Letter: Not enough lipstick available to make rail service look good

In a recent article by Timothy Boone, a study by HNTB sponsored by John Spain, of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Capital Region Planning Commission and the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission is a typical answer to a politician’s economic dream.

HNTB claims the rail service would cost riders as low as $20 round trip and take approximately 95 minutes one way. This trip would cover approximately 80 miles with seven stops, traveling at 79 mph. The annual operating subsidy would be nearly $6.8 million.

Here is where the politicians’ “Kool-Aid” kicks in. First, the trip would be considerably longer than the estimated 95 minutes. Assume a train travels at 79 mph; that would take 60 minutes to cover the distance. Now include the seven proposed stops at just 10 minutes per stop, and you can add 70 minutes to your travel time, assuming a train can go from 0-79 mph in one minute. That’s a fallacy! So now we have approximately 70 minutes for stops and 60 minutes for travel time, and we are at 130 minutes one way: two hours, 10 minutes total travel time.

A car leaving Baton Rouge for New Orleans on I-10 can travel at an average speed of 60 mph. This trip would take approximately 90 minutes and not have to make seven stops. The cost would be 80 miles at 15 miles per gallon at $3.50 per gallon, or $18.66. Round trip would be in the $37 range.

Now assume the cost of the round trip is $20. (Nothing budgeted by politicians is ever correct.) You will have to add taxi fares, departure parking fees and time wasted waiting for the afternoon return trip. Actual cost to riders: unknown.

The estimated annual operations subsidy is nearly $6.8 million. Estimated revenue at 210,000 annual riders paying $20 round-trip fares amounts to $4.2 million in revenue, leaving the taxpayers with a $2.6 million deficit to fund so our politicians can claim the rail service a success. An initial estimate for just one bridge upgrade covering just 1.8 miles is estimated at $62.1 million. Is the entire rail line between the two cities sufficient to handle this type of traffic? I doubt it.

Good luck putting lipstick on this pig. Take a look at the Amtrak figures evaluated by politicians. The rail service looks similar to the CATS proposal.

Ray Dixon

retired oilfield worker