Monday, November 26, 2007

The New Negative Railroad

Megan McArdle’s explanation for why American high-speed rail sucks...
The answer is that the Acela uses existing track, which is twisty, the better to serve every congressional district between here and Boston. Real high speed rail needs to be fairly straight, for the same reason you don't take hairpin turns at 120 mph in your car.
…reminded me of Frederic Bastiat’s tongue-in-cheek proposal for a “negative railroad” – that is, a railroad consisting entirely of stops:
But if Bordeaux has a right to profit from a break in the tracks, and if this profit is consistent with the public interest, then Angoulême, Poitiers, Tours, Orléans, and, in fact, all the intermediate points, including Ruffec, Châtellerault, etc., etc., ought also to demand breaks in the tracks, on the ground of the general interest—in the interest, that is, of domestic industry—for the more there are of these breaks in the line, the greater will be the amount paid for storage, porters, and cartage at every point along the way. By this means, we shall end by having a railroad composed of a whole series of breaks in the tracks, i.e., a negative railroad.
That was written in 1845, by the way. The more things change...

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