Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Autos stil rule

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a newspaper which runs my weekly political column every Monday, ran a column in the Sunday paper that may have showed up in your town. Now, you can’t read the Democrat-Gazette online without a subscription. The publisher has taken some heat on that, but the paper continues to operate without the  cutbacks common in the newspaper industry. Maybe some folks in Arkansas know what they’re doing, after all.

Anyway, the column is simply dreadful. Patrick McIlheran takes the mandatory shot at Amtrak and announces that the automobile is still king of the transportation world.

That’s not a surprise. It’s the truth. It’s also what students of rhetoric call a “straw man.” Nobody has ever suggested that the American love affair with the automobile is going to end any time soon. What we at TFA propose is alternatives.

People will continue to drive, but probably less. Why should we take fewer trips just to satisfy the greed of political interests?

We might also note that Amtrak ridership will experience a natural “cap” due to a serious equipment shortage.

You can read it all here, or wait for the darned thing to appear in the local paper. It’s just as wrong either way.


Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

5 Responses

  1. Cal says:

    Well the real power of rail is HST like were planning in CA where 25-30 trains a day run at speeds well above 150mph ..and cover distance undreamed of by driving.No the auto age is not over here or in Europe but we need high speed rail as much as they do.

  2. slc says:

    Cars rule. But they are not beloved rulers. A particularly apt quote (considering the Big Three bailout) from the April 1955 (!) issue of The Atlantic:

    “It seems that giants in industry are taking refuge in sameness. This is just the time when they ought to be pioneering while they have the money, the momentum, and the market. This “management by escapism” is usually a manifestation of a fearful and insecure society. […]

    Progressive management may realize that it is losing contact with a segment of consumers and that, however spectacular the sales, the company is losing popularity. This unpopularity has not yet reduced sales. But I think resentment is growing. And resentment is never an asset.

    The public may admire a corporation for its impressive size. Who in the United States doesn’t? But when a business, however gigantic, gets smug enough to believe that it is sufficient only to match competition on trivial points instead of leading competition in valid matters, that business is becoming vulnerable to public disfavor.

    If there should be any such thing as a cloud in the blue sky of bigness for bigness’ sake, I believe it will be the loss of people’s trust and not governmental interference or control. […]

    But now we come back to 1955 and our automotive jukeboxes. Are we proud of them? What do you think? Nothing about the appearance of the 1955 automobiles offsets the impression that Americans must be wasteful, swaggering, insensitive people. Automotive borax offers gratuitous evidence to people everywhere that much of what they suspect about us may be true. Our values are off beat, our ostentation acute, if the 1955 automobile is any reflection of ourselves and our taste. “

    That piece by designer Raymond Loewy tells me something about the culture in Detroit and our culture in general, since things haven’t changed that much in the last 50 years.

  3. Nobody has ever suggested that the American love affair with the automobile is going to end any time soon?

    (featuring my cousin, Mr. Transit)

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