Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

On the future, new urbanism, high speed rail and other things that go bump in the night

James Howard Kuntslr has an essay that gives one the kind of  grounding any sane person needs coping with a system devoted to wrong-headed, shortsighted and greedy choices. It’s called “Too Stpuid to Survive” and speaks of airlines, oil, city planning and our foremost topic of discussion. I think he may be just a bit too pesamistic (although one wonders if there can ever be too much pesamism in public policy).

The sad truth is it’s too late now. But the additional sad truth, at this point, is that Californians (and US public in general) would benefit tremendously from normal rail service on a par with the standards of 1927, when speeds of 100 miles-per-hour were common and the trains ran absolutely on time (and frequently, too) without computers (imagine that !). The tracks are still there, waiting to be fixed. In our current condition of psychotic techno-grandiosity, this is all too hopelessly quaint, not cutting edge enough, pathetically un-“hot.” The fact that it is not even considered by the editors of The New York Times, not to mention the governor of California, the President of the United States, and all the agency heads and departmental chiefs and think tank gurus and university engineering professors, is something that will have historians of the future rolling their eyes. But for the moment all it shows is that we are collectively too stupid to survive as an advanced society.

Cheer up! Folks like TFA, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association and Gil Carmichael are on the job.

And that reminds me. Little Rock hosts a high speed rail conference today and I hope to bring you some real news by this evening.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

3 Responses

  1. HockeyFan says:

    I’ve been reading Kunstler for years. He’s a pessimistic curmudgeon, but give him credit. He has been loudly and consistently calling for fixing up our once great rail system. While HSR captures people’s imagination, we should not forget that regular rail improvements are just as important if not more so. It’s far less expensive than building new roads and it’s so simple: roadbed, ballast, sleepers, spikes and rail. It’s the ultimate in low tech dating to the 1800’s.

  2. Don’t forget to add NARP to that list. We’re on the job, too, and have been for 42 years.

  3. Kunstler makes a good point here, but I’d take anything he says about rail with a grain of salt. He has twice-daily train service to New York and doesn’t seem to have ever taken it. His entire knowledge of Amtrak seems to be based on articles like the NYT Magazine one he cites in this post.

    Oh, and rail service in Kazakhstan seems to be a lot better than he gives it credit for. He’ll have to find another basis to diss Amtrak from: maybe Peru?

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June 2009


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