Evacuated Tube Transport | A Silver Bullet

Nix the Bullet Train to Bankruptcy

* By: Larry Walker, Jr. *

Forget about airplanes, electric cars, algae biofuel, and the bullet train to bankruptcy, evacuated tube transport is the wave of the future. At 1/10th the cost of high speed rail, and 1/4th the cost of a freeway, with top speeds of 370 mph intrastate and 4,000 mph interstate/international, silent, safe, and faster than jets, ET3’s six passenger frictionless magnetic levitation capsules are far more viable than any other form of transportation on the horizon.

Does the idea of travelling from New York to L.A. in 45 minutes, without a TSA pat down, and at a fraction of the cost sound appealing to you? Would I buy a ticket? Hell yeah! I would ride today if I could. Looks like the government can cancel its plans on that $500 billion high-speed rail network to nowhere. It’s already obsolete.

There’s just one caveat: Let the private sector run it.

Reference: http://www.et3.com/

Obamarail | The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy

Train Wreck at Eschede

Or death, whichever comes first

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

From January through November of 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration received some 8,050 reports of injuries and deaths among railroad workers, rail passengers and people crossing tracks in vehicles or on foot. Yet, while several Republican governors (namely Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio) have turned their backs on Obama’s irrationally exuberant spending binge, including his envisioned high-speed rail system, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the administration would press forward in a “patchwork fashion” if necessary. In other words – Safety, Supply and Demand, and Cost-Benefit be damned. Who cares what the citizens or governors want; LaHood, Biden and Obama know what’s best for all of us, right? I know, I know, “we can’t afford not to spend money that we don’t have.” Yeah, whatever!

Rail Safety?

As stated above, during the first eleven months of 2010 there were 8,050 reports of injuries and deaths among railroad workers, rail passengers and people crossing tracks in vehicles or on foot. So in an effort to improve safety, the federal government is proposing to increase rail speeds from 60 to 80 miles per hour, to speeds of more than 200 mph. If it takes a 100 car freight train travelling 55 miles per hour over 1 mile to stop, one can only imagine how long it takes a passenger train travelling over 200 mph.

In the famous Eschede rail disaster (pictured above), the train was only travelling at 125 mph, yet by the time a passenger was able to report that a wheel had fallen off, within seconds the train derailed leaving 101 persons dead and 88 injured. You may find a detailed listing of pre-1950 through January-2011 railroad accidents here. It appears that instead of addressing the current dilemma, the administration has once again taken the high road to solving imagined 23rd Century problems.

Modal Ratio - click to enlarge

Demand / Benefit

Rail usage statistics reflect not only the “popularity” of rail travel (for example, in Japan) but also the geography of the country. “For instance, the United Kingdom is a relatively small, densely populated country where many more short journeys are made compared to a larger, much less densely populated country such as the United States. To gauge the true importance of rail travel, the number of journeys (however short or long) needs to be calculated.

By this method one finds that the number of intercity rail journeys per year in the United States per inhabitant is so small as to be almost immeasurable. The U.S. figure is approximately 0.08 journeys per inhabitant per year, compared with the United Kingdom’s figure of 17.54 journeys per person. These statistics imply that Britons use the train 219 times more than Americans.

So while perhaps high-speed rail would be important in counties like China, Japan, and the United Kingdom it will have very little impact in the United States. In other words, there is very little demand for intercity rail transportation in the U.S., in spite of the administration’s delusional scheme. Where I come from, that’s not exactly a smart strategy.

Investing any money in any venture which lacks enough demand to recover said investment, along with a reasonable profit, is just plain foolish. While the U.S. has a population of roughly 305,000,000, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), a Washington, DC based lobbyist, can only boast in membership of approximately 23,500, representing a whopping 0.0077% of Americans.


