February 19, 2017 – Commentary from TRA President Peter LeCody –

And I always thought that the CATO folks cherished private enterprise over taxpayer funded projects. Gee, was I dead wrong.

I guess they need to have a talk with Randall O’Toole. This is a guy who “never saw a road he didn’t like” (apologies to paraphrase Will Rogers). He would have us pour asphalt and concrete highways until we run out of natural resources.

O’Toole attacks the privately financed Texas Central – The Texas Bullet Train project even harder than he has lambasted Amtrak in the past. Motive?

Let me address a couple of points in Mr. O’Toole article https://www.cato.org/…/c…/trump-train-between-houston-dallas

“Certainly by 2050, self-driving cars will dominate highways. People in self-driving cars will be less time-sensitive than those who have to drive themselves, so the time advantage of high-speed rail will be less important.” OK- I like the idea of self-driving cars but if I am to be productive I’m still not going to sit in a car for 4+ hours between Dallas and Houston. When autonomous cars can go 200mph like a bullet train and get me there in 90 minutes I will reconsider.

“Southwest, American and United airlines currently offer dozens of flights a day between the two Houston and two Dallas airports. Typical flights take 60 minutes, and prices start at under $100.”
Fly today (2/19/17) from Dallas to Houston and you will pay $225-$321 one way. You have to book out March 12 or later to come close to $100 one way so that number is misleading. Mr. O’Toole probably forgot that Southwest Airlines pulled OUT of the Dallas Love Field to Bush Intercontinental Airport a decade ago. Southwest used to fly ever 15 minutes during peak hours from Love to Houston Hobby. Now it’s every 30 minutes peak and sometimes only hourly now. Maybe that’s why the 240 mile run is the sweet spot for high speed trains. Less airport hassle, minimum hour-ahead arrival and flight delays.

“It might even be possible to build more airports in major urban areas so Dallas- and Houston-area residents can choose among four or five locations at either end.” Mr. O’Toole, do you REALLY think that Texans will go for more airports in the DFW and Houston market? More congestion, more land needed, more noise? Trains need a tiny footprint compared to airports and as our state population continues to swell we will have additional transportation options to get us to the train stations, from both the public and private sectors. We don’t need more airports, we need a sound long-term multi-modal transportation plan.

Here’s a private company willing to build and operate the first high speed trains in the U.S. We should give them a little wiggle room and encourage them onward. I think it’s time for the CATO folks to see if Mr. O”Toole is headed down the wrong track.

It’s on that infrastructure list. But does it make economic sense?