Friday, April 22, 2005

Trains vs. Highways

Tim West defends the interstate highway system here.

I concede that the interstate highway system was a net positive for the US. So, in hindsight, I guess it makes sense to say that it was a "good move."

But, doesn't a government-funded system of roads essentially equal a de facto subsidization of the automobile industry? The prevalence of good roads to travel on resulted in (1) the development of a massive trucking industry, and (2) the development of "sprawled" cities, where cars are a necessity for even basic provisions. In other words, more interstates = more car sales.

What if interstates had not been developed? What would have happened to the US? Would we be a third world country? Would we not be a superpower?

Or would we be even more powerful because we weren't dependent on foreign oil to power our now-necessary automobiles? Sure, there would always be cars in America, but maybe trains would have been much bigger players in long distance commercial and personal transportation. Imagine how much more advanced rail technology would be if US companies had gone full speed ahead on train technology development for the last 50 years...


At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Timothy West said...

Remember, while the primary funding was thru taxes, most of these roads are now IN THE BLACK, having been paid for by the user fees on gas taxes and tolls. I know the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has been in the black for >15 years and yet you still have to pay a buck to use it.

What would be better for LP purposes would be that all moneys collected by toll facilities in the USA after recoupment of construction costs be rebated to the public minus the maintenence cost. After these things have paid for themselves, why should government continue to collect on it? Thats that much better angle for the LP to take. Simply railing against public roads is a big loser and make the LP look like a bunch of flakes.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Christopher Monnier said...

That's a good solution for the current situation. Obviously we can't go back in time and stop government-funded roads from ever existing.

It would be nice, though, to see some type of incentive offered to companies that can develop transportation solutions between cities.

Let's take New York and Boston. Many people travel between the two cities on a daily basis. There's obviously a need for a transportation solution, there.

What if the government awarded a temporary monopoly contract to whatever company could do this the cheapest? The user fees for the transportation solution would never pass through the hands of the government (ideally). The solution would be owned by a private company.

Now, the solution might be some ultra-modern, high speed mag-lev train. Or, it may be a new freeway connecting the two cities. Either way, the solution wouldn't be owned by the government.


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