Apparently, the membership of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association and their supporters on the Allen County Council and the Fort Wayne Mayor's office are not living in the same economic times as the rest of us. $40,000 dollars in taxpayer money has now been pledged to study the practicality of implementing new passenger rail service between Chicago and possibly Columbus and Toledo that will pass through a rail station in Fort Wayne. Richard Davis, who seems to be in a conflicted position as the president of the Fort Wayne Downtown Improvement Association and as an NIPRA board member, said that the $80,000 (or is it $120,000) economic study will explore the benefits of returning rail service to Fort Wayne. Costs are estimated to be somewhere between $145 million (dream on!) and $745 million (impossible since proposed service is 400 miles between terminus points).
For example, in 2006, Tennessee spent $41 million [a veritable bargain!] to start the Music City Star, a commuter train from Lebanon to Nashville. In 2008, the second year of operation, the train carried a weekday average of just 264 rush-hour commuters to and from work and fares of $616,000 barely covered 15% of the line's $4.1 million operating costs. This represents an annualized cost of $25,000 per commuter, enough to buy each commuter using the train a new Toyota Prius every year for the next 30 years. Yet Nashville's Regional Transportation Authority hopes to parlay the "success" of this line into getting funding for six more commuter-rail routes, while transit officials in Louisville, Indianapolis and other cities cite the Star as and example of a "successful" train they wish to emulate.So what is it about choo-choo train nostalgia that trumps basic economics and American lifestyle preferences? Too many liberal Nanny Staters is likely the only answer.