‘Job creation’ and rail

The latest talking point parroted by the Left in its campaign to secure (borrowed) federal dollars for high-speed rail in North Carolina is that the project would create 4,800 jobs, and that blocking the funding would destroy those illusory jobs. (As an example, here’s a tweet from Raleigh City Councilwoman Mary Anne Baldwin.)

Assuming you buy the job-creation line, let’s do the math. Washington has dangled $500 million as an enticement to participate in the project. That funding would lead to 4,800 jobs. So each job would cost taxpayers $104,167. Deal?

But wait, there’s more. Much more. Anyone who’s spent more than a few seconds studying the economics of passenger rail knows that the start-up costs are merely a down payment. No North American rail line covers its operating expenses with fares (in fact, most pay less than half their way at the ticket booth) and high-speed rail would not ease traffic congestion, since the average North Carolinian would take a round-trip ride on the train once every 27 years.

But trains are really cool, and much more civilized than using cars, and besides, we’re flush with cash. Right?

Rick Henderson / NcIcl-dot-0rg

Rick Henderson became editor-in-chief of Carolina Journal in August 2016 after being managing editor of Carolina Journal since April 2009. Before that, he had worked more than...

Reader Comments

  • George Leef

    This is a perfect example of the economic problem of big government. The resources necessary for the rail line will be diverted from profitable uses elsewhere and devoted to an “investment” that will make some politicians and activists delighted but soak the taxpayers endlessly. Individuals don’t waste their own time and money on work or hobbies that bring them less value than cost, but politicians aren’t spending their own money.

  • Rick, I’ve heard that someone in the GA has filed a bill to question the obtaining of rail funds to improve passenger rail service. Do you have any updates on that?

  • Rick Henderson

    Jenna, it’s House Bill 422 (http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=H422), now before the Transportation Committee. Ric Killian of Charlotte is the lead sponsor.