boondoggles in American history - Boston's Big Dig. The Big Dig also happened to be contracted out to the exact same company that is right now responsible for Ohio's 3-C project - Parsons Brinckerhoff. This is the same Parsons Brinckerhoff that had to pay $407 million in restitution after the Big Dig for its poor oversight of subcontractors. The Big Dig was initially supposed to cost $6 billion in 1982 dollars. It's eventual cost? $22 billion. A 367% increase over the original projection. Now let's just assume the 3-C projection is only off by 1/6 of that - 61%. That would require Ohio to pay $461 million to start-up the project (the $135 million + 61% of original 535 million projection).

Obviously, Ohio can't afford that.

But forget that projection. Under the current projections, the cost of building the train system is far beyond our capabilities. Ohio is facing an $8 billion budget deficit. Spending yet more taxpayer dollars in the face of this massive deficit goes against every sensibility. It makes me wonder if advocates for the train really comprehend just how deep a hole Ohio has found itself.

Now onto demand.

These are 3 shots of traffic on I-71 this morning around 8:30 - rush hour.

If the 3-C is going to be successful, people have to want to ride it.

Roads would have to be jammed and people would be clamoring for an alternative.

They aren't.

Once again, we'll let the Dispatch handle this one:
Initial estimates that the trains would average 39 mph and that the trip from Cincinnati to Cleveland would take at least five hours and 20 minutes drew derision; a later estimate by ODOT, based on a one-page computer analysis, revised the average speed to 50 mph but has been questioned. And it depends on cooperation among three different railroads, which can't be guaranteed. And it's still slower than driving.
It's still slower than driving. That's an incredibly important point.

Now, no one is saying ridership will be zero. Of course there may be some that don't have cars that need to use it on a daily basis to get to a job in Dayton or Cleveland. Then again, those same people need to find a way to get to the train station every day. And surely people would utilize it to get to a Reds or Indians game - provided they don't mind spending the cash for a hotel room since the schedule doesn't allow for a return trip after the game.

"But what about the jobs?", they say.

It's not the government's responsibility to subsidize employment for the sake of making sure someone has a job.

If Ohio can't afford the project and the demand for the train is too low, the project is doomed to failure. All we're left with is yet more government welfare in the form of subsidized jobs to manage the train system.

And that's with an $8 billion deficit staring us in the face.

Broken window fallacy, anyone?

Finally, the Dispatch brings up an interesting point when discussing how determined Governor Strickland is to see money spent for the $25 million preparation study, despite the fact Kasich has asked for it to be suspended.
Strickland might sincerely believe that all the variables would line up in the train's favor and that the 3C project would draw Ohioans to take the train in unprecedented numbers, spurring enough jobs and economic development to pay for itself. Or he might value the chance to keep handing out lucrative contracts for his last two months in office.
Strickland interested in taking care of special interests? What? Noooo. Perish the thought.

The reality is this - the 3-C passenger rail project is a really, really stupid idea.

Kasich is right to stop it.


  1. Excellent analysis.

    Liberals look at their ultimate dream, Europe, and feel that we are somehow less of a nation because we don't have high speed rail like they do.

    They dont care that no one will ride it. Its all about feeling good about ourselves.

    So they wrap it in the facade of creating jobs and try to sell it to the public.

    Total waste of taxpayer money. Thank you, John Kasich, for killing this project.

  2. Wow.

    So I guess you never rode the Metro to work in D.C., Keeling?

    Brilliantly flawed analysis as always.

    We can't afford this because it'll cost over $100 million to create tens of thousands of jobs, but we can afford over $800 million in tax cuts that have yet to demonstrate they've created more jobs.

  3. The 3C project would create tens of thousands of jobs? 20,000+ jobs?


  4. Dear Modern-

    Did someone change the 3-C into a metro system? Because people might actually ride that.

    Especially in a huge overcrowded metropolitan area with nowhere to park downtown, like those we don't have here in Ohio.

  5. do you even know where polaris parkway is? you should have taken photos from your car in traffic in colu...oh.

  6. First, it will thousands of construction jobs in creating stations and upgrading the freight rail network throughout the State of Ohio. Second, there is the seconandary economic development affects in the urban renewal that is created near these Station as service industries like hotels, restaurants, etc. spring up to be accessible to the station. There is a company that is looking to move to Columbus to either build or rehabilitate passenger rail cars. The construction of the 3C plan would not only benefit the construction and service industry, but manufacturing as well such as domestic steel production.

    The initial phase of 3C is estimated to alone create 16,000 jobs in this first phase alone. However, because Keeling and Kasich forget that 3C is about a well-planned out evolution of passenger rail. They forget that there are a already planned phases that would create even a wider passenger rail network.

    The number of Ohioans traveling by passenger rail is growing. 147k traveled by rail in the limited Amtrak lines that run through northern and southern Ohio. And yes, those lines move even slower than the miscited lowball speed of the 3C.

