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Opening Arguments

Hitting the rails

Where I grew up, some relatives could be reached only by train, so I've had a lifelong fondness for that mode of travel. And during my time in northwest Indiana, I enjoyed the idea of having the South Shore available. How cool is it to have an electric interurban still around in this day and age? It was so easy to ride the train to the Randolph Street Station to take in downtown Chicago instead of driving through all that maddening traffic. I noted with interest the new double-decker cars the South Shore has added to the fleet, though perhaps in reality they won't be as much fun as I imagine them to be:

"You can't beat a view like this," said Hackett, waving sarcastically at a portion of Northwest Indiana's less attractive stretches of industrial land. "It's almost like being in a new automobile -- you can smell it."

Ah, yes, that new train smell, although old-train smell isn't that bad.

In case you're interested, there'll be a rally Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the Baker Street Railroad Station to drum up support for high-speed rail. President Obama's stimulus package includes $8 billion for that service, and of the nine states in the Midwest, Indiana is the only one not to apply for any of the funding. High-speed rail is a long shot, I think -- it would be extremely expensive and take a very long time, not to mention the fact that rail is for collective travel and Americans' much prefer individual travel. But it's an interesting and praiseworthy effort nonetheless. High-speed rail could drastically improve the economy of the Midwest.

And before you start screaming about a libertarian seeming to endorse federal subsidies for railroads, I know, I know. But the government subsidizes all sorts of transportation in all sorts of ways, from highway funding to support for airports. Unless we're going to talk about an end to all federal transportation spending (which would be an interesting debate as well), there should at least be a discussion about which mode gets how much and why.


Tue, 03/31/2009 - 9:01am

That last paragraph is spot on, Leo. The inconsistent treatment railroads get compared to other modes of transportation with respect to government funding is baffling to me. I happen to think government spending for infrastructure is absolutely vital to economic development. But even if folks disagree with that premise, consistent application of whatever premise you start with would seem to be in order.

Michael B-P
Tue, 03/31/2009 - 9:07am

Well, hell, if there's $8B up for grabs and we're the only ones wanting it, take it and run!

I know you're familiar with this story:


Now that GM is receiving its "comeuppance," perhaps we could put some folks IN INDIANA back to work building electric and/or high speed rail. My own preference would be a return to local electric, but anything would be better than a frikkin' casino.

Bob G.
Tue, 03/31/2009 - 10:55am

Funny how things work...

If they (the governments, both federal AND local) had not done AWAY with all the regional passenger rail lines for the sake of the automobile...we wouldn't even be having this convo...would we?

Another coming of the "full circle", it would seem.

Tue, 03/31/2009 - 10:12pm

Everybody wants the $8 Billion for high speed rail. San Francisco Bay area, the mythical Vegas to Disney Line, Twin Cities to Chicago, Milwaukee to Chicago, Washington to Richmond to Raleigh to Charlotte.

Wherever a maglev line gets built, it will add an enormous load onto taxpayers forever. Operating costs will always exceed revenues. We give away bus rides in Fort Wayne, but cannot begin to fill buses rumbling on city streets.

"Build it and they will come" doesn't work well for regional transportation.