Why do Kool Aid Party Republicans hate trains?

Michelle Bachman’s last train ride from Duluth

“Stop the Train” was, literally, a rallying cry for post-Tea Party Republicans this past November.

Newly elected GOP governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida have canceled already-funded high speed rail projects.

Much of the opposition to rail projects appears to stem not from economic arguments, but from fundamental cultural values on what “American” transportation should be. A perusal of online commentaries about passenger rail stories reveals a curious linkage by writers between passenger rail and “European socialism.”

Never mind that the majority of European passenger rail operates on a commercial basis. Many critics of passenger rail emotionally identify it as an enabler of cultural values they fear.

For example, passenger rail inherently requires central administration. After all, trains cannot depart from a station without authority from a central dispatcher. This very need for central authority is unique to rail and frightening to those who yearn for an individual freedom from authority…

Second, a passenger rail project labels a route as an “urban” corridor, and provides the infrastructure and incentive for even more urban development. This contradicts a vision of America, held by many, as a small town society centered on the automobile. In reality, rural towns continue to decline. The 2000 U.S. census classifies 79% of the U.S. population as “urban…”

It is difficult for many to accept the impact of these population trends. Many legislators who are otherwise hostile to passenger rail accept that Amtrak’s operations in Boston-New York-Washington are “profitable,” or commercially viable, but characterize the East Coast as a region not representative of the United States. It’s full of Yankees…

Third, most opponents to high speed rail simply have no experience on which to base their opposition. Those wishing to “Take America back” frequently glorify America between the Eisenhower and Reagan administrations, the peak of automobile enthusiasm in the United States…

Take a look at China. China was still operating steam locomotives 10 years ago. China has invested $292 billion in its railways in the last five years. By 2014, China will have twice as many miles of high speed railway as all the rest of the world combined.

For some, the Chinese investment in passenger rail signifies a forward-thinking investment in the future, and something to be envied. For others, it is further evidence that passenger rail is only appropriate for a planned economy, and incompatible with the American way.

But, then, what would you expect from dimwits who would rather drive a new version of their father’s Buick instead of something that reflects real family size, how and where you travel – and costs less to run?

7 thoughts on “Why do Kool Aid Party Republicans hate trains?

  1. Update says:

    “Amtrak kicks off $28 million project to upgrade long-distance ride.” https://www.progressiverailroading.com/amtrak/news/Amtrak-kicks-off-28-million-project-to-upgrade-long-distance-ride–63782
    “Amtrak’s Regional Rail Expansion Faces Hurdle From Freight Trains : Freight carriers have long resisted calls to make more room on their tracks for passenger trains.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/amtraks-commuter-rail-expansion-faces-hurdle-from-freight-trains-11624181404
    “Amtrak is working on digging a new Baltimore tunnel — named for Frederick Douglass — that officials say will drastically cut back on delays.” https://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-bp-tunnel-renaming-groundbreaking-20210618-vbz5hboy2rc5dflivrsfpo76je-story.html

  2. p/s says:

    The Baikal-Amur Mainline, cousin to the Trans-Siberian railway, runs for 4,300 km (2,672 miles) from the town of Tayshet through some of the world’s toughest terrain all the way to the Pacific Ocean. [2,092 miles is the shortest distance across the U.S. from coast to coast]
    State-run Russian Railways (RZD) is investing $17 billion over a decade as part of an ambitious plan that aims to carry not just passengers but also grab a bigger slice of the billions of dollars worth of goods and raw materials that are transported annually from Asia to Europe.
    The cost of taking cargo from Asia to Europe by train, based on the Eurasian Rail Alliance index, is half the price of doing so by sea, as measured by the World Container Index.
    U.S. 2021 INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT CARD (railways) https://infrastructurereportcard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Rail-2021.pdf

  3. Update says:

    As travel innovation speeds ahead, so does a new train in China capable of traveling over 370 mph. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2021/07/20/china-debuts-maglev-train-over-370-mph/8026112002/
    The maglev train is being touted as the fastest ground vehicle in the world with a maximum speed of 600 kph or 372 mph. It was developed by China and manufactured in the city of Qingdao.
    The train uses electro-magnetic force, making it “float” so there is no contact between the rail and the body, Reuters reported.
    The debut of the super fast train could cut down time for people traveling from Beijing to Shanghai to only 2.5 hours. That’s a distance of 754 miles and currently a 4.5-hour train ride on one of China’s bullet trains.
    In America, a 170-mile train track from West Palm Beach, Florida, to Orlando International Airport is being built for trains that can travel up to 125 mph.

  4. Railfan says:

    “Would you give up planes for these trains? Europe pushes travel that’s climate friendly.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/interactive/2022/europe-trains-planes-lower-emissions/

    In the 1930s, Wisconsin was the world leader in high-speed trains. Back in the depths of the Depression, the Milwaukee Road’s steam-powered Hiawatha passenger trains between Milwaukee and Chicago routinely cruised at more than 100 miles per hour. You got to Chicago by train in 70 minutes in those days. (Today’s Amtrak Hiawatha service requires 90 minutes to cover the same route.)
    …the train was governed by a timetable that mandated strict speed limits for junctions and certain curves but, significantly, set no maximum speed limit for the long straightaways across central Wisconsin. Crews understood the meaning of that plainly enough: they were to run as fast as necessary to stay on schedule. The railway acknowledged 110 miles per hour was common on some stretches.
    This would have been reckless on almost any other steam-era railroad, but the C&NW prided itself on safety. The year before the 400 debuted, the railway rebuilt much of its mainline north of Milwaukee with heavy rail and new ballast, super-elevated the curves for high-speed operation, then inspected every inch of track with a specially fitted rail car able to detect any minute cracks in the rail.
    (Lost Milwaukee by Carl Swanson 2018)

  5. KC says:

    A $100 Billion Lesson In Why Building Public Transportation Is So Expensive in the US https://www.vice.com/en/article/k7b5mn/a-dollar100-billion-lesson-in-why-building-public-transportation-is-so-expensive-in-the-us
    There’s a plan to spend $100 billion fixing the Northeast Corridor by 2035. Similar countries build entire new rail corridors with dozens of new stations for a fraction of that cost. Why can’t the U.S.?
    Note the plan to rehabilitate the country’s busiest rail corridor, called the Northeast Corridor, from Washington, D.C. to Boston, will add zero new stations. It will add zero new lines. It will extend zero existing lines. It will convert a grand total of 100 miles to high speed track, meaning the majority of the corridor will still be conventional slow rail. It will be completed by 2035. And, according to a project cost breakdown released in October, it will cost an estimated $101.8 billion.
    For $100 billion, the Northeast Corridor Commission, a kind of meta-agency to coordinate efforts along the corridor, says Acela riders will have a “nearly 30 minute” faster trip on the main section of the corridor from DC to New York, with a similar time savings from New York to Boston. By comparison, a new 170-mile high-speed rail line connecting Turin, Italy and Lyon, France with a 35.7-mile underground tunnel—the longest rail tunnel in the world upon completion in 2032—is estimated to cost about $26 billion, or a quarter the cost.

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