Here's what makes automobiles the devil incarnate
It's not their exhaust or the fuel they burn; it's their steering wheels. Drivers get to go wherever they want to go, even if it's not to a "good" place. Trains run on rails and don't need steering wheels. They go where the all-wise planners know you ought to be.
Thus is explained the irrational preference for passenger rail transport that is continually expressed by the American left. Amtrak is a dud. It's trapped in the past — before automobiles opened up the vast American continent. Rail is great for shipping freight, but not people, who need to be fed, take naps, and go to the bathroom. Lumber, sugar beets, soybeans, and automobiles are much easier to handle. Amtrak, however, has the right-of-way on the tracks, forcing freight trains to pull into "holes" to get out of the way, thus delaying the completion of their tasks and increasing the cost.
Meanwhile, the reductio ad absurdum of the passenger rail pipe dream is California's HSR (high-speed rail). After years of work and billions of dollars spent, some day in the future, folks wanting to get from Bakersfield to Modesto in a hurry will probably still have to drive. Even some incompetent and corrupt politicians are starting to get cold feet:
Years ago, the Legislature empaneled a group of "experts" to forecast the bottom-line reality of the project. Their finding, back then, was that the operating cost of sending a passenger from the Bay Area to metro Los Angeles via HSR was greater than the retail price of an airline ticket. Since then, HSR has accumulated still more cost overruns.
Yes, passenger rail is still viable in areas of high population density — where riders and destinations are plentiful. But much of America is hinterland, rich in empty vastness. Lurking below all of this wishful thinking about environmentally friendly fuel efficiency is the desire by autocrats for c-o-n-t-r-o-l. There is even a movement afoot to intentionally worsen traffic and parking in order to compel people to use mass transit.
Prior to the pandemic, mass transit ridership was already on the decline — due to ride-sharing outfits such as Uber and Lyft. How so? They are immensely more convenient and often less expensive. As in other areas, the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Mass transit, however, is a branch of government, not an entrepreneurial innovation. As such, it has an entrenched support system. I am no longer surprised to see double-sized articulated buses, practically empty but going through the motions and tying up traffic. And the involuntarily generous taxpayers are no longer surprised to see the add-ons to their property tax bills to cover the revenue deficit being generated by these systems.
Here in the Bay Area, I realized long ago that transportation was really the most dominant issue within the realm of public policy. After all, there's this ginormous (though mostly shallow) body of water smack-dab in the middle of everything. Yeah, first ferries, then bridges, and then subway tubes. When Richard Henry Dana, writing in Two Years Before the Mast, came here in the early 1840s, there were no real harbors, so they used longboats to go ashore. Progress has accumulated.
Today's "visionaries," however, are much more interested in getting kickbacks from the various unions that operate these obsolete and largely underused systems. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just teleport ourselves to our desired destinations and not have to bother with the drudgery of actually getting there? "Beam me up, Scottie!"
Image via YouTube screengrab (cropped).
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