Stalling out? Try Dead

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post frets that “Obama’s vision for high-speed rail is in danger of stalling out.” Where has he been the last three years? High-speed rail was in danger of stalling out in 2010, when Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin elected governors who turned back funds for their states’ programs. Today, Obama’s “vision” is dead, and so is high-speed rail in this country.


Unlike air and highway travel, with Obama’s high-speed rail vision, you won’t be able to get from anywhere in the country to most other places in the country.

Like other rail nuts, Stein tries to make it appear we are in some kind of race for supremacy with Japan and other countries. “With countries like Japan already investing in the newest form of rail technology –- magnetic levitation, which LaHood called “way too expensive” for the U.S. –- the nation is very much set to be left in the proverbial dust.” The problem is that “the newest form of rail technology” is just as obsolete as the previous form. Stein might as well worry that we aren’t keeping up with the Japanese on floppy disk technology.

It’s appropriate that Stein’s article is accompanied by a photo of President Obama standing on the rear platform of a 1920s-vintage railcar. High-speed rail really isn’t that much newer. American railroads were experimenting with high-speed trains in the 1930s. Japan built the first rail line dedicated to high-speed passenger service in the early 1960s, which was closer to the 1920s than the 2010s.

It seems the Antiplanner has to keep reminding people that we have this new-fangled technology called airplanes that can go faster than any high-speed train. We have airports that are located close to most cities, and it is likely that more Americans live close to commercial airports than close to downtown train stations in the cities that would be served by Obama’s discontinuous rail network.

We also have an idiotic government-run airport security system slowing down air travel, which somehow has been twisted into an argument to have an idiotic and massively expensive government program of semi-fast train travel. For a lot less money, we could speed up airport security and have a better travel system than any of the countries that are wasting their money on high-speed trains.

Share

25 thoughts on “Stalling out? Try Dead

  1. Frank

    Here’s a detailed news article titled What Airport Security Costs You.

    Interesting tidbits:

    “That extra time spent at the airport has a cost. It means less time to spend at work, less time to spend with children, and less time for leisure. … Poole calculates that the annual cost to the country of the extra wait times from post-September 11 security procedures is about $8 billion. But he arrives at this number through a few assumptions that probably understate the real amount. … A full account of the cost of security delays does not end here, however. There are also ripple effects from the delays that create new costs. ”

    And here is a very frightening article from the NYT: Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly. Owe back taxes? Unemployed? Behind on your mortgage? The TSA will know! They will have access to the following for clearance on domestic flights:

    The complete list of sources of personal data reviewed by the TSA also includes:

    private employment information
    vehicle registrations
    travel history
    property ownership records
    physical characteristics
    tax identification numbers
    past travel itineraries
    law enforcement information
    intelligence information
    passport number
    frequent flier information
    other identifiers linked to DHS databases

    It’s a Brave New World. Let’s abolish the TSA to save money and to drastically reduce travel times.

  2. Frank

    Obsolete: no longer in general use; fallen into disuse.

    What percentage of Americans have even been on a train? One website, without citation, puts the number at 6%. About 10% of Americans take Amtrak (assuming each boarding is a unique individual and not a repeat customer). Yet 90% of all households own cars and virtually every American has been in a car. A dot-gov website asserts that over 80% of Americans have flown and that flying is the fastest growing mode.

    So yeah, rail passenger transportation is outdated. Obsolete.

    Rather than brace for the ensuing temper tantrum and name calling tirade, I will call myself names borrowing from your latest hissy fit:

    Let’s see… I am a “know-it-all right wing asshole and idiot” and a “moron.” I “sling particularly smelly and vile bullshit here.” I “shoot off” my “ill-informed, totally wrong ‘opinions.’” I’m an “insane right wing Obama-hating ignoramus shooting [my] mouth off without any iota of facts to back up [my] moronic assertions. I’m just “another Obama-hating village idiot”. I should just “go back under [my] rock or back into [my] fever swamp.”

    Another quality contribution.

  3. Frank

    Oh, and speaking of stone arch bridges; they’re obsolete, too: “…one has to recognize that that the stone arch is an obsolete technology and has been replaced by the cable stay, steel arch and concrete box girder bridge.” From: The Manual of Bridge Engineering

    Whatever. I’m just a “know-it-all right wing asshole and idiot” and a “moron.”

