By on June 6, 2011


The National High-Speed Train Network seems to go nowhere, fast. But wait, here’s the next big thing:

“The Obama Administration is committed to putting Americans back to work making the products our nation needs to compete,” said Secretary Ray LaHood. “We want U.S. manufacturers to supply the rails for U.S. streetcars and today’s meeting was a first step toward making this a reality.”

From a DOT press release, dated 6/6/2011, titled “U.S. Department of Transportation Encourages American Production of Steel Rails for Streetcars.”

According to the release, streetcars make “a real comeback in many cities.”

Scary.

But wait: Can we text in streetcars? Yes?

 

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69 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: A Streetcar Named LaHood...”


  • avatar
    jjster6

    So let’s get the US back to work making an ancient technology like rails. Why not buggy whips, ceramic pots, or telegraph machines? This guy LaHood is dangerous.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Rail technology has moved forward. Just not in the US. I’ll be surprised if you can compare the TGV to a buggy whip:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV

      Also, remember that the USA is continent-spanning nation. That means that what works in the suburbs of the east coast (I’ve lived there) doesn’t necessarily apply in other parts of the nation. For instance, high speed trains make a lot of sense out here in the midwest, because the towns are small but very dense (because the farmland is so valuable). When I lived in Virginia, driving 30 minutes to the train station to make an hour-trip seemed nuts — and it is; once you drive somewhere in a car, changing modes doesn’t usually make sense.

      But my new town here in the midwest is smaller and much much denser than anywhere that I lived in the East, so I can catch a bus to the train station, and take Amtrak to several of the major cities in the region. It currently takes longer than driving, but as soon as the trains break about 100mph, they’ll save me both time *and* the aggravation of driving and parking in a major city. This may not be true where you live, but trains already work in the Midwest, and they could easily be a lot better.

      Buggy whips are obsolete. Trains, not so much. They’re never going to replace cars, since they’re good for different things — but they are an important tool in the transportation mix. I’d *much* rather take a passenger train than fight traffic for hours. I’d much rather drive a car to the grocery store, or to a rural park. I need both.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    A streetcar resurgence would invigorate the debate about the lack of safety systems like seatbelts, airbags etc. in public transport. So yes, you could yap and text safely, but the bickering between the feds and the Nader-kind wouldn’t end. It would only shift.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    “A Streetcar named Conspire: General Electric meets the UAW!”

    Today’s heartwarming tale of America at work! Unused auto plants… displaced auto union workers… blue states in distress… the car industry fleeing to right-to-work states… the horror of reapportionment as voters decamp. Uncle DaHood knew what to do. Feel the power of his historic call to Jeffrey at Government Electric. Watch the bold elite hammer out a Marshall Plan for green jobs, crank open the money spigots, and flood the parched American jobscape with lifegiving subsidies for their tribe!

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Manufacturing in the US is not a happy proposition. It is not extinct, and will not be, but given the fact that globalization without equalizing tariffs makes it possible for companies to manufacture overseas, and then import their wares at a profit, it is difficult to imagine a great increase in domestic industry. Especially in our current business cycle.

    Also, if the Obama administration is in favor of manufacturing, it will only be for the sake of union workers, in which case the industry will likely have to be subsidized considerably as the cost of producing said item will be increased accordingly.

    Other than that, the idea of streetcars must be a joke. But given the nature of the administration, it somehow all makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      The US tax code and other government policy tends to encourage banks to loan money for consumer consumption and to discourage loans for manufacturing. Credit cards and home mortgages are profitable, no-brainer business while there are many risks that a manufacturer will fail to pay back a loan. In Asian countries with high savings rates, banks have lots of money to lend and investing in manufacturing is a relatively good deal. This situation where Asia builds manufacturing plants and the US builds bigger houses has existed for at least a generation before Obama became president. His administration has made things worse with more regulations and uncertainty, but the hollowing out of US manufacturing has been going on for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Actually, there is a lot of manufacturing done in the U.S. – just not in the consumer goods we buy at J.C.Penney, Kohl’s, Auto Zone, Best Buy and the like as far as clothes, tools, electronics and appliances.

      Unfortunately, just try to buy a better AR-15 or some other weapon elsewhere!

