Home > Breaking the Chains > FUBAR Tuesday: Highway to Hell

FUBAR Tuesday: Highway to Hell


A few years ago when I was regularly negotiating the I-71 slalom back and forth between Cincinnati and Cleveland, I would usually spend half the trip cursing the oil, automobile and highway construction lobbyists. You see, it was their fault that I was making a dangerous and boring (boringly dangerous?, dangerously boring?)  four-and-a- half-hour automobile drive instead of riding comfortably on high-speed rail where I could work, read, flirt or even have a cocktail (while flirting). The trip from cities like Cleveland to Cincinnati is ideal for rail because it’s too far to safely drive and too short to fly (by the time you get through the check-in and security bullshit you might as well have driven).

Americans have been stupid enough to allow lobbyists to deprive us of an efficient, low-polluting, pleasant mode of transportation enjoyed by the civilized world, (notice I didn’t say “rest of” as I don’t consider America civilized). Yes, high speed rail would have to be subsidized but so is the automobile and so is aviation. The real cost of gas is about $15.00 but we only pay $2 to $3 dollars. As a buddy of mine is fond of saying, conservatives only call it subsidized socialism if it rides on a rail.

In the Sep/Oct edition of Miller-McCune magazine (if you haven’t heard of it and I’ll bet you haven’t, you need to rectify the situation www.miller-mccune.com ) Bruce Selcraig lays out the details of the American transportation travesty in his article, “A Track to the Future”. I’m going to excerpt portions of it below but you need to go read the whole piece.

“…Unthinkable in Europe, America has metro areas with more than a million people – such as Nashville, Tenn., Columbus, Ohio, Phoenix and Las Vegas, – with no inner-city passenger rail of any kind, at any speed.”

“…In virtually every developed nation except the United States, although there may be pitched battles over immigration, foreign policy and soccer, hardly anyone argues about the wisdom of fast trains.”

“… Building a new system of high-speed rail in America will be faster, cheaper and easier than building more freeways or adding to an already overburdened aviation system…”

“… in America it [subsidies for rail] has become a call to arms for libertarians and “fiscal conservatives” who insist that high-speed rail pay for itself, while ignoring the massive subsidies received by the auto and airline industries.”

“…Since 1983, mass transit has only received about one-eight of those highway taxes, and none went to true high-speed rail because, to date, the U.S. has no high-speed trains.”

“… not be enough to alter the course of a me-first, car-first nation, until, of course, $8-a-gallon gas does the altering for us.”

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Categories: Breaking the Chains
  1. G
    August 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Try flirting with a woman while driving. She won’t look at you because she’s busy flirting with her phone. Then there’s the people who hate trains. They are confounded by the problem of how can one goes through a fast food drive through on a train? Thus spoiling their family’s dinner plan. Why doesn’t the train doesn’t drop me off at my house? Why can’t it move when I want it to move? These are big issues facing dumbed down Americans. Cars are freedom, dammit! Right! Because there’s nothing more liberating than sitting in a 20 mile traffic jam for two hours.

    All kidding aside. When gas was over $4 per gallon people started to change their ways. At $8 per gallon they will have no choice. Unfortunately for most Americans, there will be no other choices. Like every other energy crisis we’ve been through we will be reactive instead of proactive and complain that the government hasn’t done enough to protect us from these shocks while they simultaneously rally for less taxes and smaller government. It’s like telling a dog to fetch and lay down at the same time.

    Maybe it’s time for a rail lobby.

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