Thursday, June 21, 2007

This Week in Trains

This week, a rant of personal greed and selfishness.

Passenger train service needs to cheaper. Think about it. Trains are, by far, the most efficient way to move large numbers of people. Less fuel is consumed. Less pollution is produced. Yes, it will take longer than using an airplane for cross-country hops, but for most short hops it's actually shorter after you factor in all of the nonsense that goes with getting to an airport, checking your baggage, yada yada yada.

Still, train fare for two people is generally more expensive than taking a car, even if you account for wear and tear on the car, insurance, gas and everything.

If the train is such an efficient method of transportation, why is this so?

It's because you don't, up front, pay the true cost of driving your car.

You see, in order to drive a car, you need a series of smooth surfaces over which to drive it. These are often referred to as "roads" or "highways". Highways have overpasses, true marvels of engineering, and cloverleafs, on-ramps, off-ramps, girders, embankments, ditches, lights, digital signs, traffic cops, accidents, ambulances. In fact, a whole lot of the cost of driving your car is hidden away from you and kept quite indirect.

Your taxes dollars are subsidizing the driving of your car.

Imagine if your tax dollars equally subsidized efficient public transportation. How many billions of dollars would be involved there? Some astronomical figure, for certain. Now buses still need roads, but they wouldn't have nearly as many accidents, nor put as much mass on the road. Trains have tracks that need maintenance and have their own digital signs, but those they use quite efficiently and are easier to maintain than a giant network of highways. People would also have to spend at least some their days walking around, which would likely save us some health care dollars.

So, in summary, we ought to be subsidizing public transportation a lot more than we do. As well, we should stop complaining that VIA Rail and other outfits like it "aren't profitable". Neither is the highway system, so what's your point?

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