August 2008

In Friday’s New York Times a feature profiled rail enthusiasts who use old retired railway motor cars to tour scenic landscapes which rail lines go through.  The article profiled members of NARCOA (North American Railcar Operators Association) and their passion for thier railcars.  Jeremy (a Michigan railcar enthusiast) provides a great history of both the railcars (or jiggers or speeders) and the history of their private ownership.

Needless to say the Transit Pass is mightily intrigued and would love to take an excursion himself.  Unfortunately the Transit Pass does not have $6,000 to invest in the private ownership of a railcar right now (dang law school and its enormous debts).  However, he would be interested to know if anyone rents these cars or would just be willing to give him a ride on one of these excursions.  I believe I need to make some phone calls.

Admittedly this does not further infrastructure needs, rather it may be a sign of deteriorating rail infrastructure.  However, hopefully events like these will inspire the national imagination for the power of rails again.

After a lengthy absence from the blog you may have though that the project was deep sixed, much like these individuals in London.  Never fear the Transit Pass is back, and I promise it will be bigger and better.  The Transit Pass has suffered from the pressures of a move to law school and all that follows it.  However, expect more frequent posts as we move forward. 

The big topic of the day is how many people are giving up driving to take public transportation.  The topic is so popular even the Onion is covering it!  Of course with gas prices continually sitting near $4.00 a gallon more and more people are looking for options beyond their cars and looking to trade in their cars themselves.  People are even (gasp!) riding bicycles to work.  While car companies are not doing well, sales of small cars like the Mini are booming.  So, to all those dealerships stuck with SUV’s and enormous cars on their lots, good luck getting them off.  It’s the right time to be a Smart Car dealership though!  The best news is that if sales continue like this there will be a lot more room to parallel park on crowded city streets.

With that thought in mind the big infrastructure debates of the coming months, years, and decades will be how much money to invest in our deteriorating roads when people are looking for public transit options when it is clear we need to be investing in new rails and better intra-city and inter-city transportation options.  It is my personal opinion that we should only spend as much money as necessary to maintain our current roads and bridges and invest every new dollar we can in creating new transportation options.  With people moving back to the cities and out of the suburban sprawl we will need better transit options in our cities and better alternatives for these people to be shuttled between urban centers. 

Friend of the blog, MRAM, as well as a recent NYTimes Op-Ed have suggested we create regional transportation and other development authorities.  Such authorities will have the ability to create transit systems that work much like interstate highways without the feudal bickering of one city or state holding up an entire project.  Perhaps with new interstate authorities the high speed rail lines the nation has long been awaiting in areas like the Northeast Corridor and the L.A.-to-San Francisco coastline will finally get the non-airplane, non-automobile options they deserve.