Sunday, June 05, 2011

Political Extremes

For a good while, I have been just flabergasted - check my spelling here - at the political extremes that have been reached in playing with the Passenger Rail football. This is one reason I haven't had much to say of late.   At the one extreme is the high speed rail initiative begun by the Obama administration and perpetuated by those government agencies that recognize they have a whole pot o' money to get power over if they somehow hitch their train to the high-speed bandwagon.

At the other political extreme are conservatives who can't recognize a good deal when they see one.  And, as most of you know, I am a political conservative, but, by God's grace, not as stupid as some, I hope.  And in the middle stands Amtrak, which has proven time and again that it can play at both games, but would be better off if the game didn't change every year or two.  I think this constant game change is one reason that Amtrak didn't pick up the ball and run faster with it, taking upwards of two years to decide what kinds of new engines and cars to order, and now it looks like it is too late.

I now agree with most pundits:  America has no high speed rail at this point in time, and is unlikely to have any true high speed rail at any time in the reasonable future.  So the administration's push for high speed rail is really a political subsidy for "higher" speed rail, which translates into the following:  If you have a political entity (such as a transit district) that runs passenger trains or is going to run passenger trains sometime in the future, even if you are only in the "study" phase, you can get high speed rail money as long as your trains will run faster in the future that they do now.  For the study-phase districts, that could be 1 mph. 

While we push ourselves to opposite poles of the political globe, we fail to realize that there is a real place in America for Passenger Rail, if not for high speed rail in particular.  Americans have been speaking about this to Amtrak with their pocketbooks for several years now.  So have millions of commuters who use Passenger Rail to get to work every day.  Yes, this involves a subsidy, but the conservatives among us should see that as an opportunity to start up a business and move the whole shootin' match onto the private, for-profit stage.  That is no less likely a scenario than having a true high speed line  (125 mph or more average speed) running between two major cities by 2021.

A good long vacation - the first in several years - has given me a bit of new energy, and I will be trying to post on this site more often than recently.  The vacation gave me a chance to start my next novel.  Will it have trains in it?  You betcha!

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