High Speed Rail Versus High Idiocy


Will Is Less Important Than Intelligence.


George Will, a very well known salaried propagandist of the established American plutocratic order, condemns trains (“Why Liberals Love Trains, Feb 27, 2011). Never mind that most trade in the USA is carried by profitable trains, and that roads get more than 100 billion dollars of subsidies a year. I must admit that only private jets should get government subsidies, in a well designed plutocracy. Whines Will:

“So why is America’s “win the future” administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago? Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.
Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

Will’s editorial is full of idiocies, and outright lies. For example he claims that only one high speed train lines is profitable in France. That is false. The Paris-Lyon-Marseilles, and Paris-London, and Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam lines are highly profitable. So are well less known lines as Paris-Geneva, etc.

The lines are so profitable that air service between some cities, such as between Paris and Brussels has disappeared. The same phenomenon is observed in other European countries. On Madrid–Sevilla, high speed rail has reduced air travel from 40% to 10%. Air service has also disappeared between some German cities, due to high speed trains, and the Deutsche Bundesbahn high speed trains operate on TGV Est with SNCF… because high speed rail is so profitable. Studies have shown it is more competitive than air on train travel times of less than 5 hours (that’s 1,000 miles at 300 km/h).

Willful idiocy has no limits: in France, high speed rail is expanding from self financing, without subsidy. The national railway, SNCF, is profitable (see note). Besides, although officially France has less than 2,000 kilometers of high speed rail, that is defined there as 300 km/h. If one includes lines at or above 200 km/h there are much more.

Trains are a lot more empowering and individualistic than planes, as anybody who has travelled by both will recognize — and planes, not cars, are the main alternative to high-speed rail. Besides, what is empowering at driving a car? One becomes a slave to the art of avoiding accidents and respecting all laws and regulations.

But of course when the American elite travels by plane, it is driven to said plane by private limousine, and does not have to suffer the indignities the commoners are submitted to, from barked orders to pat-downs. Then air traffic control, a government subsidy, gives private jets priority over the commons, and they pay just a fraction of the cost of a jumbo jet, although they are as big a problem. Verily, Pluto is supposed to be invisible, and so are the reasons of the plutocrats.

Will is a clever man, indeed. He goes where the money is, and serves who Adam Smith called “the masters of mankind” (and smith said that generations before Karl Marx, since he died in 1790). Clever Will is, but not moral. Clever like a power hungry monkey, who wants the banana all to itself, even when he is already stuffed, rather than sharing it, like a man of brains and taste. Morality is the highest intelligence, but will does not know that.

Or then it is this morality of the elite, that Smith or Sade had condemned in the 18C. Adam Smith put it pretty well in his essays on the “Moral sentiment”, 250 years ago: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

American individualism, like American exceptionalism, or Hitler’s celebrated attachment to the right of minorities in the name of human rights (one of Hitler’s main electoral platform points, believe it, or not!) are much exaggerated notions. If the American elite is that individualistic, how come most of them think all the same?
By the way, there is a lot of high tech in very high speed trains, especially on steel wheels. Says Krugman: “And there’s the bit about rail as an antiquated technology; try saying that after riding the Shanghai Maglev.”

Maglev has no advantage over steel wheels, but a lot of disadvantages. Maglev uses a lot of light but flammable materials, such as magnesium, little protection against shocks, and extravagantly high magnetic fields. There have been very deadly or spectacular accidents with the two maglev lines (one of them experimental, in Germany; the technology is German; the Germans prefer to use standard high speed rail, with a highest speed of normal trains in normal operations being 400 km/h = 250 mph).

Whereas steel wheels can go wherever there are rails, not so with maglev.
The maglev speed record is just three miles per hour above the (French) high speed, steel wheels, record of 575 kilometers per hour (= 357 mph). At these speeds non trivial shock waves and resonance problems have to be solved. Pantographs maintain contact through electronic piloting.

High Speed Trains are so fast, normal signaling cannot be read. So the trains are robotized: they brake automatically if signaling is not obeyed.

By the way, (the ancestor of) Al Qaeda attacked the French High speed train, when it was going at 300km/h. The bomb shattered a cab, but the train stopped OK, and the fatalities were only caused by the bomb itself. The train did not crash into the ground, for the good reason that trains are already on the ground, a reason that even will may understand.  In 30 years of operation, the French never had a fatality directly caused by high speed train operations. (The Alstom trains are designed to not go on the side, even if they leave the tracks, but to dissipate energy through benign snaking, while staying upright).

