14.9.15

TO REALLY FOUL THINGS UP REQUIRES AN ACT OF CONGRESS.

The editorial board at Chicago's Sun-Times make a strong case for delaying the positive train control deadline, which if enforced in its current form, will lead to the railroads shutting down.
Congress enacted the legislation ordering the installation of positive train control in 2008. Setting a deadline at the end of 2015 simply wasn’t realistic.

At the start, there were delays just writing the rules. More time went by as railroads waited to get their plans approved. Railroads had to go through a cumbersome Federal Communications Commission process to get radio spectrum (Metra still doesn’t know if it has enough). And the technology had to be designed; it wasn’t something they could go buy at Radio Shack.
Not to mention that shopping for components at Radio Shack is increasingly something only people of a certain age get.  It's also a good bet that whatever train control network is in place at year's end will be obsolete in the technological sense within five years.  But railroads persevere.  A major junction in the Metra network still moves trains with The Pennsylvania Railroad's electropneumatic interlockings from the Calvin Coolidge era.

The editors, however, have the policy implications right.
Forcing the system to grind to a halt on Jan. 1 won’t do us any favors. Nor should Metra be forced to waste time making contingency plans. Extend the deadline now.
Right now, my over-under is on Congress either doing nothing until the railroads issue their embargoes around Thanksgiving, which will start to bite around Christmas, or Congress doing nothing until the trains stop running.

If you're really into the political scenarios, might Our President take a page out of Harry Truman's book and nationalize the railroads, ordering the National Guard to run trains, train control in place or not?

1 comment:

TM Lutas said...

GanttProject is a multi-OS free piece of software that allows ordinary people with computers to create a project plan. I would bet that it, its famous commercial cousin Microsoft Project, or some other competitor showed the disaster in the making by at latest 2010.

We generally define problems well including the resources necessary to fix them on time. We don't, however, make that public so that the interested portion of the public can rouse us to action long before a looming deadline causes panic and waste. We should. There might be one in ten thousand people who cared about this and were following it closely when the coming disaster would have become apparent. In a country of three hundred million, that is a group of thirty thousand passionate, informed people with no real organized opposition on the other side. That's more than enough to have moved Congress.

As citizens we just don't require the government to release that sort of information. Time for a signals upgrade.