Romance of the Rails

Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need

[Amazon Link]

Randal O'Toole loves railroads, but he's not blindly in love. As the subtitle implies, there's very little case to be made for thinking that passenger rail is a good solution at any level: intra-city, commuter, cable car, light-rail, whatever: it almost never makes a lot of economic sense.

The first part of the book is an interesting history of American "mass" transportation, how it evolved to its state today. Then it looks at the current sad state of affairs: rail service propped up by hefty taxpayer subsidies; proposals that overpromise ridership, underestimate costs (and often get greenlighted anyway); deferred maintenance; aging infrastructure. Even the hyped "Northeast Corridor" (Boston-Washington) doesn't survive O'Toole's analysis.

Note that our fair state is about to get into this boondoggle: N.H. Capitol Rail Project Advances to Next Stage. Aieee! Somebody buy copies of this book to spread around Concord!