February 16, 2017 – Chris Lippincott, TRA Executive Director –

The Reason Foundation recently issued a policy brief urging caution in the development of high-speed train service in Texas. Despite Reason’s reputation as a thoughtful participant in transportation policy debates, their new report is misleading, biased, and inaccurate.

Texas Rail Advocates, as statewide organization dedicated to supporting freight and passenger rail, is deeply disappointed that a report propped up on speculation and misunderstanding would confuse the important discussions in our state about how to improve passenger train service.

What Reason presented as a new report is a recounting of outdated and misapplied research by other groups. The report claims that businesses and families in Houston and Dallas have their transportation needs met by current plane and bus service which ignores booming populations and is asserted without any evidence. Put simply: The mess on I-45 tells us this report gets it wrong today and will only be farther off the mark tomorrow.

You can’t build very much on a shaky foundation. The Reason Foundation’s speculative report on Texas high-speed rail stakes its credibility on a TxDOT study that was never designed to support Reason’s claims. Reason asserts that in a state that continues to grow its population and its economy, demand for bullet train service would remain flat over four decades based on a TxDOT survey that intentionally declined to make such predictions. It’s hard to believe anything contained in such a biased misinterpretation of data as Reason has presented.

What’s just as confusing and frustrating is Reason’s wild, baseless speculation that the state or federal government may somehow end up on the hook for untold millions if private investors lose their confidence in the bullet train. The report provides no explanation of how or why taxpayers would be required to step in. Public officials would be under no obligations to lift a finger. Such alarmist, disingenuous speculation is disheartening.

The Reason Foundation’s scholars have consistently called for an increased role for private sector know-how to get our country out of traffic gridlock. The Texas Central bullet train project, which would be built without taxpayer subsidies, ought to be a cause for a celebration at the Reason Foundation, but instead, they’ve chosen to raise the specter of calamity without a thread of coherent evidence.

It is disappointing to see an organization that built a reputation on supporting private investment in public infrastructure launch a half-hearted attack on a bold effort by the business community to bring market-based solutions to our state’s transportation problems. We need transportation solutions. I hope that Texas is not waiting for an idea that meets the standards of the Reason Foundation’s LA-based headquarters. If we are, it looks like we will all be sitting in traffic for a long time.

 —

Chris Lippincott is the Executive Director of Texas Rail Advocates (TRA). TRA was formed in 2000 to educate and inform the public and private sector on the benefits of the then-newly-designated South Central High Speed Rail Corridor. TRA has evolved into a broader educational and informational resource that covers both freight and passenger rail issues in Texas and the Southwest. TRA is committed to advancing Texas’ economic growth and enhance the quality of life enjoyed by its people by advancing the development of rail service to its full potential as a carrier of freight and passengers. For more information, please visit: http://texasrailadvocates.org