At high speed conventional braking is ineffective, and the trains brake electromagnetically, sending back energy where it came from. Electric trains consume a fraction of the energy of any other transportation system, and emits ridiculously small amounts of CO2, relatively speaking, again. A high speed line such as the Tokaido Shinkansen line in Japan carries about 5 times as many passengers per hour per meter of width relative to a road (even when the traffic is maximized on the road; so the land usage of rail is much greater).

An intermediate technology exists, capable of 250 km/h on conventional railroad lines, where the trains lean in the turns (Russia bought it from the French Alstom, which bought it from Italy). The big advantage is not having to build dedicated very high speed lines.

Some will object that train lines work best between concentrated cities, as in Europe. But the USA, like everybody else, has concentrated cities; most of the world population live in cities. Moreover cities have to be encouraged, as their presence relieve the rest of the planet of the human footprint. High Speed Rail is a big advantage for cities, thus for ecology.

The ecological and efficiency advantage becomes crushing when one considers that plane travel is heavily subsidized. It is not just that the plane makers are subsidized, as the WTO found with Boeing and Airbus. The expensive fuel planes are using is subsidized: namely, jet fuel is not taxed, worldwide and the US Army, often seconded by Britain, France and other NATO heroes, insure that miscreants are terrorized into submission (please notice the double meaning…), and keep on sending their oil over.

Oil from fossil fuels, is the most energy intensive fuel, per mass, short of Plutonium, available today. We do not have a substitute we can industrially produce, yet (fuel from GMO algae is an obvious future candidate). Liquid hydrogen has twice the energy per mass… but a serious hydrogen plane has not flown yet, in part because how to store the hydrogen efficiently enough is unsolved. 

It is entirely possible that we will basically run out of oil before planes can be switched to more advanced ways to lift them. So we are stuck, for long range transportation with making big fires with fossil fuel. Just in that regard, it is a matter of strategic and economic precaution to build up a modern electric train network. Such a network makes transportation much cheaper, so it allows to redirect resources away from wasteful economic activities.

The fossil fuel conspiracy has mesmerized greedy little ones such as Will to hate trains. Precisely because trains lead where the fossils don’t want to go.

Notice the attack of Will against “progress”. This is one of the main point of American plutocratic propaganda: progress itself is the problem. Progress is regressive, say the Neo Conservatives, and they congratulate themselves about how profound they are: nobody can understand how they think. And they chuckle, lost in self satisfaction.

Why is progress regression for the masters? Because progress came with laws against slavery, murder and torture all of which handicap the truly wealthy. What’s the point of being that wealthy, if one cannot enjoy all the fruits Pluto provides with? Could not we return to the Middle Ages, get some relief from all this progress? In the Middle Ages, henchmen such as Will could have more fun with the commoners.

But there is more. Ultimately extreme personal wealth, plutocracy, rests on military force, which rests on lack of progress. Savages need savagery to justify their own existence. Progress contradicts savagery itself. Hence the importance of regressive propagandists such as Will, or O’Reilly, as they attack the “progressives” non stop.

At this point, American technological superiority is pretty much reduced to superior people killing technology. Which is indeed by far the best in the world. No wonder neoconservatives are against progress. More than 50% of the weapons sold, worldwide, are American made. An American president said: “The business of America is business“. How quaint. Nowadays, it sometimes rather seem that the business of America has become death.

The regressives detest High Speed Rail, because it’s all about progress. Shall we instead see how far we can regress? Shall we make the infliction of death, or the preparation of the infliction of death, the only business worth having? Have the masters found a maxim even more vile than the one Adam Smith condemned so long ago?

No God but death, and regression is its prophet?



More passages from Will, high on delusion: “Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind…. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Time was, the progressive cry was “Workers of the world unite!” or “Power to the people!” Now it is less resonant: “All aboard!”

(Notice Will’s contempt for commoners: he speaks of delusions of adequacy”, even among those who drive!)


Note on SNCF profitability: some of SNCF debt was transferred to RFF (which owns the railroad lines, as forced by the EU; thus Deutsche Bundesbahn operates all the way to Paris, on RFF lines).

