Friday, December 26, 2008

Spend It on Trains

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!

If you are looking for something to bide the time this weekend, I recommend taking a look at Neal Peirce's column. It is very much related to the question I've raised here of how our stimulus dollars will be spent.

This week, Peirce starts with the premise of Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's planned train ride from Philadelphia to the inauguration. The question Peirce raises is how much this symbolic emphasis on transit will translate to actual policy.

The need for investment in transit is clear. Peirce quotes Amtrak's president, Thomas Downs:

“The equipment status is near collapse . . . Every locomotive needs to be rebuilt. Ditto almost every passenger car. Tracks speeds keep getting lower, equipment out of date. The system is starved for capital.”

Not to mention:

"There’s little doubt the public wants modern high-speed rail service–Just note Californians’ recent approval of $9 billion for a 220-mile per hour line to link all major cities from Sacramento to San Diego. Regions from the Midwest to Texas to Florida, the South’s Piedmont area to the Pacific Northwest, need to make parallel progress soon."

However:

"Will railroads get a break in the massive economic stimulus package now being debated (and fiercely fought over by states and localities)? . . . without strong presidential backing, rails could too easily lose out as not being 'shovel ready' . . ."

Read the full column here.

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