It's amazing how a single development - make that a singular development - can change a lot of things and undo a lot of damage. The feature article in the October 2010 issue of Trains, is about how the Staggers Act - deregulation - transformed railroading. It is inspiring to know that, no matter how much damage an intrusive government has already done to a free enterpries, that the simple act of freeing that enterprise to compete in a free marketplace can turn almost certain disaster into good news. Those among you who follow politics know what I'm talking about.
What does this have to do with Passenger Rail? A sidebar to the article speculates on what railroading would be like if regulation had never been lifted. Long before deregulation, government got into both passenger and freight rail where it deemed either or both too important to fail. (See "bailout.") Other than guaranteeing that there would still be private railroads with some reasonably good track on which to run Amtrak trains, deregulation didn't help Passenger Rail much. There are still laws that limit what freight railroads can do, among which are the Amtrak reauthorizations that still require them to carry Amtrak trains.
Government will never get out of the railroad business completely. As I have noted before in this blog, government has always had a stake, no matter how indirect. But what would happen if government pulled out of Passenger Rail today?
Your first reaction is: There would be no passenger trains! But are you sure? Are we so bereft of innovation and revolution in this country today that we couldn't figure out some way to make the trains stay, or even get better? I have repeatedly said that Passenger Rail will never make a profit. But I'm not so sure that this isn't just feeding on a defeatist attitude that permeates lots of our thinking today.
So I'd like you to think about it. And comment please, or send me an email. Let's see if we can come up with some ideas to sent to some private capitalists who may think differently, too.
©2010 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org