“The plan to reach 80 percent of the US population with passenger rail is somewhat arbitrary – passenger rail should be built only where it is needed and justified, not with some goal of total coverage in mind,” says Michael Gorman, associate professor of business at the University of Dayton in Ohio. “Rejection of passenger rail in states like Florida and Ohio is different than the more densely populated areas in California and the Northeast, because projected ridership is lower and passenger rail is less economically justified.”
Governor spells out concerns
In declining more than $2 billion in federal funds for the proposed Orlando-to-Tampa line, Scott said federal government’s ridership and revenue estimates are too optimistic, meaning that Florida taxpayers would have to subsidize the line. He also suggested that cost overruns could leave Florida taxpayers having to foot a $3 billion bill.
“The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” Scott said.
These concerns are well-founded, says Ken Button, director of the Center for Transportation Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “One major concern expressed by the governors is that the ridership will be lower than forecast and [the projects would] turn out to cost much higher," he says. “Experience suggests they will be right: forecasts of all forms of public-transport use throughout the world have tended to be optimistic, and cost estimates have been way below the actual cost.”