Supply / Cost

According to a May 2009 report in the Business Insider, a true national high-speed rail network would cost more than $500 billion. California is attempting to build a true high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles capable of top speeds of 220 miles per hour and average speeds of 140 miles per hour. The environmental analysis report for the California high-speed rail had projected costs of $33 billion for just 400 miles. Meanwhile, the Midwest Rail Initiative had projected costs of $7.7 billion for 3,150 miles of moderate-speed rail. That’s $82 million per mile for true high-speed rail (partly because the California project goes through some mountains) and only $2.4 million for moderate-speed rail.

All things being equal, high-speed rail will cost 10 to 12 times more than moderate-speed rail. Knowing this, the administration’s idea is to press forward in a “patchwork fashion” (i.e. Spend $53 billion here and there to get it started, and then beg for more cash every year). I guess it would be nice if we had an extra $500 billion to burn, and even nicer if there was any real demand to support the plot. But, maybe there’s a way to make this all work out after all.

Mandatory Ridership

Perhaps like Obamacare, Obamarail could be funded by requiring every citizen to purchase a ‘mandatory’ seasonal rail pass. The government could even implement another “cash for clunkers” program, but this time when you bring in the old gas-guzzler for crushing, you get a discount on season rail passes. And if you are uncooperative, refusing to participate in the government’s mandatory rail program, you would pay a tax (but they would just call it a penalty). The government could even make the case that mandatory rail travel is covered under the Commerce Clause, because unless everyone buys a ticket, travel by high-speed rail would be cost prohibitive for the 0.0077% who really need to ride.

The IRS could then be called upon to implement the enforcement portion by requiring that a unique national rail ticket number be entered on everyone’s income tax return. And to put the icing on the cake, the CBO could make wildly unsubstantiated claims about how Obamarail will save the nation trillions of dollars over the next century, or some nonsense. Yeah, well, I have an idea about how to save trillions of dollars in the future too. My idea involves not squandering the next $53 billion in present value dollars – today, but as stated above, “who cares what the citizens want”.

The Bullet Train to Nowhere

When this despotic patchwork is complete, only then will we know whether it worked, but first, we have to squander $500 billion on Obamarail in order to find out. Imagine a nation where workers are able to take ‘shovel ready jobs’ hundreds of miles from home, to return once or twice per year via high-cost, oops, I mean high-speed rail, and you have China. The contention is that $53 billion is such a small price to pay for another patchwork adventure in government-side economics. In government-side economics, if the square peg doesn’t fit, then you hit it with a hammer, right? And if it still doesn’t work, then you simply go out on the campaign trail and convince everyone that it did.

In spite of having over-spent by more than $3 trillion during the past two years, they surmise that their only failure was not having spent enough. Do you suppose that if the federal government borrowed and spent another $3 trillion it would do the trick? ‘Maybe next time it will be different! I mean, it’s not like the nation has a fiscal problem or anything.’ Face it, this isn’t supply-side economics, and it’s definitely not demand-side, so that leaves only one possibility; it’s a government-run bullet train to nowhere.

This doesn’t sound like ‘winning the future’ to me. It sounds more like a bullet train to bankruptcy, or better yet, like ‘losing your future’. I mean the one in the near-term, in November of 2012. Are you ready for another shellacking?

Other References:



Derailed by Amtrak: The Money Drain

Train Wreck

40 Years in the Wilderness

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

Since 1971, the federal government has invested a total of $32.4 billion into the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (a.k.a. “Amtrak”). In return for this lucrative investment of taxpayer’s dollars, Amtrak has accumulated total net losses of $27.1 billion. If we were to average our investment over the last 40 years, it would equal approximately $810 million per year, yet in 2009 and 2010 U.S. taxpayers have pumped in an additional $1.6 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively. Thus it appears that Amtrak’s drain on our collective pocketbook is increasing. Likewise, if we were to average Amtrak’s losses over the past 40 years they would equal approximately $677 million per year, yet in 2009 and 2010 U.S. taxpayers have incurred losses of $1.5 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively. So it appears that our losses are also accelerating.

