Friday, November 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A job creator that's worth $3 billion

A job creator that's worth $3 billion

Trains -- which we all know to be a leading agent of Communistic state planning and control, as a government bureaucrat determines not only your exact route from Point A to Point B but the precise time at which you will arrive -- are, in spite of that, getting more popular:

Long a punch line for harried Northeast travelers, Amtrak has come to dominate commercial travel in the corridor connecting Washington, New York and Boston, and this summer its trains are packed.

A decade ago, Delta and US Airways shuttles were the preferred mode of travel between the cities. But high fares, slow airport securityand frequent flight delays — along with Amtrak’s high-speed Acela trains, online ticketing and workstation amenities — have eaten away at the airlines’ share of passengers.

Between New York and Washington, Amtrak said, 75 percent of travelers go by train, a huge share that has been building steadily since the Acela was introduced in 2000 and airport security was tightened after 2001. Before that, Amtrak had just over a third of the business between New York and Washington.

On one of the rare days that our liberal media conspiracy works the way that it's supposed to, that New York Times article ran on the same day as this piece in the Inquirer (yes, the Inquirer):

Amtrak and city officials envision a new high-speed rail station on Market Street east of City Hall, linked by a 10-mile tunnel to Philadelphia International Airport, where a second new station would be built.

The neoclassical 30th Street Station, opened in 1933 by the Pennsylvania Railroad and touted by Trains Magazine last year as "America's Finest Railroad Station," would become a hub for slower intercity trains and commuter service.

Amtrak, which owns the station, says a new high-speed rail alignment beneath Center City would allow bullet trains to avoid speed-killing curves and space limits near 30th Street Station, helping meet a goal of 37-minute train trips between Philadelphia and New York by 2040.

Wow. is there a downside? Well, some might make note of this: The cost of this new tunnel-to-somewhere would be $3 billion, or, in journalismese, a whopping $3 billion. Would it be crazy to spend that much on a tunnel to carry trains on a route that they already sort of travel -- albeit curvaceously, at slow speeds. I have a wild hunch that some of the people commenting below will mildly disapprove of this idea.

But let's compare this to the Paul Ryan plan -- spending billions of dollars instead on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, the mythical "job creators" who in reality will stash the extra dough in Switzerland of the Caymans. But Philadelphia's $3 billion tunnel-to-somewhere would create real jobs, not mythical one. There'd be thousands of direct construction jobs, for sure, but there should also be something that Ayn Rand (of the railroad-loving "Atlas Shrugged") would love: Free market jobs, right here in Philadelphia.

Do you have any idea how many private jobs would come here if you could travel to New York in 37 minutes? Think of al the city lovers who rave about Philadelphia (same great culture, but lower prices, less traffic, slightly less hipsters) but find it's a tad too far from their business in New York (media, advertising, finance) or Washington. And someone would have to construct their new offices and homes. Those are the real job creators, blod, ambitious slightly crazy projects like (cue the snide Rachel Maddow comments) Hoover Dam or Robert Moses' Triborough Bridge, or sending astronauts to the moon.

No plan is perfect. Maybe high-speed rail could come for a mere (heh) $2 billion. But even that's a small pricetag for freedom...of movement. 

Programming note: I enjoyed my vacation so much that I'm taking tomorrow off. See you on Sunday!

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Will Bunch
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