I agree with Kunstler on the latest tiny wad of borrowed cash being tossed at high-speed trains.
Readers know that I regard fixing the US passenger rail system as hugely important.. But this strikes me as a somewhat deceptive venture. First, bear in mind that $8 billion is way way less than Obama shoveled into rescuing the car companies (not to mention the banks, the GSE's, et cetera). It's not very much money for truly shaping up a national network. I maintain that real high-speed rail is far less important than fixing the regular-speed system that is still sitting out there rusting in the rain, waiting to be restored. In fact, I regard high-speed rail proposals as a species of techno-grandiosity, given how bankrupt we are. I maintain that the public would be delighted to ride trains that went 70-mph and ran on schedule. Anyway, my sense of the proposal at-hand is that it mostly represents research-and-development, and that little actual rail service may come out of it. That said, I hope it works out better than I suspect it will.
These are trains that will cost more than planes to ride so I'll probably never get a chance to ride one. Politically, they're winners. Obama wants to be associated with fast cutting-edge technology (although these trains are old technologies at this point) and doesn't want to propose something as boring as fixing the decrepit U.S. mass-transit system that exists. Of course, an even more substantive change would be to create denser and more livable housing clusters in big cities and then create excellent bus systems that ran constantly, were cheap, and ran on time with lanes devoted solely to buses. That said, at least it's money that isn't being used to buy a couple new jet fighters that will never be used.