  • avatar
    slumba

    As China suffers inflation, they will have to charge more. This will erode the pricing advantage Chinese made goods have – Chinese Yuan is locked to the USD and does not float as other currencies do. Some but not all manufacturing will come back to the USA as our dollar loses value in respect to other currencies.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I’m keeping my horse.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    streetcars? and what about stagecoaches?

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    While there’s nothing wrong with streetcars per se, and I certainly think they’re a better solution than LRT’s, you can’t retrofit them into a street that hadn’t planned for it during the initial stage. Again, another typical governmental transportation boondoogle.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    They work in Boston just fine. More would be better there. Every rider is one less siting in front of me in a truck or minivan on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      JKC

      Exactly. Why self-proclaimed auto enthusiasts wouldn’t want non-enthusiasts off the road is a mystery to me.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Because some of us know that non-enthusiasts are less of a disruption than street cars are in traffic. We don’t have to pay for non-enthusiasts either.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Boston’s Green line trains (our street cars) aren’t disruptive. They’re either underground or further out they travel in the median strip on the surface. Besides, Boston would not function if it wasn’t for it’s mass transit system. Massive numbers of people take the T and there’s no way in hell they’d all fit on the roads if they were driving into town.

        As for me, I have to head into the office in Boston tomorrow. I’m an enthusiast and I have free parking privileges in my building, but if the monitor on my dash is showing lots of red and black (heavy traffic indicators) on I-93, I’m going to pull off and head into the train station. Easier on me and even easier on my car.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Even Toronto’s streetcars (which are on the street) aren’t that bad. And they do account for the equivalent of a a hundred or so cars each. It’s not their fault that the streets are often choked with traffic anyway.

        I agree that there’s no real harm in things like this. They get cars off the road, use less fuel (and pollute less at ground level; a huge deal in a city) than buses, and don’t require millions or billions in re-engineering like underground or elevated subway/LRT.

        If anything else, Toronto needs more of them. Do they work everywhere? No: buses are better in suburbs and/or where there are fewer passengers, and subway/elevated trains work better when density and traffic are too high. They’re another useful tool for the urban planner.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree completely. The fewer cars on the road, the easier it is for those of us who remain in our cars to drive, and park once we arrive.

        MCS is totally correct about Boston. The congestion would be much worse without the street cars, and the street cars do not get in the way. They run in median strips.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Where’s my flying car I – we were promised 50 years ago?

    I dearly loved the street cars St. Louis had, almost as good as a real train ride, and nothing is better than that, even if my Impala is pretty sweet!

  • avatar
    marc

    I hva no ,ove for Ray LaHood, but this is a silly article.

    “Industry experts estimate that 18,000 metric tons of steel girder rail will be needed over the next three years to meet the demand of streetcar projects being planned and built in the U.S. That amount is expected to expand to upwards of 33,000 metric tons over the coming decade.”

    LaHood is not starting a push for the railcars, municipalities are already developing the lines. Why not make a push for US companies to produce the steel? Is this a bad thing?

    • 0 avatar

      If there’s a market for the rail, I’m sure there’s a steel company or two left in Gary, Indiana, that will be glad to supply that market.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        In the minds of some people, nothing can happen without government. People will just sit there and wait for the government to tell them what to do, what to buy. what to eat, when they’re sick, everything.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckR

      Industry experts estimate that 18,000 metric tons of steel girder rail will be needed
      Am I supposed to be impressed by this big number? A single middling sized tanker or container ship has this much steel in it. Not really a large amount. Perhaps if they gave the number in pounds or ounces I would be impressed…. By way of comparison, Nucor alone recycled 10 million cars in 2007.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    What is the fascination with street cars. Buses are cheaper, more flexible, more compatible with other traffic. If a city has an installed working street car system, they should keep it. But, if they don’t have it already, they shouldn’t bother.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Buses are always, 100% of the time, slower than cars, because they need to use the same roads. Even if you have dedicated bus lanes, cars will just drive in them anyway once stuff starts to get congested. Light rail and subways can bypass congested roads, making them potentially faster. How much faster they are in reality depends on how congested the roads are, population density, and a ton of other factors.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Buses pollute a lot at ground level (even hybrid ones, which are comparatively finicky), don’t carry as many people and need more maintenance (streetcars are electric, and stupid-simple)

      Buses work in the suburbs; they don’t work well when density increases past what they can cope with. I lived off Spadina Ave. in Toronto when they were running buses and, versus the streetcars they have now, the buses don’t work well at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      Buses make some economic sense. They’re (‘relatively’ applies to all this, compared to rail of any type) flexible, cheap, easy to repair, easy to roll out, easy to increase capacity. But compared to the fantasy world of shiny rails, they’re smelly, dirty, common, lumbering, full of stinky poor people, and completely unattractive. Trains are quaint, evocative, and romantic.

