Passenger trains tie us to our nation’s history and they remind us of far-away destinations and adventures. But we should not allow our nostalgia to cloud our rational thoughts about good public policy. Especially when it involves taxpayer dollars. The plan to restart passenger service from Mobile to New Orleans, with stops along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a great example of letting pleasant-sounding promises overpower railroad cars full of empirical evidence and common sense. Mississippi leaders have committed $15 million of taxpayer money to the initial infrastructure costs to restart the Gulf Coast line. The project has also received $33 million in federal grants. Even though this line of passenger travel, which runs on railroad lines owned by CSX, was discontinued in 2005 due to declining interest, we’re being told this attempt will be different. Has the mindset of travelers along the coast changed that much? Most of the political leaders are on board, claiming it will create jobs, grow the economy, and increase our quality of life. But are new people actually coming to the coast because of a train, or is it just visitors who previously traveled by car? And can we objectively evaluate how this impacts… Read full this story
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