It's a good thing that some in this country are waking up. This opinion piece from the Baltimore Sun does a pretty good job of repeating some of the things that we have been saying for years. It is good to see ordinary journalists waking up to the transportation crisis.
First, there is new technology, and many new ideas for new technology, for Passenger Rail and for freight rail. For our political establishment to suddenly mandate any one of the technologies that is still in the testing stage, and do that as a knee-jerk reaction to current events, is idiocy. But that is what Congress specializes in.
We don't think mandating PTC for all Passenger Rail for all lines with a target date somewhere in the future and no specifications for a particular system attached to the mandate is particularly idiotic. PTC in one form or another is certainly a probability. There are no particular hurdles to the engineering of PTC, other than making sure it works as needed and making sure that various systems are compatable. The latter is like getting a DVD player to read all the various types of disks that have been developed. Not a sure thing unless you buy the right player, but certainly not impossible.
What scares the hell out of us is that Congress would mandate a particular system built by a particular bidder and then squeeze the cash out of the deal so that the final system on line would be nothing like what could be developed if Congress would just leave the specs to the open market.
Second, with respect to suddenly upping the ante on train protection when a particularly deadly accident occurs, let's get real. All modes of transportation carry some risk, and the way to minimize that risk is "safety first," not after the accident occurs. There are technologies other than PTC that are either on line or being tested, such as electronic braking, that will make Passenger Rail safer. It will be by a combination of available tech, not by one system of signalling, that Passenger Rail and rail in general will be made safer. Congress probably will never wake up.
That's why Mister Trains urges all voters: Do not vote for the incumbent. Pick the independent, the green, the Naders or the Ron Pauls, but don't pick the incumbents.
But we always welcome it when somebody wakes up and smells the coffee with regards to our failing transportation policy and the value of Passenger Rail in particular.
© 2008 - C. A. Turek - email@example.com