      Any trolley or light rail system that can move faster than prevailing traffic has been moved off the common right of way. You can do that with buses too, for a lot cheaper (it’s a lot cheaper to build a 20-foot wide busway with road surface than dual track rail). But people don’t like buses because they have the connotation of ‘poor’.

    • 0 avatar
      snabster

      Buses have their advantages, but don’t discount streetcars either.

      Smother ride, quieter, better torque with electronics, and more importantly: cheaper to operate. How much does one bus driver make? A streetcar can take 2-3x the number of passengers for the price of one driver.

      Streetcars in suburban areas can also promote development, which means you don’t need to drive 5 miles to get to a CVS.

      given that many 19th century cities grew up around streetcars, transitioning them back would not be super-diffficult. Moving an Phoenix or Houston to a streetcar network, yes. DC, or Cleveland, or even Detroit would be possible.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Because buses can feel lower-class. So trains must be better, right?

      I used to think that trains must be better than buses for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on but, after I started using public transportation regularly, I came to the conclusion that the above issue was probably it.

      The truth is more complicated, though. I live in a college town, and a good cross-section of the town rides on buses, and the route I ride mostly carries foreign graduate students, along with a few professors and staffers who work at the university. This already contradicts most people’s stereotypes of who rides the bus. It is true that poor people ride the bus, but it’s probably more true that the people who ride in the bus are the people who live in your town. My experience is that I sit in the back of the bus and talk about kids with a bunch of highly educated dads from all over the world.

      But, there’s more to it than that. My town has a mix of diesel-electric hybrid buses (the +$100k hybrid premium is a big win for a city bus over the life of the vehicle), and a bunch of older conventional diesel buses. I ride the same route most of the time, and the local bus operator rotates different buses through the routs. The diesel-electric hybrid buses just feel nicer, because that turbodiesel V8 holds a steady speed and sounds like a boat engine, rather than screaming at full power every time the bus accelerates. It’s amazing how much nicer the hybrid buses feel, with the same passengers, the same driver, and the same route. They’re also a lot quieter and smoother inside and out. The noise, jerkiness, and cosmetic wear that old buses have may be part of why people have such odd ideas about buses.

      Anyone who hasn’t really experienced a quality local bus system needs to try it, especially if they have a chance to ride the new smooth/quiet hybrid buses. I no longer wish for a streetcar when a bus will do. If the routes are busy and stable enough to warrant a streetcar, build it. If the planning-flexibility of a bus outweighs the economies-of-scale that come with rail, fine — just get the bus to me on time and get me routes that go from where I am to where I need to be.

      I love cars, but life is so much less stressful if I can leave my car partly disassembled in the garage until I have the time to fix it. Cars are great fun, and incredibly useful machines, but car dependence is an unnecessary waste of my time, money, and sanity.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    I prefer buses myself – but if streetcars rails need made, why not try to manufacture them in the US?

    Trying to turn this into something sinister is FOX news idiotic.

  • avatar

    I wonder if anyone will bring up GM’s supposed conspiracy against electric streetcars back in the 1950s.

    http://www.1134.org/stan/ul/GM-et-al.html

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Oh, please….

    Have SOME you who are griping about streetcars as being ancient technology ever ridden one or even a mass transit system that is on rails Hmmm…?

    There is a place for streetcars, and in this case, not the old style cars unless that’s the ACTUAL design, Tacoma and Seattle have a street car line or 2 currently and in Seattle at least, more are in the planning stages for certain areas of the city and currently, we are in the midst of a light rail line from downtown that’ll go all the way to the UW, through my neighborhood and is expected to open by 2016. We already have the line to Sea-Tac airport done and has been operational since I think nearly a year.

