America's terrible trains are an ideological triumph

Of course, because those are some places where neoliberalism has been allowed to run amok…


Oh yeah, it’s not politically sustainable over the long term. Won’t stop them from trying however, and to a large extent the globalization of the last 30 years will protect them better than all the guard labour and defensive architecture of yester year. Capital is global now, but those who want to expropriate it are still stuck on a national level. So long as a significant part of the world remains open to doing business as usual, those countries that try alternatives will find themselves isolated and punished by world markets. Though we’re nearly at the point where the mildest of post war social democracy is seen as a deviation to be punished.


I wonder if you noticed, there is a tacit admission about ideological success in this very comparison.


Ah, cost-plus military contracts.


And this is why we can’t have nice things.

We like to call that test beds for America. Like how Tom DeLay after touring the sweatshops in Saipan said to the leaders there “You represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America”.


Y’know, the Golden Gate bridge is a staggering colossus of mind-blowing scale, yet it was built nearly a hundred years ago, with only the crude technology of the 1930’s, and despite a recession.

Today, our entire economy only exists because of infrastructure like that bridge - and a freeway system that dwarfs it - our lives completely dependent on these giant constructions from a previous century - we are so poor of spirit and spunk that we can’t even contemplate building a decent train! (And don’t even talk about tunnels…)

America - WTF happened?!


America’s (and Canada’s) trains are the best in the world. They just happen to move stuff instead of people. The numbers for freight by rail are really pretty stunning – it’s something like 11x times the number of per capita rail-tons are moved in the US v the EU (and 9x of that of Germany). Now, yes, you’ve got to make some adjustments for distance from ports and population density, but the US uses rail far better than anyone (Canada excepted, who is better still).


I did the math once and found that instead of the Iraq war the US could have built a NY/Paris grade subway system in every city in the country where it would be at all reasonable to do so.


Instead we just practiced bringing armored convoys of water across the desert

Wonder when that will come in handy?


While Christie was wrong and self serving to cancel the ARC tunnel, he was correct in pointing out the flaws in it’s funding schemes, and the perpetual game of underestimating the costs of these capital projects. Sadly, one of his tools in cancelling was the agency created to build trans Hudson rail crossings, the now notorious Port Authority. It’s mission was to build a cargo crossing, and nearly a century later, it still has not done so. It became so flush with cash from it’s bridge and tunnel empire by the 50’s that it had to find a way to spend it before the states confiscated it to shore up the desperate mass transit systems.

So rather than stick to it’s actual transportation mission, it got big into commercial real estate by building the WTC. All that money could have been put into transit infrastructure. Twice. The rebuild has been financed on the backs of NJ commuters who are captives of the PA’s crossings and PATH train system. I was at a PA “meeting” where the NJ residents objecting to fare & toll hikes were shouted down by hardhats in specially printed T-shirts and bused in by the PA to demand their construction jobs at public expense.

So now we have a big erection in the sky to show the world we are virile and an absurdly overpriced station cum shopping mall. Why was this better than a commuter rail tunnel that could have fertilized the economy of NY & NJ for many decades?


A Russian musician friend told me: Vancouver and Seattle are about the same distance as St. Petersburgh and Moscow. Now you can get from Vancouver (BC) to Seattle in less than 2 hrs thanks to the Interstate Highway system, but not so St. Petersburgh to Moscow because there is no equivalent highway.
The irony here is that the largest public works in history (and built by a Republican president) was good for US infrastructure and for citizens and commerce as well as any military need of moving supplies across the country, whereas the centrally planned Soviet Union had no such road system.
But now we would be communists if we spend money maintaining it.

Also the original railways built across the US in the 19th century, were primarily funded by gov’t, with all sorts of interest free loans, rebates and an amount of land gifted that is the equivalent of all of California and Montana (from Ken Burns’ the West)


When people say “government health care is the first step towards communism” I always reply “that’s like saying stepping out your front door in Boston is the first step to walking all the way to California.”

There will be many many steps, you can turn around at any time, the road may lead to some other destination than either California or communism, and the irrational fear of the mere possibility of communism means you can’t really do anything (imagine never leaving your house for fear that you might walk all the way across the country.)

Besides, the first step was arguably public schools or public roads or public libraries, which those horrible commie Founding Fathers apparently didn’t have any problem with.


Paging Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie to the …



His solution was to take PANYNJ money and then use it on NJ-only projects. What irony.

[quote=“gellfex, post:31, topic:57832”]
Why was this better than a commuter rail tunnel that could have fertilized the economy of NY & NJ for many decades?
[/quote]It isn’t. As one of the only lines without a direct train to Penn Station, not building the ARC was the greatest travesty the PA has ever failed at. Luckily they got their comeupance with two empty buildings downtown and two unfinished stumps. No better metaphor for what they’re making downtown.

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So he could actually repair some roads in desperate condition like the crumbling Pulaski Skyway without having to break GOP doctrine and raise the lowest in the nation gas tax.

No, I think failing at their original mission was greater. Had they completed a trans-hudson freight line when they were supposed to in the 20’s the whole NYC & LI economy might have been different. Read The Power Broker (bio of Robert Moses) and Empire on the Hudson (bio of the PANYNJ) and you have a history of how the modern Urban America was built and how it ran off the rails.


There seems to be a prevailing attitude in the U.S. that rail lines need to turn a profit or at least be revenue-neutral. For some reason free marketeers don’t seem to feel compelled to apply that same logic to roads.


I don’t know… I kind of think that we have some of those test beds right here in the good ole USofA, right across the rural south. Where ever the poor and disenfranchised lived, neoliberal policies will be there.


Oh, they would if they could.

I’d thought that was the point.

Now we have to call upon the author to explain.