At root, conservatism is about preserving good things from the past and, where they have been lost, restoring them. Conservatives know that life in the past was in many ways better than life at present; morals and manners both come to mind. So, as some of us are old enough to remember, was travel.Well, yes, that's The America That Worked(TM), and yet, transgressive, post-modern, non-judgemental America might be more bearable if travellers could get to know the people who are riding with them, rather than, as on the road, wishing they'd GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!, or, in the air. resenting their hogging the arm-rest or grabbing all the carry-on luggage space or battering away on a laptop.
The word “travel” itself suggests a better time and better experiences getting from one place to another than those we now suffer. Travel, where the journey itself is part of the pleasure, has been displaced by “transportation.” Like so many bandboxes or birdcages, people too are now packages and shipped. Whether crammed into an airline seat designed for garden gnomes, your baggage thoroughly (or not) searched in case you are a terrorist, or stuck in heavy traffic behind the wheel of a car, enjoying the journey is not in the script. Your highest hope is to get through it quickly and safely and forget about it as soon as possible.
Bless me, this is pleasant, riding on the Rail!
Passenger trains offer comfortable travel the middle class can afford. On long-distance trains, most of which use Amtrak’s double-decker Superliner cars, a reasonable coach fare gets you a better seat than domestic flights offer in first class. You have a big window and interesting things to see from it. You can look out, read, work, or nap, all with plenty of room. You can get up and walk around, including to a lounge car with wraparound glass and, for now, to the dining car for a meal with real food. The train can be social if you want it to be; it is easy to meet people. If your trip is overnight, for a somewhat steeper fare, though usually less than first class by air, you can get a private room with a bed at night and a comfortable chair or sofa during the day.Just as I've been pointing out for years.
But there's something about a train, particularly a partially tax-funded train, that annoys Republicans in ways tax-funded roadways and airways and
Congressional Republicans explain their hostility to Amtrak with two arguments. First, Amtrak is subsidized, and second, it runs trains no one rides.And Amtrak operate all-reserved-seat trains on most lines because otherwise they'd be engendering ill will with all the standees.
Yes, Amtrak is subsidized. So are all competing forms of transportation. Highways cover only 51 percent of their costs from all user fees, including the gas tax. The rest is paid by subsidies of one form or another, especially from local property taxes. Airlines receive massive subsidies in the form of airports and the air traffic control system. The day after 9/11, the airlines ran to Capitol Hill and were immediately given billions of dollars in additional taxpayer money, no questions asked.
Congress in its wisdom however will not appropriate money for new coaching stock, despite historically low interest rates and potentially high returns on investment. Mr Lind and Mr Bottoms suggest such behavior is anything but conservative.
What is the Republican Party in Congress about? Whom do the Republicans represent and serve? The middle class, who enjoy traveling by train and can afford to do so—or just the 1 percent, people who travel by private jet and write large checks as campaign contributions?And renders difficult any effort to create a serious, national, Passenger Rail network. Yonah Freemark of City Lab is of the view that absent National Action, there never will be high speed trains in the United States.
Ultimately, the Republican Party’s efforts in Congress to deny Americans the choice of travel by rail come down to two different visions of America. The first is a vision of the America we once had and conservatives still want, an overwhelmingly middle-class country with lots of nice things available at prices the middle class can afford. The other is an America where the 1 percent lounge in Neronian splendor while the middle class sinks into poverty, where everything they can afford is unpleasant. With its efforts to destroy Amtrak, the Republican Congress casts a vote for the latter.
It's time for the US to commit to national planning, funding, coordination, and prioritization of rail investment.Not necessarily, The Pennsylvania Railroad provided interstate service in The Official Region for years, and three railroads raced between Chicago and the Twin Cities, until that active federal engagement we know as the Interstate Highways wrecked it. But there will be neither a national commitment (spending of tax moneys) to high speed rail nor a transportation policy with less dependence by the modes on tax moneys, which would also be favorable to high speed trains, as long as "trains are a metrofexual hallucination" is part of the Republican mind-set.
Intercity transportation systems require active federal engagement to guarantee the development of routes that reflect national needs and national priorities. Yet without political consensus on the need to develop national goals and focus investments, high-speed rail will remain a pipe dream for decades to come.