Today, after decades of wrangling, Seattle finally opened 15 miles of light rail transit. As communters stop and start their weary way along the near grid-locked freeways, doing their part to hasten global warming and support Middle Eastern despots . . . and as the taxpayers hand over billions to bail out GM . . .
(this story was reported yesterday on NPR - Northwest news segnemt)
GM: Nice little railway system you got there. How much will you take for it?
Railway owners: Make an offer.
Railway onwers: Sold!
Sounds like normal competition to me, and competition’s nature is to eliminate rivals. Even if GM admitted to a deliberate scheme to replace rail transit with auto transit, few in the 30 or so years it took to do so could have seen in 1950 into the future to see the damage the scheme would cause.
I recently read a story (where, I don’t remember) that Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were in competition over whether a gasoline or electric engine would dominate the automobile market. In the beginning the electric engine had more going for it (better mpg, fewer moving parts and thus less maintenance, cleaner, quieter, more powerful), but the battery driving distance was short and recharging time was much longer than pumping gas, the same problems electric engines have today, but Edison was optimistic battery technology would improve so that electric engines would outperform gasoline ones. Obviously Ford’s marketing campaign and ease of refueling beat Edison’s battery technology, and Edison’s battery languished until the times changed and caused some intrepid souls to dust off Edison’s books and take another stab at the electric engine.
In 1860 Thoreau talked about how easily and quickly he could get from Concord to Boston on the ‘cars’. (railroad) Can’t you just see him sweating it out on the freeway today? I was in Antwerp not long ago and couldn’t believe how easily you could zip around the city on the quiet electric streetcars. You have to be sure and look both ways when crossing the street - you don’t hear them coming. Even miles out to the suburbs (Hoboken, Belgium!) in minutes.
Once, awake in the wee hours, I wondered if there was a mild earthquake in some distant part of Europe. Checking the city map next day, I saw that high speed trains were passing about a hundred feet underneath my bed.
In Japan, cities like Nagoya were destroyed during WW2. When rebuilding they included a very efficient subway and highspeed rail system. You find glittering shopping malls and subway stations 3 floors below the surface. If you get on a train one minute early, you’ve boarded the wrong train. As the Shinkansen leaves the station, you are pressed against your seat. Blastoff! The next train pulls into the station as yours departs. During rush hour, platform conductors push slowpokes (like me) through the subway doors with horizontal sticks. The door closes on your heels, a flag waves, and the train leaves the station two seconds late - all because of the slowpoke foreigner and his suitcase! But overpopulation is another story.
Don’t get me wrong, unsmoked. I love trains for all the benefits they provide (with the exception of London’s Circle Line, which 20 years since I first rode it still has a spot outside of Kensington High Street station where the train stops and the lights go out for about 5-10 seconds before lurching on in fits). I mastered Tokyo’s trains such that I memorized the kanji of nearly every station on the perimeter of the Yamanote Line and within it, but had to learn the hard way what time the last train leaves from Roppongi (don’t step in a Platform Pizza! Those sarariman often can’t hold their drink).
We Americans have been on a car/gas binge for a long time now and I agree that we should begin preparing for a ferocious hangover when the party ends. But more to the point, the history lesson is good, but the acrimonious tone of the article doesn’t help.
Don’t get me wrong, unsmoked. I love trains . But more to the point, the history lesson is good, but the acrimonious tone of the article doesn’t help.
True, but you can’t help wondering if we’d be embroiled in oil wars, killing and being killed, if we weren’t now dependent on foreign oil. There are other books and articles on this, and the NPR report was more matter of fact.
Men have fought wars long before oil was discovered to be useful. I’m sure men would find something to fight over. Let us count the ways:
1. resources (The Opium War)
2. women (The Iliad)
3. revenge (WWI)
4. pride (Napoleon)
5. ideology (Viet Nam)
6. religion (please)