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25 Responses to “High Speed Rail Versus High Idiocy”

  1. multumnonmulta Says:

    George Will is either an idiot, or he takes his audience for being so. If I see what’s going on, the anti-progressive camp has launched on a preemptive strike against the whole society, lest the populace wakes up to progressive ideas. It’s going to buy them some time, while the real risks loom large. We live in a land of ostriches, the sand is mass-mediated to all locations on behalf of the pluto. Keep sending in your thank-you letters and support monies to the p.o. box at the bottom of the screen!


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Multumnonmulta: There is clearly a plot against the concept of progress. It is as if some are PAID to demean the concept. O’Reilly can attack it twenty times in ten minutes. What they are doing is basic, Nazi level propaganda: go for something really absurd, and keep on repeating it until people find that it is a normal notion, however outrageous it sounded initially.
      Will, from his point of view is not an idiot, because he laughs all the way to the bank, inside the bank, and, back from the bank… For Will, Obama and company, civilization seems to be all about banks.


  2. multumnonmulta Says:

    “Will, from his point of view is not an idiot, because he laughs all the way to the bank, inside the bank, and, back from the bank… ” Which leaves the second option.


  3. Marc Issade Says:

    Dear Patrice,

    the American protectorate in the Arab world is coming to an end just before our eyes and you wrote some excellent articles about the Arab awakening. My point is that if we consider that the events in Tunisia and Egypt have acted as a double trigger violently erasing a deal made in the world settled after WWI, a world characterized by cheap oil and a Pax Americana managing the imbalances in this region with only two concerns: to control the price of oil and ensure Israel’s security. Now if the oil reaches 200$ or 300$, i am pretty convinced that Obama may have a opening there to turn the tables and herd a majority of Americans in 2012 with a New Deal 2.0 with in it a big high speed rail project a la Colbert. President Obama is inflicted with many defects but on Bullet trains he got it right. Don’t you think ?

    BTW, always a great pleasure reading you

    A la prochaine,

    Marc I.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Marc: Well, well, well… I agree with you, because hope springs eternal. It is true that Obama has a dream opening to install a new, and more efficient, let alone human, order. If oil goes to $300 (although $150, not so far, would be enough).

      However, last time Obama had such an opening he proved totally incapable of doing the first decent thing. I think something like 3,800 banking executives were prosecuted under popular and democratic leaders as the Marxists Reagan and Bush I.

      Up to March 2011, at least last week, only Madoff was prosecuted, in the present, much larger crisis. And Madoff was not a banking executive. And he came, and confessed all: they had to put him in jail. As Madoff is now saying, banking executives had got to have known.

      Moreover, the crisis is still on-going. The financial vampires are still sucking the substantific marrow.

      Obama can still rewrite history. Someday he could tell me:”Look, I had to do health care, as if I were giving in. It was a trap, you know. For them. So i could not prosecute the obvious plutocratic scheme. It was like judo, you know; use your opponent strength to get him where you want him to go.”

      I wish Obama would be that smart. I was the first to propose, long ago, so called Machiavellic schemes to circumnavigate the enemy and strike him from behind. However, one can be too smart by half. It also seemed to me that health care could be done fast and dirty with executive orders enforcing Medicare For All. And then prosecute and persecute the plutocrats. Afghanistan Obama did wrong, but the wrong was not started with him. Nation building was deliberately avoided. Now Obama is doing it half way. Or quarter way. A lot of spending and boots on the ground, unsustainably.

      On the other hand, Pakistan is a nuclear world war in waiting. And to that one I have no ready solution, short of nuclear disarmament, making Pakistan a secular state, and reunification with India. In other words, the after-war solution.

      I have been harassing Obama with high speed rail, the Added Value Tax, and many other things. But truth is, as long as plutocratic money can flow into all TV screens and newspapers and other media, it’s a lost cause, and one cannot reproach Obama to do nothing about what he cannot do anything about.

      $300 oil would be a wonderful coffee for all concerned. But last I heard, the Saudi army had a sub army within, full of Saudi princes. And the very old king is not corrupt, never was. He was put there precisely because he was the only one whose mind still found relief in the desert. He would go there for days, with mimimum creatures comfort. However his succession is not clear, and he has implemented reforms too slowly.

      Thanks for the pleasure, it is shared and appreciated.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Marc: And as far as the American protectorate breaking up, well, that’s indeed the case. It could keep on going now only with giant military spending, in other words going fascist for all to see. Otherwise learning to tolerate democracy is going to turn into a survival skill. For the USA.

      The USA became extremely pro-Israel after the violent disconnect of 1967 between Israel and De Gaulle. Not the best gift.

