Thursday, March 10, 2011

Progressive Fascination with Choo Choo Trains

George Will explains why our progressive overlords are so obsessed with high speed rail: It’s about modifying our behavior.

OK, I get that...

What I don’t understand is how the rank and file (including fellow bloggers in Left Blogistan) can simply gobble up this nonsense and regurgitate it.

High speed rail, global warming, electric cars and a plethora of unproven theories taken as gospel belie a lack of thinking and critical analysis on their part. I’m not calling them dumb, just naïve and incredibly credulous. Even in densely-packed Europe, where rail travel is popular, it cannot make a profit and must be subsidized by government.

Back to George Will. He’s right. It’s about social engineering…
To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make. (George Will)
Further reading:
Robert Samuelson – High Speed Rail Folly
Ronald Utt – High Speed Rail Financial Disaster


Divine Theatre said...

Call me what you will but I would NEVER willingly get into a contraption operated by an Affirmative Action halfwit. I want to live!

WomanHonorThyself said...

o sheesh where will it end Choo Choo Charlie around? Have a great rest of the day my friend~!:)

Jersey McJones said...

The trouble with rail in America is the way we are developed. Unlike in old Europe and the Far East, American "towns" are vastly spread suburbs and exurbs all over the country. Only really in the Northeast do we have small concentrated towns and villages set along popular routes into the cities. In Northern NJ, for example, the rails are indispensible, channelling hundreds of thousands of workers in, out and around the NYC metro area. Without those rails, people would simply be unable to get to work at all, as the traffic would be utterly impossible. I happily did without a car in NJ for years, and it was great. Cars can be a headache.

Our demand to willy-nilly develope all over the place, with no regard for the environment or logistics, has made us completely dependent on the automobile. As oil prices rise, and they will keep rising no matter what we do, this dependence on the automobile will create more and more problems for our republic. Consumer demand will shift dramatically to oil at the expense of other sectors, and this will be a huge drain on our economy, as most of the oil will come from abroad and the money spent on it will not be recycled through the domestic economy.

In some areas more rail would be great. Our air traffic system is already overwhelmed, and high speed rail between some large metro areas would reduce that burden. More commuter rail in and around certain large metro areas, like NYC, CHI, MIA, ATL, would be boons to those important centers and to our economy as a whole. But Amtrak lines running through the upper-Mid West are a waste of money.

Remember, not everything necessary is profitable. If it were profitable to completely privatize the education system or healthcare system, it would have been accomplished already. The same goes for transportation. Profiteering from these vital sectors is not the answer either.

Thoughtful developement with the greater good of the nation in mind is what we need - not knee-jerk, simplistic, ideological fixes from any perspective. This issue is the perfect place to put realism ahead of dogmatism.


Divine Theatre said...

Jersey, there you go playing Jerry Lewis again! I'll bet they just LOVE you in France.

Jersey McJones said...

Gee, Divine, what a thoughtful and intelligent retort. Just like that racist-sounding slam on public workers. You do realize that you are FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR safer on a train than you are on the road, right?


Divine Theatre said...

Listen, scumbag...racism? Hardly. If you cannot refrain from your anticipated playground antics you can play alone.
Affirmative Action IS racism, little boy.
Did YOU know that automobiles are for people who want to be FREE...not laboring under the illusion of being "safe" with some Affirmative Action hack at the helm. It's about ABILITY, dufus...not skintone.
Yes, I'll bet they love you in France.
You never did completely divest yourself of the grade school mentality found on playgounds, did you? Just because YOU were chosen last in dodgeball doesn't mean you get to create laws that force the rest of us to choose the obese, slow talentless kid FIRST in dodgeball...then give him an award.

Jersey McJones said...


Bla bla bla. You are a moral vacuum, Divine.

The down-and-out are de facto "lazy."

Public workers are de facto 'affirmative action halfwits.'

The wealthy are de facto "productive."

You have no idea how racist and classist you sound, do you Divine?


Divine Theatre said...

Isn't it time for your diaper change, Jersey Girl?

Jersey McJones said...

LOL! It doesn't occur to you that you sound like a nattering child as well, huh?

Look. We don't live in a frontier society anymore, and we haven't in a long, long time. We live ina massive, modern, complex civilization. These easy, somple, dogmatic answers you guys have for everything are just plain unrealistic. We need a public transportation system, for all sorts of reasons. As I said above, we reaistically probably can't do what they dio in Germany or Japan, but we can do something. The answer is not always to stay with the status quo, let alone to perpetually regress.


Leticia said...

No, thanks, I think I will keep my car! I love my life.

Jersey McJones said...


No one is trying to take your car away. All we progressives want is for you to have a viable choice.


Divine Theatre said...

"All we progressives want is for you to have a viable choice."


Always On Watch said...

The Left is all about restricting the freedoms of others -- but not their own freedoms, of course.

Case in point: my neighbor, who clamored and clamored for rail mass-transit in the D.C. area, but refused to ride MetroRail himself as he "could not come and go and park" where and when he liked.

Mustang said...

Progressive politics is much like progressive diseases. The longer it’s around, the more dangerous it becomes.

Personally, I like trains. When I was a child, I wanted to be a train engineer —that didn’t last long; you know how kids are. But I love the Disney trains. I don't know why we can't use “Disney” trains to link bedroom communities with nearby cities, where most people make their money. If this is to happen, then I think the decision belongs within state vs. federal frameworks.

