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for whom the road tolls

By enelson
Thursday, October 12th, 2006 at 11:55 pm in BART, Freeways, high-speed rail, rail, tolls.

Photo from

tilting high speed rail from rewin-nl.jpg

The Bay Area’s dean of tranportation politics, Norm Mineta, was the star attraction at the annual meeting of the American Public Transportation Association.

What he had to say was, basically, that our transportation can’t go on being strictly public. What we need to do is get more private investors to help build our transportation infrastructure, as well as sucker them, I mean, show them the wisdom of operating it as well.

He gave examples, according to the Mercury News:

In 2005 Chicago leased some of its toll roads to a private company for $1.83 billion. The company maintains the road and keeps the toll fees.

After that move was announced, Mineta said, leaders in the finance industry started to take notice.

“We do it for roads and airports,” but, he said, it may be time for public transportation planners to seek private funding for a wider array of projects.

If�the $20 billion Prop 1B transportation bond doesn’t pass, we’ll certainly need McAfee or somebody to build that BART extension to San Jose.

As it is, very few public transportation systems pay for themselves. BART does a pretty good job of paying its operating costs, but�the capital expenditures needed to expand the system are something that�can’t adequately be expressed after the passing of Carl Sagan.

And as that European guy said on Monday, high-speed rail would really�get people back onto transit. When I say back, I mean�back like they were before Eisenhower was president.

But back to the idea of privatization: Frequent�CC commenter�Bruce De Benedictis, in questioning my paraphrasing of California High Speed Rail’s claims of profitability and economy, asks�why no private transportation provider has stepped up to make this $30 billion project happen.

I’m just guessing here, but I can think of a few reasons. One, those assumptions are dubious. The idea that migrant workers will find it economical comes to mind. A Bay Area-to-Los Angeles fare of under $30 may have also gotten stuck in a few gullets. Two, if there is someone out there who believes these utopian-sounding predictions, they might be hanging back until the government puts up most of the capital costs, and then needs a private contractor to run the line. If not, there’s always Amtrak.

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One Response to “for whom the road tolls”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    El Camino Real was NOT built by the ‘private sector’ and neither were the airports or the Interstates. As to the railroads, almost ALL have been bankrupt at least once often several times. BART was technicly so when half built, the Chunnel is close a second time. All that said, transport is a necessity, thus imho it is incimbent on government to provide, subsidize, encourage, and regulate same in the interest of the citizens. Expecting auch to make “profit” is analogous to seeing police or fire services as profit centers.
    As tp HSR, a well designed and implemented TGV would allow reducing airplane flights==a major waste of energy on a per capita basis.

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