      But for the oil, they started in 1945, or even earlier. They displaced the Franco-British (who had plenty of time since to armor Europe against expensive oil). Thus the USA has splurged, and now only asuper giant investment program will allow the USA to adapt. But total USA debt is already around 50 trillion dollars (the world GDP). So All Aboard?


  4. Jo Says:

    Hey Patrice,

    Don’t read too much into it. Obama is pushing rails, the right has to be against it as a matter of principle. They rely on people like George Will for propaganda ammunition. The point here is not to construct a convincing argument, but to provide good sound bites.
    This also means, that this situation could change in a jiffy assuming political interests shift, for what is displayed here is not a real ideological conviction. Assuming the construction of the trains and railways were to be spread strategically over the poltical map of the US like the aeroplane and military industries are right now, it would be imaginable to see Republicans supporting a train programe. Mr. Will probably would then write an article about how trains made this country great and unified and would bang on about the true values of american entrepreneurial spirit and how this is at the core of conservative ideology bla bla ..


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Jo: You are right, the Will is a weather wane. The present organization of the USA is around oil. Very high speed electric trains would break that (BTW they can be used for freight too). The USA is still the third largest oil producer, but this is fading quickly. The USA will go from cheap, to expensive energy (except if saved by the solar cavalry), and then will have to switch to efficient energy.

      However, time is also of the essence. Rome missed its industrial reconversion; too little, too slow, too much dependency upon slavery. Interestingly, industrial reconversion took hold in Gaul and the southern Alps, and was accompanied by the new morality (newer than Christianity!) The debate is beyond the USA, because the entire planet has to reconvert fast enough to prevent catastrophe (watch the world food producing capability, which is tottering).

      Interestingly, the democratically challenged China is doing pretty well (although truly how good is not sure).


  5. Roger Henry Says:

    Yes, US oil production has been fading for 40 years, but change is in the wind. Currently oil prices at Cushing, Oklahoma are $12 to $15 per barrel lower than Brent Crude prices because of oil flows from Canada and new drilling techniques in the US creating supplies unavailable earlier.
    The US currently has the highest number of operating drilling rigs in the world exploring and exploiting oil deposits previously thought unrecoverable.
    China will be the mid Easts market, but prices will be moderated by Russian supplies as the Chinese will use one supplier against the other.
    Your take on Will, O’Rielly, Glen Beck and the rest of the Murdoch stable of propagansists is spot on. I remember well the picture of the worlds most well known Fascist hanging from piano wire when the abused mods extracted their revenge. Plutocratic abuse occasionally has its price.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Roger: I heard another story about the US oil prices being lower: in that version, the oil could not be carried out because the terminals were too small, so buyers are not so interested. Anyway, prices vary according to sulfur content and other ease of refining.

      Last I looked, the bell curve for the USA was well established. But you are right: new tech could change things. For methane, though, I doubt the viability of “fracting”: water is very worthy, polluting it makes no economic sense. They add chemicals when they frac, let alone free lots of bad stuff in the rocks.

      Worldwide, deep sea drilling and opening formerly glaciated areas could slow the decay of production. Once again, neglecting the ecological problems, which could cause a no-go. Notice that the French oil giant Total assumed we have passed peak oil, and augmented its production, by going deep under water. Exxon was not so alarmed, and is finding no oil (I schematize).

      Definitively fossil fuels are on their way out. Now. Not as bad as the problem of water or industrial metals. Hydrogen (if storage can be solved) and algae are coming. But water desalination is only along the (rising) coasts… When the bell curves meet the exponentials…

      Mussolini and mistress hanged from an Esso gas station in Milan. Not a haphazard choice: Mussolini’s wife was left alone, but not Esso (one of the fascists’ greatest collaborator). The friendliness whith Khadafy was spearheaded by oil companies (and, in particulalr American oil companies, anxious to have in Libya what they enjoyed for so long in Arabia).

      Psy war is used against Khadafy. It should also be used against all plutocrats. Instead Fox, and the like use it against us all… Let alone US generals against US politicians. We have seen that before: Rome was a battlefield between the plutocratic Senate and the fascist army for more than 5 centuries (until the crazies of god joined the fray).


