There is perhaps nothing so infuriating to a United States citizen as to have the government tell him/her what to do with his/her property. So it comes as no surprise that people in Texas do not want Union Pacific to get the benefit of eminent domain to relocate tracks out of the congested hearts of Texas cities.
Union Pacific, of course, has never been noted for either its tact or its hearfelt good will to the public in general and to property owners in particular. Witness UP's years long battle with some toy and model manufacturers over the use and licensing of the UP logos. And yes, folks, if you take a picture of a UP train and put it up on the wall of your den, you may get a call from a UP lawyer.
Of course UP was one of the original transcontinentals that spawned the term "robber barons." It is also the company that swallowed the Octopus, Southern Pacific.
Also, relocating tracks from unconvenient locations for freight rail does nothing to benefit Passenger Rail - unless the ROWs are railbanked or otherwise preserved for this use. Some of the best freight rail routes in the country would make some of the best commuter and Passenger Rail routes - if abandoned by the freight railroads.
And the position of this blogger has always been that Passenger Rail just won't work if it is not subsidized by government in some way.
That way should never be the taking of private property for the purpose of turning it over to another private enterprise. That's what UP would like to have done in Texas, and Texas government is considering it.
That brings us to this point. We have advocated the possible creative financing of Passenger Rail by re-investing private money. Is this a contradiction?
It is only if the private money gets to control real estate that was taken in eminent domain. So we have to be careful. What we would rather see, if these routes really need to be populated with trains instead of with private enterprises, is that the property owner gets his chance to invest in the enterprise and reap any rewards. The property owner's investment is putting in the land for the route. We'd like to see this work for new passenger tracks as well.
So move UP if we must, give them some land, but let them pay a big dividend on that land to the guy or gal who had to give it up. And let UP leave the old tracks so that we can put passengers in trains running on them.
© 2007 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org