Transportation expert handily counters the outrageous conspiracy theories being pushed by anti-passenger rail groups & leaders.
By Jacob Engels
Earlier this month, Robert Poole — who serves as the Director of Transportation for the Reason Foundation — wrote an article in support of All Aboard Florida – a privately owned, maintained, and run high speed passenger rail system. The Reason foundation is a libertarian leaning think-tank.
Poole described the rail project as a “worthwhile effort,” and attempted to dispel what he sees as silly conspiracy theories. He said that All Aboard Florida has identified a market niche where fast (up to 125mph) passenger rail is quicker than auto travel and less of a hassle than air travel. The people at All Aboard Florida, and their supporters have told us this for months. Now it seems even a right-leaning think-tank regularly wary of such projects agrees.
All Aboard Florida is asking for a $1.5 billion federal loan to pay for construction of its project from West Palm Beach to Orlando. It used a $405 million bond to help pay for its Miami to West Palm Beach construction costs, which include building stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Both the bond & loan are to be paid back in full, thus defeating the argument that taxpayer dollars are being utilized or wasted.
“The conspiracy buffs expect the passenger project to tank, with the (Federal Railroad Administration) loans turning into de-facto grants to FEC Railway’s freight operation. That’s silly,” Poole wrote. “First of all, most FRA loans already go to freight railroads for track and rolling stock investments. So there was no need to create a passenger rail service in order to get RRIF loans.”
Ultra-Conservative Tea Party Leader Victoria Bear of Jacksonville claims the All Aboard Florida Miami-to-Orlando high speed train is a secret government plot to “confiscate our cars and control our mobility”. This has become typical of the growingly vocal far right opposition to the $2.5 billion rail project that is funded with hundreds of millions in risk capital and seeks federal loans which require 100 % repayment.
Randal O’Toole, a rail expert and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said Poole is a legitimate source for transportation issues and strongly opposes government subsidies.
At least three formal groups have emerged to fight All Aboard Florida including Citizens Against Rail Expansion, Florida NOT All Aboard, and Citizens Against the Train Fund, which debuted a TV commercial Monday in opposition to the project.
These groups are heavily financed and organized by ultra wealthy residents along the proposed rail line, who are taking “Not in my backyard” to a whole new level. They claim All Aboard Florida would disrupt traffic patterns by daily delays, cause safety problems, and be too loud for residents and tourists. Each and every one of those claims have been thoroughly addressed and debunked.
All Aboard Florida released a video last month that showed that for each time the train would require to move through a crossroads, it would take at most 45 seconds from the time the train tracks shut down the roadway until the train passed and traffic was released. From the start, officials with AAF have also promised to pay for any needed safety enhancements and updates on currently standing crossings.
Poole does address the issue of an increase in 32 passenger trains per day in his paper as a “real concern” to communities bisected by the FEC tracks.
But, he’s mostly unsympathetic to their plight.
“Increases and decreases in train volumes are a fact of life if a rail line runs through your town. My assessment at this point is that this still looks like a worthwhile effort to re-introduce passenger rail service on a commercial basis,” Poole wrote. “Most of the concerns raised by opponents are not serious, and I expect AAF will be providing more specifics on its plans for grade crossing and drawbridge improvements.”
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org