Paid In Capital


Comprehensive Loss

According to the latest independent auditors’ report, which was issued on December 16, 2010, “The Company has a history of substantial operating losses and is dependent upon substantial Federal government subsidies to sustain its operations…. Without such subsidies, Amtrak will not be able to continue to operate in its current form and significant operating changes, restructuring or bankruptcy may occur. Such changes or restructuring would likely result in asset impairments.” And that is exactly what needs to happen. Any entity which is run-by, backed-by, or subsidized-by the federal government and not able to sustain itself without reliance on the general fund should be either privatized, or shut down. The following excerpts are from the independent auditors’ report:

1676 International Drive
McLean, VA 22102

Independent Auditors’ Report
The Board of Directors and Stockholders
National Railroad Passenger Corporation:

{….} The Company has a history of substantial operating losses and is dependent upon substantial Federal government subsidies to sustain its operations. The Company is operating under continuing resolutions through December 18, 2010 as discussed in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements. The Company expects to receive additional interim Federal government funding under continuing resolutions until the fiscal year 2011 funding is approved. There are currently no Federal government subsidies appropriated for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012 (“fiscal year 2012”). Without such subsidies, Amtrak will not be able to continue to operate in its current form and significant operating changes, restructuring or bankruptcy may occur. Such changes or restructuring would likely result in asset impairments. {….}

December 16, 2010



The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak” or the “Company”) is a passenger railroad. The United States government (the “Federal Government”) through the United States Department of Transportation (the “DOT”) owns all issued and outstanding preferred stock. Amtrak’s principal business is to provide rail passenger transportation service in the major intercity travel markets of the United States. The Company also operates commuter rail operations on behalf of several states and transit agencies, provides equipment and right-of-way maintenance services, and has leasing operations.

Operations and Liquidity

Amtrak was incorporated in 1971 pursuant to the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 and is authorized to operate a nationwide system of passenger rail transportation. The Company has a history of recurring operating losses and is dependent on subsidies from the Federal Government to operate the national passenger rail system and maintain the underlying infrastructure. These subsidies are usually received through annual appropriations. In recent fiscal years appropriated funds for Amtrak have been provided to the DOT, which through its agency the Federal Railroad Administration (the “FRA”), provides those funds to Amtrak pursuant to operating funds and capital funds grant agreements, respectively. Amtrak’s ability to continue operating in its current form is dependent upon the continued receipt of subsidies from the Federal Government.


Audited Consolidated Financial Statements – Fiscal Year 2010

I love traveling by Amtrak but, to be honest, I have only ridden with them two or three times in the last 40 years. Amtrak, we love you, but you’ve got to go. If Amtrak is not able to make a profit, and thus return money to its investors, namely us, then what good is it? I could have flown to Cleveland for half the price that I paid for a sleeper car, and in a couple of hours versus the twenty-four that it took Amtrak. I literally can’t believe that having paid over $1,500 to ride from Atlanta to Cleveland, and back, that these guys can’t make a profit. I mean come on. Investing more public money into new rails and high speed trains is not the answer. Do you really believe that more people will ride trains if they were just a little bit faster? One can only imagine how much higher the fares (and losses) would be after such nonsense.

Capitalization (click to enlarge)

It’s time to fish, or cut bait. If the private sector can’t make Amtrak profitable, then it can’t be done. Private investors are not dumb enough to continue investing in something month-after-month, year-after-year which has never and will never return a profit, nor are taxpayers. If Amtrak were owned by the private sector, it would be no more. That’s just the way it is in the real-world. At the same time, if there is any hope at all, it lies within the private sector. It’s easy for the government to keep flushing good money down the drain, because it’s not their money. It’s our money, so let us make the choice. No one said it was going to be easy. It’s time to dump Amtrak.

The mandate: Amtrak will make the necessary structural changes to become profitable without additional governmental subsidies, and will return the taxpayers investment to the U.S. Treasury by the end of this fiscal year. If Amtrak continues to incur losses over the current fiscal year, then at close of business on September 30, 2011, its assets shall be sold and all proceeds returned to the Treasury.

Photo: http://media.photobucket.com/image/trainwreck+/rcoiteux/TrainWreck01.jpg

Source: Audited Consolidated Financial Statements – Fiscal Year 2010