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 - email@example.com