The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

All aboard! (not)

When I was a wee lad in Farmingdale, NY, we lived maybe the distance of two blocks from the Long Island Railroad tracks. I cannot swear to it but I recall a few steam engines rolling along that track. According to the history of steam locomotives, it is quite possible. In any event, the steam whistle was familiar to me and intermingled with memories of the pleasant times of my early years.

Living near a railway is interesting. It is not as quiet as some might like. We were not right next to it, though. It didn't seem all that loud to me. Where the train passed was maybe a half mile from the station there in Farmingdale which means there was always a whistle (and later, horn blast of a diesel engine) and the trains were slowing as they approached and were still picking up speed as they left toward the Big City (New York) And it is a fact that small boys are entranced by the power and majesty of locomotive engines. So my memories may be a bit tainted.

Living near a railroad, or an airport, means living with noise. With trains, the intervals between arrivals and departures are longer than with airplanes at an airport. Which makes tuning the noise out easier, I think. I don't think I could deal with being under a flight path. But a few blocks from a railroad? No problem. In fact, because the sound reminds me of my early childhood, I find it pleasant. Even a bit peaceful.

I write all this because our governor has announced he won't be wanting that federal money (some 2.4 Billion dollars) to start building a high speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. People with an interest in building it are scrambling about either crying over or planning ways around his nixing the project. I am on the side of the governor on this. Not because I don't like trains, I do. But because I think it won't do anything it is purported to do.

Sure, there will be an increase in jobs as the project gets underway and is years in the process. But who will get those jobs? I strongly suspect it won't be Floridians. Well, not most of the jobs anyway. Definitely not the high paying engineering jobs. And, in the end, what will we have?

A way to get from Tampa to Orlando in maybe half the time it takes now to drive it. Does it take you to down town Orlando or Tampa? Not really, from what I can tell it takes you between Tampa's international airport and Orlando's international airport. You would then have to secure transportation (bus or taxi) to your actual destination. And I have this nagging suspicion that the project will end up with a station stop at Disney World.

I fell out of love with trains back in the mid 70's when I took the train from San Diego to Anaheim. Granted it was no high speed rail. It was the commuter train. It stopped in every town along the way. Maybe 8 or 10 stops. Each of which was a 10 minute wait while passengers got off (few) and passengers got on (more). The trip was scenic, though. You got to see some of the worst parts of each town on the route. You also got a few views of the ocean but these were very few.

Trains are nice but they are nice because they are leisurely modes of travel. At one time, you could sit and read the paper (or a book or magazine) with the window open a little bit (depending on where the diesel exhaust would waft by) for fresh air or you could chat with fellow passengers and just relax. I do not see that happening with these "bullet" trains. In the first place, forget opening a window, even a little. They will be sealed. You won't have that rhythmic sound of steel wheels over the rails either. The odds are the cars will be so insulated that you won't hear much of anything from outside.

There'd be no romance. As a child, I could always pretend I was traveling across the untamed west and be on the lookout for buffalo herds and fierce Indians. That's part of the joy of being a child. But I have put most of that behind and I doubt ripping through the landscape at 120 MPH would evoke that kind of daydream anyway.

Sometimes, progress is not so desirable.


Sightings said...

I took the commuter train for a little over a year -- boy, was that a drag! But I've done the Autotrain from DC to Sanford, Fl, and it's not a bad way to go, esp. if you're gonna be there for a while and want your car.

As far as the high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa ... I've thought that was a silly idea from the moment I heard it. Other than Disney, who benefits? You need a car to get to the station, and a car to get from the station to wherever you're going. All it does is save you the middle part of the trip -- which might even take longer by the time you get there, park, wait for the train (maybe the train is late) and then do it all over again on the other end.

Now a high-speed train in the Northeast -- that's a different story. There's more population; and less reliance on a car. There's currently the Acela from NYC to DC (I've never taken it b/c it's a lot more expensive than the regular train); but a true high-speed rail connection from Boston to NY to Philly and DC would be fantastic. And if that worked out, they might consider another fast rail from NYC to Philly, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Meanwhile, if you want a scenic rr trip, take the Amtrak from NYC up the Hudson to Albany and beyond. Goes right by the Hudson, sometimes so close you'd swear you're right in the river.

People think trains are old technology -- slow, cumbersome, uncomfortable. And for the most part they are. But they don't have to be.

Douglas4517 said...

I think you are right. Bullet trains are great between cities with good
public transportation systems. But they are pointless between cities with
no, or poor, public transportation systems. On the other hand, I normally
like rail travel. It's laid back, it's comfortable enough, it's what I call
"Real Travel". But we got in a big hurry to get anywhere and we had great
distances to travel so the airlines made more sense.