Monday, November 21, 2005

It's My Blog!

I can be biased if I want to be. It’s my blog, after all, and in my little corner of the Internet, I can say what I want. (Subject, of course, to the rules and regulations of this wonderful host that, through its infinite grace, allows my blog to stay on the Web—followed by giant sucking sound.)

I don’t have to present the other side of the Amtrak Board Fires David Gunn Story. But here it is, from about as Conservative a source as you can get. Please read this article.

If you have read far enough into this article, you will find that it begs the question:

Does A Conservative Have a Heart?

The author of the heritage.org article makes a pretty good argument about why Mr. Gunn should have been fired, and then he buries the rest of his article in the statistics of telling Mr. Gunn what he should have done.

I agree. Cutting sleeping cars and diners from the trains would have saved a lot of money. Or would it?

Passenger trains are more than cold, hard, money-losing transportation machines. Passenger trains have an emotional life. They have a historical life, and a tradition. They are a culture unto themselves. And if you strip out the heart and soul of the long-distance passenger train, you may as well be riding in a commuter coach on a one-hour ride to your high-rise office in the city.

Nobody will want to ride them, but maybe that’s what the Bush administration wants.

There are certain things that the passenger train must retain. Starting with reasonable comfort and reasonable timeliness, the list also includes food and beverage service, sleepers, the service of a fine hotel, and the conveniences of everyday life (morning paper, a midnight snack, etc.). To bring the passenger train into this century, perhaps we also need wireless Internet and satellite radio, but these new things aren’t part of the heart and soul. (By the way, I would draw the line at Dish Network, even for the 21st Century list.)

I don’t know if passenger trains will ever be as good as they were “back in the day.” I don’t know if anything will. Our quality of life seems to have peaked sometime in the last century. (I’m sure that about 30,000 GM workers will agree with that statement.)

But I do know that only a political conservative without a heart could strip off the diners and the sleepers and still think he was riding “a train.” Let’s crunch whatever numbers are necessary to get long-distance passengers back on the railroad, but let’s not gore the heart and soul out of the passenger train.

©2005 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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