    Add to that, a commuter rail line from Seattle to Tacoma via BN rails if I’m not mistaken and we have a regional as well as county wide bus systems that work together to get riders wherever they need to go and all use the same Orca bus pass, it’s very slick.

    I’ve just started taking the bus to work using my work supplied bus pass from Seattle to Bellevue via I-90 across Lake Washington and it’s not that much longer getting to and from via bus. I leave home at 6:47 and arrive at work around 7:20, leave work at 4:38 or so and get into my hood and off by 5:30 or so and it takes me sometimes that long to get home by car or at times longer if traffic is horrible.

    And most street cars built today aren’t like the photo in this post but are much like light rail cars in design, and some are just that, light rail cars that run on surface and/or underground depending on route taken.

    Ray Lahood or no, the general idea has merit, but how they are going at it may or may not be the best solution to the problem and as others have said, many cities are going back to a new, modern update of this idea and Seattle has 2 lines from downtown to South Lake Union a purple line and a red line. There used to be an antique trolly used down on the waterfront but it’s not in service right now as far as I know and here had been plans to rework it once their garage had to be removed due to remodeling of a waterfront park in recent years.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Have SOME you who are griping about streetcars as being ancient technology ever ridden one or even a mass transit system that is on rails Hmmm…?

      Nope. Probably not, or at least not every day. It’s very easy to criticize urban mass transit when you live somewhere where “traffic jam” means “when Ol’ Bill’s Chevy stalled and half-blocked Main St. until Jeb came and pushed it onto the shoulder”

      Of course, that’s an extreme example, and not necessarily fair, but it doesn’t stop people from whinging from the opposite perspective. I highly recommend a visit to, say, New Delhi to see what a highly urban environment with ineffective traffic management looks like.

  • avatar
    v65magnafan1

    Lots of streetcars in Toronto. They hold up traffic at stops, and when one breaks down, every streetcar behind it is stuck.

    I can just imagine streetcars of the future. Thousands of people, sitting in streetcars, texting, sweating (AC will not be politically correct), on the way to jobs they don’t have.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Lots of streetcars in Toronto. They hold up traffic at stops, and when one breaks down, every streetcar behind it is stuck.

      That happens with cars, too, or haven’t you been on the 401 recently?

      The newer lines (Spadina, Lakeshore, Harbourfront, St. Clair) don’t hold up traffic much because the cars are isolate from the flow of traffic. The ones on Dundas, Queen or King certainly do, but so would buses, and they break down as much or more.

  • avatar
    radimus

    I’d much rather deal with streetcars than buses. At least they stay on their tracks, usually in the middle of the street out of everyone’s way. Buses, on the other hand, hold up traffic, block intersections, and cut people off because their route has them making a left turn across three lanes of busy street within a block of their last stop. Streetcars also usually run on electricity so they don’t stink the place up with diesel exhaust.

  • avatar

    Streetcars are favorites among all kind of politicians who want to show off how “sustainable” & “green” they are, looking for “concerned” voters.

    Although more expensive to buy and maintain, although noisier and less flexible, although running on charcoal electricity, streetcars are perceived as a viable antidote against the EVIL automobile.

    I have grown up with streetcars in Vienna (c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Vienna). Sustainable they are. Some of the train types are still in use after I have left this place more than forty years ago. Still w/o air conditioning, still w/o proper ventilation. Still a joy to drive, especially at hot summer days.

    And noisy they are, even the new ones. That’s why plans for new lines in tram-infested cities like Munich are under heavy fire by affected residents.

    But if you don’t have cars anymore, why not?

  • avatar
    bg

    They’ve been threatening to build one in my town, so I’ve had a change to reflect. The best, most cost effective solution is busses with separate lanes or separate roadways to circumvent congestion. Busses are inexpensive compared to streetcars and can use existing infra structure. When approaching a congested area, elevated or submerged roadways can be built, like subway train tunnells or elevated tracks, except they’ll be paved. Since the general public doesn’t drive them, they’ll last longer than regular streets. And they’ll cost less. If traffic patterns change, busses can adapt and the elevated roads can be used for interurban trails or opened for general traffic. The tunnels can similarly be opened for general traffic. The amount of money it tkes to install light rail is rediculous, with more money needed to simply change routes. The fixed rails aggrivate existing traffic and local businesses suffer while roads are torn up to install tracks. Denver does pretty well with their light rail with its separate right of ways in the outskirts, but still travels regular surface routs downtown. How much would they have saved by using regular busses on those separate lanes?

