Disruptive Technology, High Speed Rail

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.

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139 Comments

  1. Disruptive technology and disruptive innovation are terms used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by being lower priced or designed for a different set of consumers.

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  3. [i]However, one thing that is not mentioned is what will happen to all the jobs at the airlines and airport.[/i]

    No effect to very minimal effect on layoffs.

    High-speed rail will only dent the Northern to Southern California trips. We still have short-range flights to neighboring states, and the medium-range, long-range and international flights that CAHSR will not serve.

    Actually, this is a mixed blessing for the airlines. If CAHSR siphons away ridership from Southern California to Bay Area traffic, the airlines can redeploy resources into other areas not served by high-speed rail.

    I’d be more concerned if Greyhound went out of business.

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  4. hey, your post truly assists, now i receive the same problems, and i have no idea how to puzzle out the problem. thankgod i search yahoo and found your post, it helps me get rid of my trouble.
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  5. hey, your post actually aids, today i encounter the same troubles, and i have no idea how to resolve the problem. thankgod i look yahoo and discovered your post, it helps me get rid of my trouble.
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  6. Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.

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  7. As always, you make great points Adron.

    I wonder how many people truly realize how much involvement our government has in everyone’s lives from their mortgage to the food they eat to the sports teams they follow to the stores they shop in.

    Our free market is not as free as most people think it is.

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  8. For me it’s not disruptive because it more than useful for normal people who don’t have their own cars. and also it’s one of the fastest way to travel land without having problems such as traffic!.

    Reply

  9. Adron, I was listening to a December 4 podcast of Electric Politics, http://www.electricpolitics.com . Host George Kenney interviewed James McCommons, author of "Waiting on a Train."

    It talks a great deal about the politics of Amtrak and American efforts to build a high-speed rail network. The conversation is more geared to a lay audience; it’s stuff transitistas like us have said many times before. It’s still worth a read.

    McCommons has praise for Warren Buffett and his purchase of BNSF, and points out the excellent track record (no pun intended) of the Cascades.

    Total runtime is about 70 minutes.

    [audio src="http://www.electricpolitics.com/media/mp3/EP2009.12.04.mp3" /]

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  15. A lot of fear but not much reality: I don’t believe this will kill the puddle jumper industry. It will simply prevent any further growth for short-haul air flights. It will still be more convenient to use small airplanes as connector flights if you are already in the airport. Airlines can also protect their own by promoting this. What will likely dry up, over 20 years, are intercity flights that aren’t connector flights. However, the phase out will be slow since the train network won’t be built overnight and at the same time the amount of connector flights will likely increase. This will likely coincide with the first batch of maintenance being needed in 20 years or so. Therefore: Net effect is more jobs long-term. Additionally, keep in mind that additional modes of travel will spur economic development, population growth along those cooridors, etc. Net effect = positive for America.

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  16. A lot of fear but not much reality: I don’t believe this will kill the puddle jumper industry. It will simply prevent any further growth for short-haul air flights. It will still be more convenient to use small airplanes as connector flights if you are already in the airport. Airlines can also protect their own by promoting this. What will likely dry up, over 20 years, are intercity flights that aren’t connector flights. However, the phase out will be slow since the train network won’t be built overnight and at the same time the amount of connector flights will likely increase. This will likely coincide with the first batch of maintenance being needed in 20 years or so. Therefore: Net effect is more jobs long-term. Additionally, keep in mind that additional modes of travel will spur economic development, population growth along those cooridors, etc. Net effect = positive for America.

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  17. I can’t tell if this submit worked, so I’ll try again on a different browser. I apologize in advance if it did go through and there were multiple submissions.

    A lot of fear but not much reality: I don’t believe this will kill the puddle jumper industry. It will simply prevent any further growth for short-haul air flights. It will still be more convenient to use small airplanes as connector flights if you are already in the airport. Airlines can also protect their own by promoting this. What will likely dry up, over 20 years, are intercity flights that aren’t connector flights. However, the phase out will be slow since the train network won’t be built overnight and at the same time the amount of connector flights will likely increase. This will likely coincide with the first batch of maintenance being needed in 20 years or so. Therefore: Net effect is more jobs long-term. Additionally, keep in mind that additional modes of travel will spur economic development, population growth along those cooridors, etc. Net effect = positive for America.

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  19. It is a lot cleaner to create these railway service and I am excited. Although the jobs are temporary I am sure those who have been unemployeed are not complaining.

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