Sunday, May 18, 2008

When Will It Hit Them?

"It" being the train, that is. And by "Them" I refer to the entire United States Government, all branches and all agencies, and all state governments. Them Politicians.

It has already hit the general public and, to some extent, private enterprise. Consistently, the railroad press and the general media carry more stories about Passenger Rail than they did just five years ago. And they are all positive – for Passenger Rail.

The media attention is in a few distinct categories, but it all shows that the general public is either becoming more aware of Passenger Rail alternatives or being pressed to do so by keen observers. The categories:

News stories of startups of new passenger service, both Amtrak and privately run.

News stories about groups that advocate Passenger Rail improvements including the institution of new lines.

Editorials advocating improvements or new lines.

Opinion pieces stating what a bunch of transportation dunderheads we have in our governments. Them Politicians.

Meanwhile, back on The Hill, Congress continues its obstructive tactics to marginalize Amtrak and snatch as much money as possible for highways and air transport.

A local buffet restaurant once placed television advertising that suggested potential customers’ ignorance of the goodness of their product by smacking them in the face with a heavy frying pan and then having the question “When will it hit you?” running over the still-ringing gong of the frying pan. Well, when the hell will it hit the government? Them Politicians.

The way we see it, government must do several things, among which are:

Fund Amtrak in an enlightened and non-politicized way. That means realistic spending on new and improved equipment and services.

Continue and increase subsidies for increased service by private carriers. Include short lines in the bidding process and don’t prohibit startups from participating.

Stop the process of hamstringing railroads with re-regulation. Possibly the only reason private rail is healthy today is the de-regulation that occurred almost three decades ago. If the so-called re-regulation takes place, limiting rate-making and abolishing the anti-trust exemption for railroads, it will take another quarter century to kill them off. So look at another fifty years before we get back to what we have today - if the politicians have anything to say about it. Unfortunately, they do.

Wise up when it comes to implementing un-realistic risk management. No mode of transport is perfectly safe.

Educate the public that Passenger Rail does not make money up front. It is a necessary public service that helps everybody else make money, increases commerce, and improves government bottom line with a rising economy.

Stop listening to the tree-huggers and NIMBYs and let Passenger Rail be the green source of transport it has always been. It is ironic that the same person who doesn’t want a train running past the house won’t complain when the same number of folks drive by in heavy-polluting SUVs.

When will it hit them?

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -
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