Michael Barone picked up the column, and the usual suspects are raising the usual objections.
Mr Barone's description of the bus service is incomplete.
It’s part of a larger trend for private companies to offer convenient and inexpensive bus service. A one-way ticket on the bus costs $18, compared to a likely train fare of more than $50. And the bus takes only three hours and 50 minutes to get from Iowa City to Chicago. That’s one hour and 10 minutes faster than the “high-speed” train.That bus service is less than meets the eye. It's a by subscription service, without public timetables, and the service is not as frequent or as cheap as Messrs Barone and Cox would have you believe. I did a search for a weekday round trip from Chicago (the bus loads outside Union Station) to Iowa City and return. Leave Chicago at five this afternoon, arrive Iowa City at the corner of Dubuque and Court Streets 8.50 pm, $28. Return tomorrow afternoon, leave 7.10 pm, arrive at Union Station at 11 pm, $28. No mention of intermediate stops for passengers or food or potty or smoke breaks.
So let’s get this straight. The progressive, modern, “win the future” high-speed rail, which would cost the taxpayers of Iowa millions, would be slower than existing bus service and would cost more. Why ever would Iowa want to spend one dime on this project?
But the critics of Passenger Rail are correct on one point. Iowa can have a passenger train that's time competitive with the bus, and for less money than the national government and the states of Illinois and Iowa are paying to keep patching Interstate 80. I give you Traditional Passenger Rail.
I took the picture at the Illinois Railway Museum on Memorial Day. Inasmuch as the Iowa fast train is to start on the Burlington racetrack as far as Wyanet, where it gets on the Rock Island Line, and both railroads operated fixed-formation stainless steel train sets with Twelve Hundred Horsepower or Eighteen Hundred Horsepower locomotives, it serves. Along the way, a train is capable of setting passengers down at Rock Island for the casinos, or stopping at Naperville to pick up Illinoisans for whom being a Hawkeye unaccountably dominates being a Huskie. And that timing on the intercity bus?
The aforementioned Des Moines Rocket reached Iowa City in 4 hours 25 minutes on the timetable in effect in June of 1954, and the Rocky Mountain Rocket was there 3 hours 54 minutes after leaving Chicago.Note: more than one train a day. The value of a corridor is in having multiple trains making intermediate stops (but not so many intermediate stops to destroy the speed advantage of the train over longer distances.) It doesn't have to involve fancy electric trains or all the other European trappings the highway lobby's useful idiots masquerading as libertarians like to invoke. Good old diesel locomotives geared for 117 mph with rakes of stainless steel coaches connected the Midwest with a passenger train network destroyed partly by the carriers' loss of interest in being railroads, and partly by public spending on interstate highways that are themselves wearing out.