Sunday, February 22, 2009

How Permanent Is Permanent?

As a nation of freedom-loving fools currently hellbent on swinging towards the socialist side of the pendulum, we need to be very careful not to squander the stimulus money coming to Passenger Rail. We all have ideas and pet projects, but how many of them will result in permanent jobs? And how permanent is permanent?

How many jobs are still around that were created by FDR's depression-era programs? I can safely tell you that most of the railroad jobs created or kept by those programs have long ago gone away and will not come back. Why? We don't want them to. Therefore, we want to put Passenger Rail's stimulus money into things that will create future jobs.

Bad example: Refurbishing damaged or aging Amtrak cars will create short-term jobs. Putting more Amtrak cars on the rails on current routes will create jobs that have to be funded from year to year. There will have to be a committed source of future funding to make these jobs even semi-permanent.

Good example: Building new HSR routes will create completely new kinds of railroads that will carry on into the future and may yield future jobs we cannot dream of today! Yes, this will probably also need some stable source of future funding, but we won't be funding old ideas.

Is it the only way to go then: To fund only new ideas? Not by a long shot. We simply need to avoid that law of unintended consequences that political types are so fond of falling into. We have to think things through, thoroughly, and with precision.

Hope we do; because this kind of money on the loose might be Passenger Rail's best opportunity long into the future.

© 2009 C. A. Turek -

Sunday, February 08, 2009

More Wishes and Dreams

City Triplets. No, I am not advocating multiple births by urban dwellers. I am talking about groups of cities that would be an excellent starting point for new Passenger Rail routing. Just about every state has a set of city triplets, and I am sure my readers will know of more. Some triplets don't fit into just one state, they are bi-state or tri-state triplets. Let me give two examples and then a list.

My home state of New Mexico now has the beginnings of a triplet routing. We have a true intercity commuter between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The south end of the line doesn't count. Belen isn't big enough to fit my idea. But Santa Fe - Albuquerque - Las Cruces does. And there is already talk.

Another example, from my former state, would be Chicago - Springfield - St. Louis, which does exist to some extent. Chicago - Peoria - Moline would be another. My point in getting together these triplet is: If we start here, it is a good place to then connect the dots by connecting the triplets. And it gives each state a chance to decide what routes they want and then go for the gold in getting their triplet into the new national network.

Others (mostly where there is no or limited Passenger Rail now):
Boise - Pocatello - Idaho Falls
Tucson - Phoenix - Flagstaff
Pueblo - Colorado Springs - Denver
Grand Island - Lincoln - Omaha
Topeka - Wichita - Oklahoma City
Amarillo - Lubbock - San Angelo
New Orleans - Baton Rouge - Shreveport
Memphis - Nashville - Knoxville
Evansville - Indianapolis - South Bend

I could go on. There's no trick other than finding a triplet that has some population in between towns that would ride the train and stir up some economic activity by doing so. With few exceptions in the one's I've named, this would also take passenger cars off the Interstates.

©2009 C. A. Turek -