  • avatar
    TR4

    Interesting how the greens seldom come up with new ideas but instead regurgitate old ones that have been discarded for good reasons. Electric cars, windmills, passenger railroads, street cars…

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Don’t feed the ignorant troll. Don’t feed the ignorant troll.

      Seriously, you need to meet some of the smart greens. There are morons who regurgitate stupid stuff on all sides — and Fox News viewers are far worse about this than any gray ponytailed hippie that I’ve ever met. But if you actually talk to the smart people in the movement, you’ll have a much different picture.

      Electric cars have not been discarded for good reason. They were delayed for good reason because the battery technology wasn’t ready. The lead-acid hot-rod conversions showed this. The laptop battery-based Tesla showed that they were ready for prime-time technologically, and the LEAF shows that they’re ready (for some people) economically. I predict we’ll see a lot of electric commuter cars in the next few years.

      Windmills: The windmills that Don Quixote was “tilting” at are quite a bit different from the 500′ tall economically sustainable marvels that we’re building now. The blades are as long and as carefully designed as aircraft wings (and designed with much the same skillset). The hight gets the windmill up in to the “good” wind. The siting is *much* smarter than it was in the old days.

      Passenger railroads: they seem to work pretty well in every industrialized nation other than us. Is it because we’re different and special here in the USA? No, it’s because we’ve decided not to keep up with technology or investment in our infrastructure. You might not like hearing that, but it’s true. That’s not to say that passenger rail works in every circumstance, but it would be a huge improvement to the midwest’s transportation infrastructure, and it’s a *wonderful* match for the dense little towns that we have out here. It might not be great for the dispersed suburbs of the east coast, so maybe we build high speed rail for the midwest and not provide the service for the east coasters.

      Street cars: Buses are often a better solution, but not always. Modern street cars are quite different from what you’re probably thinking of. They’re modern ultralight rail public transportation system. Nothing wrong with that, but I’ll defer to a transportation engineer on whether a bus, a street car, or a light rail system makes more sense for a given circumstance. Modern buses (especially the hybrid ones) are smoother and far more pleasant to ride than you might think.

      An important thing to recognize is that one-size-fits-all solutions are a legacy of the era of cheap oil, which seems to be ending as we speak. I happen to live in a small-but-dense town that’s 5 miles on a side and has 20+ story skyscrapers and is surrounded by cornfields. I’m guessing that you do not live in a dense urban environment like I do — or, if you do, you’re blinded by your political idiology. Public transportation makes a lot of sense in my environment. Public transportation and renewable may not make sense in your circumstances, but please don’t let your idiology make you fight what makes sense for us city folk.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        @Luke42

        Well said!

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Glad that public transport makes sense for you. But you ought to be paying for it. Why should I, who’ll never use it have to pay for it? Also, I’m glad to know the electric cars are a viable alternative in your personal future world. They aren’t in the world the rest of us are in right now.

        I don’t think that anyone here has been against alternative means of transport, that’s just a straw man you have set up. Those of us who are concerned about cost and viability are not against anything that works. And urban mass transit and long-line passenger rail doesn’t work without heavy subsidies we all pay. Please take your public transport all you can but at least pay enough for it that the system is self supporting. We as a nation can’t afford your high dollar tilting at windmills anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        What? Have you never heard of the ‘invisible hand,’ the ‘rising tide that raises all boats,’ and all similar free-market notions? They apply equally well to socially funded conditions like transportation systems and other socially and economically enabling systems, you know, benefiting you indirectly in ways that are real, but difficult to see at first glance.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Phil, don’t play word games. Respond to my post by defending your ideolgy. Back up your assertions with facts. Show me how a public transport system in Chicago benefits be enough to justify my taxes being used to build it and subsidize its riders. If you can do that in some way, I’m really looking forward to it.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        There’s an article that I would recommend by Ernest Partridge called “With Liberty for Some: A Liberal Critique of Libertarian Environmental Policy” where he outlines the importance of maintaining what John Rawls called the “well-ordered society” as a precondition for the proper and widespread exercise of freedom in civil society. That’s the kind of idea I have in mind here, and as I’ve expressed many times on this forum in various ways, I think maintaining the conditions of a well-ordered society is vital, a society where all of its citizens respect the freedom and dignity of others out of a justified belief that, generally and in the long run, all are treated fairly and justly (where everyone feels as if they’re being given a fair shake, as it were, and so feel as if they have some stake in maintaining and advancing the social fabric within which they live). In a society as large and complex as ours, this requires that we support programs and initiatives that we might not otherwise personally use or directly benefit from, just as others might support programs that they may not benefit from directly but which we might.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @MikeAR: “Glad that public transport makes sense for you. But you ought to be paying for it. Why should I, who’ll never use it have to pay for it? Also, I’m glad to know the electric cars are a viable alternative in your personal future world. They aren’t in the world the rest of us are in right now.”

