This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Social Development(?)-Return to insanity

     With all the PC jabber about greenness, social change and the changing nature of our transportation infrastructure, I can't help but weigh in with my own cynical attitude about the proposal for a high-speed rail system in the US.   This proposal is an example of the government at it's worst.   I speak with a little experience in this matter having come from a railroad family and spending the first 12 years of my business career with Burlington Northern in several of their offices.
       To most people railroads represent that big, noisy, dirty thing which occasionally blocks their commute to and from wherever.   Most people are shocked to discover that our rail system is one of, if not the, healthiest part of our economy.  The success of the private rail industry in the past 50 years has been phenomenal and companies like BNSF, UP, CSX and NS are constantly producing record profits.  So why hasn't a great passenger system developed here?   Largely because the private rail carriers in this country realized they could not compete with a federally subsidized highway system.
      President Eisenhour, after his experience in Europe during WWII, realized the need for an interstate highway system after seeing how easily troops moved throughout Germany on their Autobahn.  Feeling the need for the same system in Amerca, he proposed and established the Interstate Highway system as a matter of urgent national defense.  Inadvertently, but I am sure with great "support" from the auto and gas industries, he created a great mid range transportation network which contributed to our preoccupation with the auto, enormous contribution to carbon emissions and all the attendant environmental problems in the world today.  The private rail industry decided not to compete and have become the profitable and efficient companies they are today by focusing on freight transportation.   Amtrak was created by the government because they wanted passenger service at whatever expense, and it, like most government agencies, is a financial disaster.
      Now the government wants to produce a high speed alternative to compete with the highway system it created.  How does that make sense?  After years of investing in an infrastructure which eliminated demand for passenger service, they want to spend more money to develop a service for which there is no demand.
      I would propose a different approach.  Convert the Interstate Highway system into a toll road, charge according to actual usage and make the service profitable.   After people feel the expense of using the highway system on a daily basis they may see the common sense behind intercity rail travel.  When the demand increases and a profit is to be made, there will be capital available for a private system.
     But the status quo is going to follow the accepted trend of appropriating money from us to force the horse to push the cart up the hill insisting that somebody will jump on out of curiosity.

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