  6. Roger Henry Says:

    One must remember, all data concerning oil reserves published by governments is collected from oil companies. Governments,universities, think tanks, etc. can speculate about what they think the data means, but have no way of knowing the quality of the data or the objectives of the organizations releasing the data.
    Modern communications condenses time. The 5 centuries of Roman history you refer to may well be of much shorter duration in the current empire.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Roger: excellent point. The oil companies give the data, and they care about what investors think. Investors prefer companies with great reserves. So Shell made them up. There have been other major scandals that way.

      There is basically no reserve of production, except out of the Saudis, with their super giant field. But it’s not clear what is going on with said field. I noticed a failure of rising production although prices were rising. I interpret that as the end of the oily road, slipping on the slick, crashing into bitumen, and sinking like mastodonts of yore…

      It is true that history moves fast nowadays, because the production of equipment, commodities and ideas, let alone feelings, is enormous. So we will hopefully do the 5 centuries of Roman degeneracy in a few decades, and will not disappear into the same errors, including rabid theocracy, until all goes dark. I am all for Muslim clerics, if they support democracy (it took a long time for modern priesthood in Europe to get to that point, although the Franks used Christianity as an engine of progress, contrarily to the way Roman Catholic emperors were using it).

      Modern communications indeed contract time. The fact that we can debate those notions, many of the 7 billions of us, without being systematically overviewed, controlled, and “led” by inspirational plutocrats such as Qaddafi, and related fascist structures, is the great gift of the Internet. That accelerate the speed and profusion of ideas.


  7. Roger Henry Says:

    Your point about Shell is interesting, however, high profits not only favor shareholders but bless managers with royal lifestyles. How to achieve high profits in a commodity industry? The industry must maintain a perception of scarcity and the aura of impending disappearance of the resource.
    As we learned from the predictions of Malthus, technology innovation alters previous understandings of supply.
    Supply data is controlled by the industry.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Roger: Something Krugman does not seem to understand is that corporations and attached plutocrats can manipulate expectations of future profits (it’s weird he does understand it, since central bankers are always fine tuning officially “inflation expectations”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Most oil companies do that, and so government such as the Saudis.

      Easy, cheap convenient oil is disappearing. Peak oil is a fact. In Europe where easy cheap coal disappeared (say France, Britain), it did not reappear… Although in Germany man-made grand canyons have momentarily transmogrified into the most profound ridicule, bringing coal, yes, but in the most unsustainable way imaginable…


  8. mojo au go go Says:

    It seems to me that the damages already done our planetary abilities by human acts
    may exceed our abilities to reverse and repair. Geologic time presupposes the lack
    of human presence. Ergo, the rocks will remain after we’ve gone the way of the Dodo.
    Humanity has the limited outlook of false importance and some cloud dwelling imaginary friend to redeem us, as if. We are indeed merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it were. Human senses have few of the needed abilities to see into the end results. Brilliant Scientist is a misnomer.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear mojo au go go: I am not at all that pessimistic. Many European countries could easily switch back into indefinitely sustainable economics, and all of them could do it, with the exception of Monaco and the Vatican. And Monaco, with some efforts could grow its own food (anyway Monaco is a French joke). so, if Europe can do it, why not the rest of the world? Surely if France, which is a much larger (in population, not geographic resources!) nation than continent sized Australia, and more technologically advanced, can do with less than a third of CO2 production per capita, so can Australia. In truth, it’s no coincidence that the giant Anglo-saxon empires of the USA, Canada and Australia use the most CO2 per person. They are also the empires which wasted the natives. Waste here, waste there: all the same, a waste mentality has proven most useful…
      But the rest of the planet does not have to waste the natives. Actually, the rest of the planet is the natives, and they ought not to accept self wasting as readily.
      Technological solutions exist. What has come short is the willingness to apply them, and it’s not coincidence that the leaders of the resistance, the three suspects above, are precisely those who, traditionally, have found waste to be their friend.

      I do think that intelligence was evolved to predict, foresee, and act accordingly in one’s best interest. Hence my optimism in the on-going war against the partisans of devastation.


  9. Roger Henry Says:

    Dear Patrice; You assert that “peak oil is a fact”. Poor me, I am too naive to accept that as a fact. On what source of unbiased information do you base that “fact”? Yes, coal reserves of France and Britain have been depleted, but France and Britain do not comprise the world. As you yourself have often cited, France has cleverly utilized nuclear technology to supply needs that others fill with coal. So called “Peak oil” is a function of the technology employed to extract oil from the earth.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Roger: France and Britain still have a super giant coal reserve. It’s simply too expensive to extract, both in cash and environmental cost (see Germany going to somewhat crazed lengths of total ecological devastation exploiting the same coal basin).

