President Barack Obama’s announcement last week to support a high-speed rail project in Florida with more than $1 billion is an example of wasteful spending.
With the state and national budget crippled by recession, awarding $1.25 billion toward the project seems rash. And Florida even requested $2.6 billion for funding the rail line that will stretch along Interstate 4 and connect Tampa to Orlando.
This money needs to go toward a more beneficial program, such as paying off the national debt. Proponents of the system say it will create 23,000 jobs in Florida, according to Fox News. This may sound appealing, but it’s hard to believe profits will outweigh costs. It will take years for benefits to surpass production costs.
Amtrak, a government-run train system, still has a profit-loss margin. A study by the CATO Institute shows Amtrak travel “represents just .007 percent of all daily commuter work trips” in the U.S., and there is “virtually no impact on reducing traffic congestion, pollution or energy use.”
One of the main issues concerning high-speed rail is the cost difference between driving a car and taking the train. The trip from Tampa to Orlando is predicted to take 44 minutes by rail and is normally just more than an hour by car.
The SunRail ride could cost between $10 to $30, according to Bay News 9. But once passengers get to Tampa or Orlando, they’ll likely have to take a taxi or bus to a specific location. Families traveling together will have to spend even more on fare.
In the end, the cost of travel won’t be any different. Fifteen to 20 minutes of extra travel time isn’t worth the money.
A major selling point for this system is its stop at Disney World.
Disney announced plans to set aside 50 acres of land for the railway stop. Targeting families will require plenty of luggage storage. But it’s unclear if that would cost extra. A whole trip for a family could cost more than filling up a car with gas.
The SunRail doesn’t seem to be family efficient, which will be a huge target audience with Disney as one of the stops. What once seemed like a fun trip on a high-speed rail now becomes expensive and inconvenient. It seems the project is tailored to a select demographic.
The rail system will not benefit enough people to outweigh its costs, and Floridians are too comfortable driving their own vehicles to change their ways. In the midst of education cuts by the state Legislature, it’s more important to put the money toward something worthwhile.
Katie Toot is a sophomore majoring in mass communications,