Often these days in the transit community we see article after article about how X number of jobs are going to be created. One of the quotes I’ve seen recently, on LA Metro’s Website for High Speed Rail, states 90,000 jobs created for building the high speed rail (HSR), somehow statewide they theorize 600,000 construction, and 450,000 permanent jobs. I call bull.
Yes the work will create some jobs. Some of those will be sustainable ongoing jobs, some will be for a few months. It might be 90,000 jobs or it most likely would be much less.
However, one thing that is not mentioned is what will happen to all the jobs at the airlines and airport.
Do we really, as a pro-HSR & transit community think that HSR won’t be very disruptive? When the high speed line between San Francisco to LA, and LA to Orange County and down to San Diego opens, almost every short distance flight within 500 miles will probably disappear. Why do I say this? Because it happens over and over and over again when high speed rail, even merely 110mph speed rail service it put into action. The simple fact is, when a comparable trip can be made by rail people will not get on a airplane.
With that said, and something I just assume will happen, what about the workers in the airline industry? This goes on the perpetuate the broken window scenario laid out many years ago. Disruptive and especially destructive changes to the economy are only short term boosts during the repair. Then the loss actually has to be compensated for and somebody ends up with the short stick. In this scenario, the high speed rail will be very disruptive, but in the end there will not be a net increase in new jobs. The airlines will lay off and probably sell or junk most of those short jumper planes. Meanwhile the high speed passenger rail industry will take in some of those workers, the others will have to go find work elsewhere.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Disruptive technologies, especially like high speed rail, are needed and a great deal in today’s world. They are cleaner, cheaper over the long term, and provide people a much better traveling experience. However, this continued bragging and politicking over jobs created is a myth. Which, in politics simply equates to more lying.
In the end, we end up with no net new jobs from this Government intervention into the market. It didn’t happen when they where dumping money into the airlines, it won’t happen when they disrupt things to dump money into the high speed rail. Technically, if they wouldn’t have dumped the money in the first place, the market would have disrupted itself to run higher speed rail in California if the Government had not been dumping billions in to ever competing mode of transport at the time.
The railroads got shafted by the states & Federal Government, and now they’re the Golden Child again. If the Government wants to have net positive new jobs, that are sustainable and economically feasible, they’re going to have to figure a way to get out of the industry and not be further disruptive in it. But alas, I know we’re well past those days, but no reason we should accept the lies that the Government through infrastructure spending will somehow save our economy and create new jobs.
It has happened elsewhere, and even here in the US before, don’t fall for it.