Maglev Project: A Critique
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by Ross Nordeen

[Essays Page Editor's Note: This essay was written in response to a Florida Today editorial supporting the Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) Light Rail Project being discussed by local government transportation officials.]

Dear Sirs,

Your recent gushing editorial in praise of the proposed maglev track reads more like an advertisement than a opinion piece. The gaping holes in this project are obvious even from a casual reading.

First, you neglect to mention its total price tag of $200 million. Even that is a minimum and doesn't count the cost of demonstration projects, or the possibility that, like many government projects, it might go over budget. If the cost per mile is similar to Japanese or German projects, the total cost might be as high as $500 or even $900 million. The local boon of 1400 jobs seems mighty nice until you realize that each job will cost over $140,000 and possibly as high as $600,000 to create.

Second, no time frame is specified, but considering that the proposed $6 million prototype will take two years to complete, I suspect that the full system is decades away, at best. Considering how long it has taken the government to expand SR 3, I won't be holding my breath waiting for the maglev.

Finally, whoever made the estimate of a 75% (7 cents per ton mile as opposed to 30 cents) savings in transportation costs must be the same guy who said we'd be flying 50 shuttle missions a year with launch costs less than $1000 a pound by now. If such a savings were truly possible, private industry would be building the system right now, without having to shake down the taxpayer for hundreds of millions of dollars.


This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:50 PM