        Oh, but I do pay for it. I pay more income, property, and sales taxes than most residents of my town and more than the average US citizen. Also, my employer subsidizes the bus system in my town directly out of the “benefits” portion of my salary (which I have to earn just like the part of my salary that I actually see). I don’t really see how you could possibly be picking up my share.

        If you insist on believing that you are picking up my share, I will point out that my state and federal income taxes subsidize an awful lot of rural roads that I don’t use. You don’t hear me whining about it, but I suppose I could start.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Phil, I Googled Partridge and didn’t find that piece but I did read another of his “works”. It’s basic premise was that progressives are too nice and don’t really want to win. I’m sorry but I see every day the niceness of the progressive movement. The Palin is stupid, assassinte Bush, Cheney is the devil and even worse than that. I have visited some progressive websites and there is nothing but pure filth there. If he truly believes that then I have a major problem with anything he writes.

      I’m not accusing you of anything like the crazy bleeding edge progressive movement. You’ve never given me that impression but you have to be uncomfortable with being on the same side as those guys.

      As an aside, I have seen posts on progressive sites that have threatened to kill people who aren’t progressive enough. These posts haven’t been deleted either and the replys have encourged that idea. This guy seems too much like that for me.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Mike,

        Well I’d never support any position that might employ threats or other kinds of coercive tactics. I certainly acknowledge that there are some people on the ‘left’ who do adopt such extreme views (as there are on the ‘right’ as well), but I honestly don’t know where Partridge stands in relation to those things. I just know this particular piece of work at a purely academic level, just as I know other works from people who defend ideas of ‘free market environmentalism’ and other such things. Anyway, it’s the basic point about people needing to feel as if they have a stake in the community that is my main interest here, not Partridge’s other political views.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        I’ll try and find that piece when I get home and take a look at it.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        As an aside, CBC news had an interesting thing on their website during the most recent election in Canada where you answered various questions and were positioned in relation to the various parties depending on your answers. I ended up being almost dead centre. I’m not sure where that would place me in terms of American politics, but I thought that was a fair representation of my general political position overall.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I ended up being almost dead centre. I’m not sure where that would place me in terms of American politics, but I thought that was a fair representation of my general political position overal l.

        Pinko batsh_t leftist, in case you were wondering.

        I highly recommend politicalcompass.org, by the way. Just guess where I get dropped. It’s also fascinating (and depressing, for me at least) to watch the drift over years.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        I just did the one listed on the politicalcompass.org site (which I didn’t know existed–I only did the Canadian one before), and I ended up down with Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama (a Left Wing Libertarian)

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I don’t get the antipathy of so many gearheads for alternatives to the automobile. What’s wrong with having choices? Streetcars aren’t the total solution any more than high-speed rail, but they make a useful contribution when done properly. There are plenty of good examples in the US and elsewhere.

    For example, when I lived in Cleveland I primarily used a car to get around but really appreciated being able to take the rapid to the airport.

    Notice how Bertel doesn’t even bother to explain why streetcars are “scary” — he’s blown the dog whistle and we’re all supposed to come a running.

    • 0 avatar
      snabster

      Obviously you’re not watching enough fox news, and you’re making the mistake that gearheads just means that – people who love cars — rather than as a cover for a larger political affiliation.