      Peak oil on old, continental shelves based oil prospection is a fact. Now we did not just change tech, but stepped off the continents. That is not without consequences, ecological and otherwise. For example Brazil is having France develop nuclear submarines so that it can defend its sizable off shore oil. So Brazil, long the most peaceful of nations, is aggressively going after oil, and the idea of aggression in general. In other words, desperate oil turns countries desperate.

      Peak oil is certainly a fact in the continental USA, not a matter of interpretation, in spite of the most advanced tech. Worldwide, it’s a matter of interpretation, as we are at the peak, somewhat mitigated by deep sea drilling (as you hint). Total SA, in any case, is sure we are at peak oil (and, as I said, its search policy has been tweaked in consequence). The other giant companies claim no, but their wealthy CEOs (much wealthier than the French CEO of Total, because in France the only CEO who earned significantly more than 5 million euros got a suspended jail sentence for fraud) have a vested interest to claim so. Besides, they are finding not enough oil to support their vested optimism.

      We will find out, all too soon…


  10. JMcG Says:

    J McG Subject: Euro/EUPatrice,

    What’s new?
    Oil price up, dollar lower. Commodities way up. Euro continuing to defy predictions it will collapse. I think one reason is that a lot of the naysayers ignore the fact that the U.S.’ huge military outlays are a big drag on its economy. Hopefully the EU will find ways to do more to address the problem of the imbalances created by having a few relatively rich countries and a bunch of weak ones with too much debt.



    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Jeff:
      The Americans’ analysis, of the Americans living in the USA, even Nobel prizes, is always incredibly naive. They understand nothing. For all too many of these American economists Ireland (population: 4 million, and decreasing) looms as large as France (pop: 66 millions, namely 16.5 times Ireland).

      The (small) countries in trouble underwent enormous economic expansion. It’s normal they will readjust downwards a bit… The Euro will not collapse, because it’s a Franco-German currency, and France and Germany do not intent to collapse, and fascism has been crushed, and both are republics.

      The enormous USA military spending is indeed a problem. It’s double what it was 10 years ago, without inflation.


  11. sacha davilak Says:

    Without effective public transportation in the connected communities, high speed rail will not work. Getting to the city is only half the problem, getting around the city is the other half. People won’t use it if they can’t get around once they arrive at their destination and will still drive instead.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Sacha: This is entirely correct. The inner city electric tramways were all over the USA in the 1930s. The carmaggedon lobby destroyed them all (except San Francisco?) well, that should have given Bushama an opportunity to create jobs. Instead, he is cutting jobs, and cutting and cuttting jobs. For example the defense budget is grotesquely inflated (above 800 billion), but cutting jobs there will be depressing on the economy, and has to be compensated with trams. European cities have been building electric public transport, as they fight the cars in city centers… Even New York is building a subway. To serve Wall Street, of course…


  12. Stephen Lang Says:

    I live in Portland, Oregon, which fortunately has about the best region wide public transit in the US. I ride a bus to work door to door 15 miles in half an hour, and have a streetcar and trains within blocks.

    I used to use the Amtrak train frequently when I worked in Seattle. A train could be hours late or have passengers stuck en route when the train was held up due to freight car switching – Amtrak runs on tracks owned by private rail companies, and their operations get priority. In the US not even Mussolini could make trains run on time because the government does not own the tracks. I talked with an Amtrak employee once who confirmed what I felt, that the employees seemed to be making travel purposely uncomfortable to discourage people from using the system. Republicans then point to how little revenue Amtrak generates as a reason to kill it, though it has never been given half a chance to succeed. Fortunately here in the northwest there is enough ridership to probably survive cuts. But overall train use is politically thought of as a low class, no profit operation and so gets short shrift.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Stephen: Indeed, there are vast sociological questions tied up with rail travel, as you point out. Who owns the track is indeed a problem. In France, the national train company (SNCF) used to own them, but now much of them are owned by Reseaux Ferres de France (RFF), which was detached from SNCF. A new Very High Speed line was just decided in August 2011, and the financing was complex, as it involved banks and self financing from the builder. In general entities of public utility ought to be owned, in the long run, by the People, represented by the government.


  13. Mia Says:


    […]High Speed Rail Versus High Idiocy « Some of Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts[…]…


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