Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles ...and Elections

Derrick Jackson, Boston Globe on Amtrak

Money Quote:
"Recently in Indiana, Barack Obama had lunch with an Amtrak machinist who feared losing his job. Obama said, “The irony is, with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service.”"

So Detroit will go lobby against fuel efficiency standards and essentially lobby themselves into even more irrelevancy with the nation quickly making moves against fuel-INefficient vehicles?

The only thing that saves Detroit is to convert the factories and excess production capacity into high speed rail technology, much like we overhauled factory production during WW2. Keeps Mr. Amtrak employee in a job, returns the shine to a failed city, Detroit, and they no longer have to lobby against their best interest.

Both of the auto and airline industries need to start making trains and making them fast or somebody else will come along and fill that demand, then they all will be left w/o jobs.

Honestly, riding on some of the trains in Europe is some sophistocated travel, where the trains can be as long as they have to to support the demand and maintain comfortable accommodations. The ride is smooth enough to comfortably stretch one's legs and move around, even to the food cars to eat, drink, etc. Workers can use the internet, make calls, read, sleep, etc.
(Train Stations can be some of our slickest buildings -- ahem RTKL project)

But, I would so much rather crowd into a Southwest flight, or deal with crabby American Airlines Battleaxes Flight Attendants, or be stuck in traffic with people honking at you on the highways where 50,000 Americans a year die in accidents. Now compare that to the comfort and safety of rail travel.

Regional travel in Texas literally takes the same amount of time, if not more, when travelling from Austin or Houston to DFW when calculating all of the time it takes to drive to the airport (for me typically 20-30 minutes), park at the airport, get thru security, sit around for 30 minutes (if you time it perfectly) if not longer, then the 45-60 minute flight (which is terrifyingly bumpy going to Austin), and then once you arrive the airports are so far out and disconnected from any real mass transit that you're forced to rent a car or cab it.

Fixing the transportation industry and fixing our cities go hand in hand. Europe and China are building trains that can go from city center to city center over the same distance in less than two hours in a more safe, comfortable, cost- and energy-efficient manner. It's time we get all of the economic dinosaurs and their jurassic money out of the decision making process before we're all extinct.

-- addendum: Oh, and think about how many people could have been safely evacuated from Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina on a functioning rail system while the highways became parking lots.

Plus, I really love the rhythmic whirring and clack clack clacking of the arrival boards. Almost soothing, in a way:

More cool train and train station pics:

Madrid

Stockholm

Principe Pio, again




(Light rail, but nonetheless)


(Light rail as greenspace)