No Government Trains, Please

Part of the Wichita Eagle opinion watch series.

A writer in the April 2, 2008 Wichita Eagle presses the case for passenger train service in Wichita. But there are several problems with the writer’s argument.

The writer makes this claim: “With Kansas’ vast wind resource, we could power our trains with no fossil fuels.” Yes, there is a lot of wind in Kansas. But it doesn’t blow continuously. What does the writer suggest we power the trains with at those times? Until there is an economically feasible method of storing the electricity generated by wind, we will be reliant on traditional methods of power generation. Wind can only be a supplement.

The writer admits that high-speed passenger train service will require a lot of public money. That’s okay, he says, as we presently spend a lot on our roads and traffic systems. The government-built and owned roads are frequently criticized, however. The fact that we’ve spent a lot on them — with often unsatisfactory results — is not an argument in favor of more government involvement in transportation systems. There is, in fact, a small movement towards more private highways, and there are persuasive arguments that all roads and highways should be privately owned.

If there is in fact a demand for high-speed rail travel in Kansas and the United States, let private entrepreneurs, rather than government, lead its development. That’s the best way to have a system that meets the needs of customers, rather than the needs of politicians and government bureaucrats.

I wonder if the writer remembers that the government does have a track record of owning and operating a railroad. That’s Amtrak, and having mentioned that, I believe no more needs to be said.

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