A cost-benefit analysis of high-speed rail

Along with Seekerblog, count Tyler Cowen in the “not convinced” column, . From grad school days, because I had not done my homework on the real world economics, I was persuaded by the theme of mass transit,. It turns out that HSR works in a small number of special cases, while the general case favors buses and free-range transport like cars.

Matt Yglesias points us to this survey of costs and benefits from a Dallas-Houston high-speed rail link. I’m not convinced by many of the particulars of the argument, which claims to show that the link is a good idea. For instance will the train line really be built with green energy? Will 80 percent of flyers take the train? Is Madrid-Barcelona a good analogy?

More generally, my jaw dropped when I read the denouement:

In this more comprehensive model that takes into account trivialities like regional population growth and a reality-based route, the annual benefits total $840 million compared with construction and maintenance costs of $810 million.

I’m not sure what discount rates he is using but even if we put that problem aside this screams out: don’t do it.

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