28.1.08

SEEKING BETTER RAIL ADVOCATES. Destination: Freedom continues to stir up a scandal in the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission report. It might help to have commentators who rely on logic on content.
This is the story of what may turn out to be another chapter in the nearly 90-year-long crusade by the Highway Lobby to stifle dissent on the part of anyone who dares to challenge its right to the mindless paving over of America. What is at stake: America grinding to a virtual halt, as our enemies use oil to blackmail us to our knees.
That genuflection is voluntary, as long as there is no development of oil resources in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, and a moratorium on further construction of nuclear power plants.
Behind its closed doors, however, the commission has been plagued by bitter controversy. On the one side has been what amounts to an all-highways all the time faction led by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. The other faction believes that with overcrowded airport runways, delayed flights, and increasingly unacceptable congestion on city streets and inter-city highways, it is well past time America put more emphasis on the third leg of the transportation stool — the nations’ railroads — freight and passenger.
That third leg is doing quite well, thank you, without Washington's help. A day's drive from here I can find a three-and-four-track railroad that never sees a passenger train. (Hmm, road trip?) Last Friday, I went to a retrospective on the abandonment of the North Shore Line that reminded me the Skokie rapid transit line took a year to build, and only another year to reach North Chicago to connect with existing trackage to Milwaukee. And we'll see the CTA at Old Orchard when?

Perhaps that, too, is the consequence of a massive conspiracy.

Regardless of who or what factors led to the deletion of Weyrich’s section of the report, one can understand why some highway interests would view it as too hot to handle.

The General Motors legend Alfred P. Sloan back in the twenties hatched a plot to destroy America’s electric rail systems in cities all across America (for which his company was ultimately convicted in 1949 and given what amounted to a slap on the wrist). Highway interests meanwhile have moved heaven and earth to see that Americans were denied development choices that were hospitable to anything other than auto transport. You want to pick up a prescription or a quart of milk? Chances are you have no choice other than to haul up to a couple of tons of steel and rubber to do it. In pre-World War II America, most Americans could conveniently walk to accomplish small errands. Walkable neighborhoods are transit-friendly, especially when that transit mode is rail. You may be old enough to remember when there was an electric “trolley” line (called “light rail” in its present incarnation) in your town that was destroyed.

Please. Whatever n was in this post, it is now n+k. And it discredits Mr Weyrich's redacted minority report to tie it, even tangentially, to that Roger Rabbit story.

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