  4. msetty

    Frank, you obviously didn’t read the stone arch bridge article. As it points out, stone arch bridges are NOT obsolete in Third World situations where labor costs are still quite cheap. In most cases, concrete and steel bridges are NOT appropriate solutions when a poor country cannot afford to import steel, concrete and the modern engineering expertise that go into bridge structures using the most recent technology.

    Since you didn’t get it, I have to agree that your above admission about your lack of sense is similar to that moron Fred_Z, even though you appear better educated, or at least learned more that he apparently has.

  5. Frank

    But they are obsolete in industrialized First World countries, like America, where passenger rail is also obsolete. Throwing out a Third World example on a blog about government planning and transportation in America and the First World is a red herring.

    Have a good weekend and try to stay warm!

  6. msetty

    Yes, Frank, I supposed sailing ships are obsolete, too.
    http://www.treehugger.com/wind-technology/hybrid-container-ship-wind-driven-with-automatic-sails.html.

    I’m sure there are some situations where stone arch bridges may be applicable in the so-called “First World” e.g., national parks and similar heritage sites. Buggy whips are also still functional when one has a horse-drawn conveyance, which some people still do for very specialized applications, e.g., hauling tourists and pleasure rides. The most accurate characterization is “in limited use because it was generally replaced for that application,” NOT “obsolete” nor useful in all potential situations, per se.

    The point is that whether a particular type of technology or technique is still useful depends on the application; this is also the central point of the “No Tech” website. I know you will not claim that the wheel is obsolete because it is “4th millennium before Christ” technology, so please don’t continue to repeat the Antiplanner’s often-used fallacy of “it (rail) is ‘obsolete’ because it’s ’19th Century’ or ’2nd Century’ (concrete?!) technology.” Non-starter.

    For some applications, rail supporters such as myself believe rail is superior to buses and automobiles for a long list of reasons; we have NEVER, ever said “all” despite the outright deceptions by some rail opponents insinuating that we have. In fact, on my website my associate Demery and I have documented the fact the Europeans and Japanese–both places lacking brain-dead rail opponents unlike the U.S.–believe the economic “threshold” for low cost rail transit is around 5,000 daily passenger miles/[two-way] route mile, based on 300 day annualization factor.

  7. msetty

    If you want a form of rail transit that is truly “obsolete” that would be “trolley freight”…a Dutch city tried it recently but failed miserably. Small, efficient electric and diesel delivery trucks ran rings around that, like what happened in the 1920′s.

  8. Frank

    Maybe you don’t quite get the definition of obsolete. Here it is again:

    Obsolete: no longer in general use; fallen into disuse.

    And here again:
    What percentage of Americans have even been on a train? One website, without citation, puts the number at 6%. About 10% of Americans take Amtrak (assuming each boarding is a unique individual and not a repeat customer). Yet 90% of all households own cars and virtually every American has been in a car. A dot-gov website asserts that over 80% of Americans have flown and that flying is the fastest growing mode.

    Sounds like “no longer in general use” to me.

    Ciao.

  9. Fred_Z

    Hiya setty, nice to see you still haven’t discovered the third dimension, you know the one open to aircraft but not open to trains. It’s like this, see:

    Those magnificent men in their flying machines,
    they go up tiddly up up,
    they go down tiddly down down.

    They enchant all the ladies and steal all the scenes,
    with their up tiddly up up
    and their down tiddly down down.

    Up, down, flying around,
    looping the loop and defying the ground.

    setty, ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ not just ‘Right’ and ‘Left’, not to mention ‘looping the loop and defying the ground’, that’s the ticket.

    I am so proud to have been called a moron by setty, especially before I made any comment on this post. Imprimus, it means I really am clever, secundus, it means my past comments are exploding intellectual depth charges in setty’s brain. Of necessity they explode at a shallow depth, but still…

  10. msetty

    Frank, just because something is “not in general use” in the U.S. doesn’t make it “obsolete.” Tell it to the Europeans, particularly the Swiss, or the Japanese.

    Fred_Z, a bad case of projection on your part. I see you still have troubles with simple facts.

    ??

