Potential passengers will be dissuaded from hopping aboard because the route won’t take them anywhere near their final destinations. Good public transportation in Tampa and Orlando is nonexistent, and so it would seem essential that any rail system connecting those two cities deposit its riders in central, urban locations. The planned route does not do this. In fact, to call it a Tampa-Orlando route is rather disingenuous because the trains will avoid Orlando entirely—the last stop heading east is Orlando International Airport, some ten miles outside of town.
And while it is estimated that the train ride will last 55 minutes with stops, it takes only 90 minutes to drive the same distance. If a potential high-speed rail passenger in Tampa factors into his trip the time required to get to the city’s train station (which could easily take an hour), park, purchase tickets, and wait for the train, he would probably decide to drive to Orlando. If he then considers that were he to take the train he would arrive not in Orlando but at Orlando International Airport, which could leave him tens of miles from his final destination, and that he would arrive there without a car and with no good way of getting around the city, he would definitely decide to drive to Orlando.
The Florida Department of Transportation estimates 2,715,500 annual passenger-trips in the Tampa-Orlando line’s first year of operation and 3,120,000 in its fifth year. Those numbers are wildly hopeful and won’t be met, and Floridians will find themselves stuck paying the ongoing operating costs of a bullet train that nobody uses.
It is telling that these two improvident proposals, in Florida and California, are the Obama administration’s high-speed rail showpieces.
Americans have recently digested multiple federal expenditures of hundreds of billions of dollars. Is it possible that the country’s taxpayers, many of whom will never in their lifetimes ride a bullet train, will remain unbothered as tens and probably hundreds of billions of dollars more are allocated to half-baked high-speed rail experiments? Unlikely.