Saturday, October 15, 2005

November Trains

This writer recently received his November issue of Trains magazine. It was late, probably because it is the 65th Anniversary issue, and some might say because it is getting to be more like its subject. (That is a cheap shot, but perhaps a valid one. Ages aren’t listed in the masthead, but we would suspect that the only writer on the masthead that still remembers when ‘on time’ and ‘on schedule’ were the norms for American railroads is Don Phillips. The fact that he now lives in Europe helps him remember this.)

We didn’t start out to make this blog about being late. What got us lathered up are the letters from readers published in the Railway Post Office segment – specifically, the letters about an article in the September issue that outlined the politics of Amtrak and American passenger rail in general. This wasn’t necessarily an article flattering to Amtrak or to government. (We apologize that there are no direct links to this article available, so you may have to buy the magazine.)

But the editor in charge of RPO chose to print a letter from a Karl Spencer of Clovis, NM. We respect the opinions of readers. This writer wishes that magazines and newspapers would just post all of them on the internet and let readers plod through them. In limited space, however, an editor should decide to publish only those letters with something of worth to contribute to the argument.

Mr. Spencer’s letter contributes little on its surface.

This Trains reader is trying to argue against government funding of long distance passenger rail, but says he has no problem with federal funding as long as passenger rail is a “public service.” We think he is trying to point out that Amtrak does not serve enough of the traveling public in its present configuration. But he doesn’t say that. What he says is that only those citizens who live in heavily populated corridors should be entitled to this service at the expense of the government. The rest of us should be hanged. He would rather fly – flying from Clovis to anywhere is, in our opinion, at least as difficult as just flapping your arms – or drive. Driving Clovis to Albuquerque so he can catch his plane to Chicago is over a 2-hour drive only partly on the freeways. What the heck is he talking about? Maybe he can sleep on a plane, but this blogger finds it difficult to do anything on a plane but worry whether the guy at the controls is awake! (We have a pilot's license, and too much knowledge is a bad thing.)

An integrated transportation plan would see passenger rail available from Clovis through Belen to Albuquerque. Clovis is on the Belen Cutoff of the old Santa Fe, and there is no reason why not, in the future.

However, if we get dunderhead legislators that think a change of airplanes at O’Hare, Chicago, is a walk in the park, as does Mr. Spencer, then there is no hope.

And by the way, Mr. Spencer, the only reason Amtrak serves only a small percentage of the traveling public is that Congress has always wanted it that way. They have never given Amtrak enough funding to serve a greater percentage.

Perhaps the editors at Trains did publish Mr. Spencer's letter just so that more of us would see the idiocy of arguing against Amtrak (Mr. Bush please read). We would like to think so.

©2005 – C. A. Turek –
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