  11. msetty

    And Fred_Z, you obviously didn’t read Randal’s reply to our little “argument” on the previous thread. The origin of your rant over transit statistics that everyone (except you) agree are generally trustworthy…on the other hand, we could have debated about “what the data means” but that would require actually “thinking.”

  12. Frank

    “Frank, just because something is ‘not in general use’ in the U.S. doesn’t make it ‘obsolete.’ ”

    It DOES make it obsolete in the UNITED STATES.

    One could argue that passenger rail is not in general use in Europe because, according to the AP, “Europe’s rail system has about 6 percent of the passenger travel market.”

    Also according to the AP, “[a]s of 2007, rail’s share of Japanese passenger travel had declined to 29 percent,” and while that’s probably the highest percentage in the world, that means the majority of trips, 71%, use other modes, meaning that passenger rail in Japan is not in general use.

  13. transitboy

    With all due respect, if something was not in general use then you would see happen regularly. If only 1% of travel is by rail, rail travel is in general use because you see people taking the train every day.

    If rail is an obsolete technology, then so are cars, which haven’t changed much since their development in the late 1890s, and so are airplanes, which have changed little since the advent of jets in the 1960s. All of these modes have their place.

    I wish I could see on this site more people who can envision what transportation needs may occur in twenty years, rather than today. In fact, just last week I heard a report stating that in the next ten years major airports will experience crowding that will make every day like the day before Thanksgiving. If this were China or Robert Moses-era New York, then we could easily rip out homes, businesses, etc. to gigantically expand airports. If this were China or Robert Moses-era New York, then we could easily rip out homes, business, etc. to gigantically expand roads. But we have to deal with reality and accept that neither airport or road capacity will be appreciably greater in 20 years. What is one kind of transportation infrastructure that is ubiquitous in the United States and is currently underused? Railway corridors. In 20 years when other transportation infrastructure is at its breaking point we will be lucky to have railroad corridors to use.

  14. Frank

    “With all due respect, if something was not in general use then you would see happen regularly. ”

    General: of, pertaining to, or true of such persons or things in the main, with possible exceptions; common to most; prevalent; usual: the general mood of the people.

    Regularly: at regular times or intervals.

    These words do not have the same meaning.

    “If rail is an obsolete technology, then so are cars, which haven’t changed much since their development in the late 1890s, and so are airplanes, which have changed little since the advent of jets in the 1960s. All of these modes have their place.”

    Wrong definition, again. Which one of these modes are “not in general use”?

  15. Fred_Z

    setty, no trouble at all with simple facts, just simple people.

    Why do you set yourself up for such easy come backs?

    Why use the unnecessary word ‘simple’? Simple? Which used to be the word for ‘retarded’. Simple, innit?

    So, anyway, what “‘simple’ facts” trouble me? C’mon, be a man, state the facts that that I have missed.

  16. MJ

    If rail is an obsolete technology, then so are cars, which haven’t changed much since their development in the late 1890s, and so are airplanes, which have changed little since the advent of jets in the 1960s. All of these modes have their place.

    False equivalence. Nothing has come along to eclipse cars as the preferred mode of intracity travel. Likewise, nothing has come along to eclipse air travel as the preferred mode for long-distance intercity travel.

  17. Tal F

    Airplanes are absolutely better than rail for a cross-country trip, or even a trip over 500 miles or so. But most of these routes are not trying to compete with airplanes. There is no doubt that rail is faster than air for a trip from one city center to another city center (typical of business travel), and often cheaper, at medium distances. In fact, the biggest competition for these routes is from private cars. And say what you will about convenience, or even cost, but there is no doubt that rail is much safer than a car. Why not give people a safer choice?

  18. Frank

    “Airplanes are absolutely better than rail for a cross-country trip, or even a trip over 500 miles or so.”

    You must live in Colorado because clearly your weed is better than mine.

    Can you tell me how to get from Seattle to Phoenix via rail? Can’t seem to get the Amtrak website to tell me. Airlines sites start at tickets for $200 RT at 2:45 each way.

    I did find Amtrak tickets from Seattle to LA one-way costing $648 and taking 35 hours.

    Um. You appear to be talking out of your ass.

    Time to go away now.

Leave a Reply