|When the Media Loses Its Skepticism - High Speed Rail Edition |
April 19, 2012, 8:32 am
I have said for a long time that I don’t really think there is a lot of outright media bias in the sense of conspiring to bury or promote certain memes. But there are real issues with the leftish monoculture of the media losing its skepticism on certain topics.
For example, high speed rail is one of those things we are just supposed to do, from the Leftish view. Harry Reid’s justification for a high speed rail line is typical: he wants to see ”America catch up with the rest of the world”. Everyone else has these things, so it must be some failing of ours that we don’t. For the left, the benefits of high speed rail are a given, they are part of the liturgy and not to be questioned. Which means that it is up to outsiders to do the media’s work of applying some degree of skepticism whenever a high speed rail project is proposed.
Thus we get to this article on high speed rail about a supposedly “private” rail line from LA to Las Vegas. As is usual in the media, none of the assumptions are questioned.
Greg Pollowitz gets at some of the more obvious problems. First, it is fairly heroic spin to call a line that currently is getting $4.9 billion in public subsidies “privately funded.” Second, he points out that, like the proposed California high speed rail line, this is a train to nowhere as well
And second of all, having grown up in Los Angeles — and having lied to my parents to drive to Vegas since the time I was 16 years old — I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the Los Angeles to Vegas drive. (CNN, Fox, MSDNC — call me!) I remember Victorville fondly as the place where we’d make our food-stop and pick up some In-N-Out burgers for the final half of the journey. And I can tell you this: There is no way anybody would ever drive through L.A.’s notorious traffic only to stop halfway and hop on a train on the other side of the El Cajon Pass and in doing so give up their personal transportation once they actually get to Vegas. I want to reality-check their usage numbers.
DesertXpress estimates that it will carry around five million round trip passengers in the first full year of operation,with the company charging fares of around $50 for a one-way trip. OK, right now there are about 3.7 annual air passengers between Las Vegas and the southern California airports, according to rail supporters. It is hard to get at drivers, but the Las Vegas tourism folks believe that 25% of 36 million annual visitors to Vegas come from Southern California, so that would mean about 9 million total or about 5 million driving.
What this means is that to make this work, they are counting on more than half of all visitors from Southern California (and remember this includes San Diego) taking the train. Is this reasonable?
So are drivers going to stop half way to Vegas, once they have completed the hard part of the drive, to get on a train? Are flyers going to drive 1-2 hours further to get to the rail terminal to say $20? Some will. But will more than half? No way.
- The train is supposedly $50 (I will believe that when I see it). Currently JetBlue flies from Burbank to Las Vegas for $56 in a flight that takes 69 minutes (vs. 84 for the train and remember that is from Victorville). The standard rate from LAX, Burbank, or Long Beach seems to be around $74-77.
- Airplanes leave for Las Vegas from airports all around LA and in San Diego. Let’s take a couple of locations. Say you live near downtown LA, not because that is likely but it is relatively central and does not feel like cherry picking. Victorville is a 84 mile 90 minute drive AT BEST, with no traffic. The Burbank airport is a 15 mile, 18 minute drive from LA. LAX is just a bit further. Victorville is 82 miles and 90 minutes from Irvine and 146 miles/144 minutes from San Diego. Both of these Southern California towns are just a few minutes from an airport with $70-ish flights to Vegas
Postscript: If you really want to promote the train, forget shoveling tax money at it and pass a law that the TSA may not set up screening operations at its terminus. That might get a few customers, though the odds this would happen, or that it would stick over time, are minuscule.