      Cleveland has one great street car — the rapid to shaker — and you can see the failure of BRT with the Euclid Avenue line.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Dr Lemming:”Notice how Bertel doesn’t even bother to explain why streetcars are “scary””

      You would think a European would have at worst a neutral opinion on mass transit. To each their own, I guess…

      I used to use it daily in Atlanta, there were plenty of times I was glad I was riding MARTA (trains) instead of being stuck in traffic on 75/85 or 285. It wasn’t always the greatest experience, but it sure beat putting the miles on my old beater.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @Dr Lemming:
      “i don’t get the antipathy of so many gearheads for alternatives to the automobile. ”

      Neither do I. Unfortunately there’s a contingent of gearheads who object on political grounds – i.e., I don’t wanna pay taxes for this. Guess what contingent that is?

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      @ Dr Lemming

      I must confess that I don’t see what’s so scary here either. But then again, aren’t most phobias irrational anyway?

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    I happen to like mass transit precisely because I can sit there with my hands full of distracting devices while someone else takes me to my destination.

    I prefer to have an enjoyable car and go on enjoyable drives. Commuting is not enjoyable.

    You see how nice that is? I can drive when I want and not drive when I don’t want.

    • 0 avatar
      MrBostn

      I’m with you Chi Dude. I’m an IT consultant, and luckily I can reach all my clients via public transportation(The MBTA).

      On weekends, my wife and I drive all over creation. That’s enjoyable to me.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I’m a car guy; always have been. That being said, after travelling to NYC, Boston, Washington D.C. and London I’ve learned to appreciate properly run mass transit. The idea of leaving your car in the ‘burbs and jumping on light rail or a subway into the city center and then head back out after doing whatever it was you did there just makes sense to me. Sure trains break down on occasion, but in dense urban centers traffic jams are a constant, not just a possibility.

    I’ll take a car outside of urban areas any day, but for travelling into a city, I’ll take Metro North, The T, The Underground or The Metro any day.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Congested cities like Boston are prime candidates for streetcars. Thank God they already have a system in Boston, because it would beggar us to create one from scratch. Remember the economical and timely Big Dig? No? That’s because it was neither timely nor economical. Late and it overran by an order of magnitude. Does anyone think that building the roadbeds and rail systems for streetcars elsewhere will fare better? If so, I’d like to introduce you to human nature and all its foibles and sins.
    But I really don’t care as long as my Federal general tax or my Federal gas tax doesn’t get nicked for it. This mode of transportation is always a state issue or actually more an SMSA issue, but that’s a real can of worms where an SMSA reaches across state lines. The Feds became involved in surface transportation because the interstate system was established for national security purposes. Certainly can’t say that about streetcars. By bringing the cost closer to the immediate consumer, you should also get the benefit of closer scrutiny about that cost and utility in each specific instance.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    When La Hood speaks of U.S. companies building rails, is he speaking just of rails? The real money and employment gains would be in the design and manufacture of the rolling stock… (and, btw, wasn’t that a part of the conditions of the government bridge-loans to 2/3 of the D3 back in late 2008???)

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Mass transit is only a good use of money when your roads and airports become saturated, but your population (and their transportation needs) keeps increasing. That’s happening.

    Many of our metro areas are to the point where you can’t just add a freeway. First of all, freeways are wide, such that eminent domain is more affordable for rail projects (which still require quite a bit of width). But more importantly, new freeways in a developed area just move the bottleneck elsewhere. You would need to upgrade freeways, major arteries, and parking facilities to increase car capacity. Far less of each are required when you add a different form of travel.

    I work in San Francisco, which has four bridges and two peninusla freeways feeding into it, as well as two mass transit systems (though one of them probably carries 10x as many people as the other). When the bigger one shuts down, the road system can’t handle the added traffic. It wouldn’t really be possible to add that capacity to the road system, given the geography and density. It’d be easier to add more train capacity.

    Most cities have more space, but I suspect that any city with traffic jams and little unused space could accomodate more people with rail than new roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Airports *ARE* mass transit.

      Unless you’re fortunate enough to own your own airplane, anyway. I’m a private but I’m not rich enough to own my own aircraft, so I’m stuck on the bus with the rest of you bastards. (Actually, I’d rather ride an actual bus than an airliner.)


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