Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Build it Already!!

Some times, an idea comes along that's such a good idea that you wonder why they haven't done it yet.

there was an article in yesterday's Edmonton Journal called Albertans Jump on Bullet Train Bandwagon. Long story short: 70% of Albertans saying building a high speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary is a good idea, and that they would ride it. Even more, 67% of those surveyed said the government should pay for it!

For as long as I can remember, they've been talking about building a high speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary whenever the economy is doing good. Since the economy has been doing good for a long time, and rail travel has all kinds of environmentally friendly benefits, it's an idea that's finally picking up steam.

The government commissioned a feasability study a few months back, and it came back saying it was indeed feasable. A company has already been formed called Alberta High Speed Rail Inc. has been formed with the idea of putting it together someday. Their proposal would be for a bullet train that would get you from downtown Edmonton to downtown Calgary - with a brief stop in Red Deer - in 84 minutes.

A lot of people are for it. Premier Ed Stelmach is behind it, wisely pointing out that such a train would get around 25% of the cars off of Highway 2. Not only does that mean less carbon emissions, but also save loads in road maintenance.

There are the naysayer. The Alberta Taxpayers Federation says that air travel between Edmonton and Calgary isn't subsidized, so why does the government have to subsidize rail travel? Edmonton's mayor Stephen Mandel is also against it, using the old "it's money that can be better spent elsewhere" argument. (Estimates say it's going to cost anywhere between $3 and $15 billion to build.)

My favourite anti-high speed rail argument is always "it'll mean the death of Edmonton's airport." The argument goes like this. Most airlines in Western Canada already use Calgary as their hub. With the high speed rail link in place, airlines will start putting people on the train to Edmonton rather than fly them in. Give it enough time, and the Edmonton International Airport will be rendered redundant, as everyone coming to Alberta lands in Calgary. I also see that argument as being the biggest load of BS.

That's the one thing that startles me about this survey. They say it'll cost between $3 and $15 billion to build. 67% of Albertans say the government should pay for it. For the longest time, though, the Government has been saying that this'll be one of those much-vaunted public private partnerships. For those who don't know, a public private partnership pretty much means that the government and a private company go halfsies.

But dude, I just can't help but think that a high speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary is a good idea. Hell, I keep saying, "Why stop in Calgary? What's so wrong with extending it just a little farther south to Lethbridge?"

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