One of many reasons why high-speed rail in America is doomed, from Systemic Failure:
When DB or Renfe or even SNCF needs to buy a high-speed train, they simply call up Siemens (or Alstom or Talgo) and order some trains. Simple as that. Customization consists of painting a logo on the outside, and maybe choosing colors for the interior. It is no different than how United or Continental orders airplanes, or how Hertz orders automobiles.
Now consider the process for building trains in the USA. Under FTA rules, all train components must be 100% manufactured in the US. And to guarantee no foreign manufacturing takes place, regulators will devise enough oddball design specs that bidders have no choice but to custom design the rolling stock from scratch. Then, local municipalities compete to offer huge tax breaks to lure a manufacturer.
For transit agencies, this nonsense results in 100% higher costs for vehicle procurement. And even as a jobs program, the cost-effectiveness is abysmal.
I know I haven’t really addressed high-speed rail in a comprehensive way, but that’s mostly because the concept so enrages and saddens me that it’s hard for me to sum up all my negative feelings about it in one post. The arguments against it seem so obvious, and yet the idea has somehow become the primary plank of Obama’s transportation policy.
It gives railed transit a bad name, and the fact that its current incarnations are supported by Greater Greater Washington and Streetsblog – blogs whose regions aren’t even being considered for the money! – and pretty much every other urbanist blog out there really disappoints me. To everyone who’s sullying the name of transit and urbanism with this ridiculous white elephant: shame on you.