    Cincinnati was planning to link the 3C to their streetcar level. Cleveland already has light passenger rail that they planned to link to the 3C. Columbus' station would be at the heart of the Arena District at the Convention Center which already had space set aside for a future train station.

    Keeling can try to dress this up as best he can, but the fact of the matter is that John Kasich's first official act as Governor-elect was to kill jobs in Ohio after running on a platform for job creation.

    You can't say we can't afford the $100 million it would cost the State to start up the 3C at the same time you're promising in $820 million in tax cuts that need to be paid for. You cannot spend all fall before the election praising the glory of JobsOhio, but then declare as it relates to 3C that the State isn't in the business of "subsidizing" job creation or retention.

    John Kasich is killing an economic development project that was going to create jobs and vastly improve our commercial infrastructure. And he's doing it for no other reason that politics. Period. End of story.

  7. Ohio does NOT need this boondoggle, especially since it is slower than driving! Ohio's metropolitan areas are no where as populated as the tri state area surrounding NYC, and I know, I was born and raised there before being fortunate enough to relocate here due to my husband's employer, CSX. LIRR, the passenger system that provide Long Island with its commuter rail, is SUBSIDIZED and NEVER MAKES A PROFIT. As are Metro NOrth, NJ Transit, and the NYC Subway system. If these rail lines are subsidized out the wazoo and are still expenive for the commuter, how would the C3 fare any better? Then, the maintenance issues and labor costs- all involve the UNIONS who believe their men are overworked, abused, etc., etc. Do you have any idea of the labor costs for maintenance of way, signals, engineers and conductors? Then you have the regulations from the FRA, and Ohio DOT, plus NTSB, etc., etc.

    Wake up everybody- Kasich is correct and Strickland is wrong

  8. AMTRAK loses millions each year.

    Fine, it is free to build, but to say it will be profitable over time is just silly.

    Oh, and if there was a fucking demand for a train here, the free-market would see that it was built.

    You lost you fucking loser, if Ohio wanted a damn train, they would have voted for Taxin-Teddy, but they did not.

    Oh and we have a mandate, it is called winning.

    We call the shots you Douche-bag. I love how you predict things after you said Ted would win by 20 points you egotistical fucktard.

    Get a life.

    Wooow, that felt good.

  9. Most of the commercial sea ports were not created by private enterprise.

    Virtually all of the commercial airports in the United States, save one, was built by governments, NOT the private sector.

    Just about ever road you drive on was built by the government, not the private sector.

    To say that if there was a demand for passenger rail, the private sector builds it inversely must mean that there was no real demand for airports, seaports, or an interstate highway system.

    Winning in a low turnout election when less than 50% of the registered voters voted and the "winner" got only a plurality of the vote is not an election with a mandate.

    Even Joe Hallett of the pro-Kasich Dispatch agrees.

    John Kasich's first act as Governor-elect was to announce he's killing nearly 20k jobs. You're free to defend that, but you can't DENY that's what he did.

    And then he appointed a guy convicted in 2004 of public corruption to serve as his Executive Director of his Inaugural. Then he asked his friends in the State Senate to kill the nominations they sat on for the past five months so he could have more patronage jobs to hand out.

    He's made promises during the campaign that will actually INCREASE the deficit by over a $1 billion.

    That's the record after one week of our glorious Governor-elect. Congratulations.

  10. ME,

    Politicians on both sides of the aisle understand that raising taxes (a/k/a letting the Bush tax expire) will slow the economy further. Maybe those tax cuts have created jobs, huh?

  11. Agnes - the jury's still out whether your point is valid.

    You cannot compare the LIRR to the 3C being proposed. It's like comparing the crime in Knox County to Franklin County simply because they're both in Ohio. It's apples and oranges, and EVERYONE knows why LIRR doesn't turn a profit - look at who's heading it right now.

    Additionally, Modern's analysis of a company wanted to refurbish train cars. Look at what that industry did for Plattsburgh, NY. All the trains for the NY/NJ/CT metro area are refurbished up there. The downturn in the economy hasn't hit this sleepy little town in NY. It created jobs which lead to more people moving there which lead to the construction of new businesses, Lowe's, it's first Target and houses are actually SELLING there for a PROFIT.

    Regardless of what Kasich wants to do with it, perhaps he should have ALL THE FACTS before making a decision. That's the mark of a good leader. Wait the study out - who knows what will come of the study that has nothing to do with rail. A leader who is looking down a $800B deficit gun with little on specifics should get the facts before spouting off his mouth. Otherwise, it'll seem all too convenient that the people of NY (where Kasich spent many a day/night fundraising) will profit from his decision rather than those of us stuck here in Ohio with him as a governor.

  12. On avg., at any time of day, it takes me about 2 1/2 hours (@ avg. 70 mph)to go from downtown Columbus to downtown Cleveland at a cost of about $20 in gas. Any train would have to beat this time, price, and convenience in order to make it viable. From what I can tell, this endeavor won't even come close; therefore, it must be scrubbed regardless of the number of jobs saved or created.

    If Joe Hallett thinks it is a good idea, then it must be stupidest idea ever devised by man.


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