Recently, our governor successfully declined federal funding for a Tampa-Orlando "high speed train" system. It was probably a good thing because I don’t think anyone can justify the amount of money required to maintain that system. Plus, we’ve already spent a gazillion dollars for the I-4 corridor. No one ever asks how much it costs to maintain rapid rail systems, and the government isn’t telling. I suspect there is a reason for that.

Once again, if the train system depends on fares to offset costs, how profitable can it be when most people are already committed to the use of personal automobile … that, by the way, gets them to their destinations five minutes faster?

I think it is all progressive smoke and mirrors.

Leticia said...

JMJ, yeah, you just keep on thinking that if it helps you feel better. I, on the other hand, would prefer my tax dollars to go to something a lot more worthwhile.

Finntann said...

I have to say, Jersey is right about the Northeast. I grew up outside Philly and the car was for the odd trip. My father took the El into work everyday, I took a trolley to school. Above elementary school, those eligible for bus service got tokens from the school instead. When I started working I took a bus, never had to walk more than a block or two.

When living in New England, most commuters I knew drove to a train station.

Even this past summer, back east visiting my brother we went into NYC several times. You don't drive into NYC, you drive to the train station. But those are public transportation systems, not long haul high speed rail. The majority travelling are using the commuter trains, not Amtrak's Acela.

The problem is, it isn't the answer everywhere. Here they keep pitching a light rail system from Pueblo to Fort Collins running through the urban corridor that parallels I-25. Problem is, unlike the NE, there is not adequate coverage in public transportion beyond the stations, so unless your destination is within walking distance of the rail line or the random bus stop, it makes absolutely no sense.

What any rail system needs to compete with is this:

Baltimore-Boston, Acela High Speed (sort of) Train = $183, 6 hours. Friday 11 March: Amtrak website.

Baltimore-Boston, Jet Blue = $175 approximately 4 hours with flight time, and arriving at the airport when they tell you to.
Friday 11 March: Expedia website.

Where rail can't compete at all is: NYC-LA AMTRAK Departs 11 March 3:45 PM Arrives 14 March 8:15 AM, elapsed time @64 hours, fare $618.
Versus DELTA Departs 11 March 12 PM Arrives LAX 3:12 PM, elapsed time 6 hours 12 Minutes, fare $516.

Make the train 3 times as fast and its still going to cost more and take 21 hours.

Me, I'd love to take a train from NYC-LA, but it would be for the train ride itself, not as a means of travel. You might, and I stress MIGHT, run a profitable high speed rail line between Washington DC and Boston. If you think you can turn a profit going from Chicago to Denver, your living in a fantasy world.


Jersey McJones said...


You have renewed my faith in humanity! You actually read my comment! The whole point I was making is that there is an unrealistic view of public rails from both the left and the right.

As Silver said, the Left does have a bit of a silly belief in the Utopian panacea of the rails. The right, though, should spend sometime in NYC and see what a quality rail system can do. New York City is the Capital of World Capitalism. So much for rails being some socialistic social-engineering shtick.

In some areas of the country, rail works great. In most of country, because of the way we are developed, rails are simply useless. I'm pretty sure I said that too.

There is one new view of the rails we could take, though, and that is using high-speed rails to connect major cities that are not necessarily close together.

People from big urban areas, like us, know that thousands of people fly on business between a number of big cities throughout the country. They clog up the air hubs, cause dangerous traffic in other cities, and add more to the costs of the entire system than they put in.

A few quality high-speed rails, interconnected to the big six or seven cities, would make for very smart investment for the future. Good for business, for tourism, for mobility in general. It would also be a huge, positive, long-term boon to the economy to make it so.

What do you think?

I'm not so sure myself, but I do think that is worth considering. Sort of like Ike's interstate highway idea, but much cheaper.

Everyone else,

I'd love to know what kind of twisted, specious, spurrious rationale would inform someone that building some more rails is somehow "restricting the freedoms of others." What the ....???

We live in a republic. If the people's representatives decide to build rails, they'll get built. If they don't, they won't. How is any of this such a concern to you guys? The Wall Street crowd you guys just elected into the majority are not going to build anything - not rails, nor schools, nor roads, nor a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. Why are you even discussing this?

You will have to soon enough, though...

As oil becomes more expensive (and why you guys don't consider this makes me question your grasp on reality) we are going to have to do something. You do get that, right? What do you all suggest other than "let the free market take care of it" as if we were cave men waiting for the moon to give us good luck?


Silverfiddle said...

Glad to see some common sense prevailing here.

One of the many problems with rail is it is an expensive infrastructure. (Drivers pay for roads via gas tax)

If we want to save the environment and get off gasoline, outfitting nice luxury buses to run on natural gas is a much cheaper and more flexible option.

I rode the trains like crazy when I lived in Europe, and all my years in various Latin American countries, I rode buses everywhere. In both places is was much easier, more convenient, and often not much more than driving.

Divine Theatre said...

The private sector already has luxury buses. That is not a government function.

Silverfiddle said...

Divine: I wasn't suggesting the government do it. My point is that there are cheaper alternatives than choo choo trains

Divine Theatre said...

I just didn't want Jersey over there to get any ideas...

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