Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper helped sell metro Denver on a 122-mile commuter rail and light rail system that is now more than $2 billion in the hole. But that hasn't dimmed his ardor for Coloradans riding the rails - or his desire to spend other people's money.
At a recent gubernatorial campaign event in Fort Collins, Hickenlooper was asked his views on passenger rail on the Front Range.
Geographically, we are perfectly set for it," he said. "We're probably 10, probably 20 years away from having enough density. You have to look at what is the capital cost...And what does that cost per person, do we really get a benefit to society, if you have enough people that would use it?
Even as busy as the road is, you probably wouldn't get enough use of it right now. Ten years, maybe 15 or 20 years, absolutely...The Rocky Mountains concentrate people along the Front Range, which sets us up for some kind of system like that. So, that will definitely happen. It will happen in our own lifetime. Hopefully...high speed. It only costs...my grandfather always said, "It only costs a little more to go first class."
Actually, such a mass transit project would cost a fortune, according to an Rocky Mountain Rail Authority feasibility study.
And high-speed rail might do little to relieve traffic congestion, according to Randal O'Toole, who was an early critic of Denver's $4.7 billion FasTracks referendum in 2004 and has written detailed criticisms of federal and regional rail spending.
"'Not a single high-speed track built to date has had any perceptible impact on the road traffic' in Europe, says Ari Vatanen, a European Parliament member," O'Toole wrote in a 2009 column, "A High-Speed Rail Mirage." "California predicts its 220-mph trains would take just 3.5% of cars off of roads. California highway traffic grows that much every two years."
Now if Hick wants to fly first class or, with these kind of numbers, via private jet, that's up to him and his wallet. But earth to grandpa - first class costs 5 to 10 times as much as coach and private can cost far more. Pretty typical liberal thinking to lump "a little bit" right along with 10 to 100x. "A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money." Who said? Usually attributed to Everett Dirksen but clearly not believed by John Hickenlooper.
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