A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bullet Trains; a Low Caliber Idea

Timothy Birdnow

"Hawk. Goin' for the Musselshell. Take me a week's ridin', and he'll be there in... hell, he's there already"

From the 1972 Robert Redford movie Jeremiah Johnson

For millions of years the dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and yet in a short span of time they died out, leaving the Earth to some furry little upstart critters that had previously hidden from the great beasts. Now dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes, and we now know they were warm blooded and moved quickly. Why did they die while their mammalian cousins survived?

Well, not all of them died. The birds are the remnants of the Lords of the Earth.

For some reason the land-based dinosaurs went kaput, while the winged varieties (at least some) survived. Granted, the bigger winged dinos are gone; no pteradactyls to peck at a wayward traveler (although Hilary Clinton may be mistaken for one) and the birds we know certainly bear a less horrific visage than the former flying dinosaurs, but they are plenty lethal (consider an eagle or other bird of prey). But the question remains; why did the land based dinosaurs die out and the flying ones make it? They more than made it, they thrived so well that they form the majority of the creatures of the air (other than insects); mammals took to flight as bats and semi-flight as flying squirrels (giving us such great cartoons as Rocky and Bullwinkle, the latter rather resembling Michelle Obama). But when one thinks of flying critters we invariably think of birds, the survivors of the dinosaurs.

There are enormous benefits to flight.

It's faster. You can move with the air currents at terrific speeds, and as there is nothing in your path (unless you fly too low) you don't have to worry about crashing. You don't need a road or trail, don't have to cross rivers or mountains (except below, and thus they form no barrier), don't have to worrry about anybody sneaking up on you. (You do have to worry about predators, but you can generally see them.) If you can fly high enough you can get out of bad weather, or fast enough you can outrun it.

Crawling around on the ground is inefficient.

That's why the Left's object of affection for transportation - the bullet train - is such a low caliber idea.

Liberals the world over love the notion of a high-speed rail system. They tout the great speed (as high as 125 miles per hour) and all of the self-anointed cool kids are doing it.  In every blue state projects are underway to build these wonderful transport systems. Of course, a railway means people have to move on the scheduSuch levels of control are made to order for the liberal. al of the railway, and have to be squeezed together in a controlled setting. And trains are a ground-based alternative to that greatest of all evils, the privately owned automobile.

The Federalist Patriot had this to say about bullet trains:

"It began as a $33 billion dream, but has ballooned into a $100 billion nightmare for a state that's already staring at a $16 billion shortfall in next year's budget. California Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown wants to press ahead with a bullet train that's supposed to eventually traverse the 432-mile route between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just over two-and-a-half hours. Yet the hoped-for $50 billion contribution from Uncle Sam is probably now a pipe dream.

Touted as part of a "green" initiative by a Moonbeam who hates cars as much as Algore, the train will, ironically, depend on electricity created from fossil fuels. However, the real concern is the lack of private investment and willingness by contractors to bid on the project, fearing they might be stuck when the state runs out of money. While voters approved an initial $9 billion in bonds in 2008, they're having second thoughts now. Unfortunately for them, Democrats won't place another referendum on the ballot because voters now oppose the bullet train by a 2-1 margin. So it's state taxpayers that have to bite the bullet if Brown has his way. It seems the only thing moving on this railroad is the debt total."

End excerpt.

And indeed bullet trains are fading away like the morning dew the world over.

Why would a vehicle capable of moving large numbers of people and cargo at 125 mph not succeed? 

Because it is totally unnecessary. For trips longer than four hours one simply takes a shuttle flight. Flying is so much faster, safer, and, well, a cleaner job in terms of travel. If you are going to have the inconvenience of going through a congested station, passing security, waiting on departure time, and being a passive participant then why bother with a train? Trains are notorious for delays - moreso than planes because they have to move on a set track, something the plane just doesn't have to do. A plane can drop lower, move higher, go left or right while the train has to use two rails, and those rails only. If you are going to the trouble of using mass transit you may as well fly.

And at the end of the trip you STILL have to find your way to your destination from the station, just as you have to find your way from an airport. Unless the trip requires a quick transit time it's worth it to you to simply drive. It takes three hours to get from St. Louis to Kansas City by car, and you could perhaps cut that to an hour and a half by bullet train (were we to have a bullet train between the two cities) but it will take another two hours to get through the hassles of parking your car (and paying for the privilege) waiting for the train, disembarking, and finding transportation to your final destination.

And speaking of final destinations, there is a danger of getting there prematurely, as in your final, final destination; trains derail, and one of the reasons they aren't used much for transportation these days is that there is real danger. Remember, they can't dodge and they are enormously massive, so if something goes wrong you are going down. A derailed train is different than rolling a car; my mother rolled her Volkswagon Beetle years ago, and walked away just fine. In fact, they rolled the car over and my father drove it home. You can do that because it isn't massive; a train derailing is MASSIVE.

They are subject to inevitable delays, too. Once I took Amtrac to Hermann Mo. Hermann is a town in the center of Missouri wine country, and my wife booked us passage for my birthday. Hermann is only about 80 miles from home, but it took about 2.5 hours to get there (I would have been there in a little more than an hour had I drive). We were supposed to be picked up at 6 p.m., and the train didn't arrive at the station until 10. It was empty, and smelled of disinfectant. My wife mentioned to the staff that it was my birthday (hoping to get a free drink or something) and they just rolled their eyes. Of course, when we got back to St. Louis I still had to get the car and drive home (early in the morning).

Also, trains hit things. The wedge-shaped bumper on the front of the old trains was called a cow-catcher, because it often took wayward cattle with it. Now you are talking about building miles and miles of track, and roaring through at high speed. What will get in the way of the trains? How much wildlife will be made into rail pizza by high speed trains? 

They might makes some sense had they been done using high tech, too; a magnetic levitating train (no danger of metal wheels coming off of the tracks) in a vacuum tube moving at over 250 miles per hour in complete safety would perhaps be worth building. But bullet trains aren't this type of high tech, and won't be because this embodies exactly what the environmentalists and other liberal moonbats hate. They want trains partly because they are low tech. The point is to condition us to accept less, to be satisfied with a world that is without growth or advancement, and trains are old technology. Making them competitive with airplanes would defeat the whole purpose.

That, and getting people accustomed to be hearded like cattle in cattle cars. It is to teach us that we cannot move about independently.

Remember when Senatorial candidate Spouting Bull aka Elizabeth Warren (she who speak with forked tongue) said that the wealthy only acquire wealth by using the roads and railways built by others, so don't really achieve anything on their own? This reminds me of a quote from another of my favorite movies, the 1975 film "Rollerball" starring James Caan:

"the purpose of the game is to teach the futility of individual effort".

Mr. Bartholemew to Jonathan E.

This film is set in a world ruled by megacorporations, a fascist state where the corporate and the government are one. John Houseman (Mr. Bartholemew) stars as one of the corporate executives trying to force Jonathan E. (Caan) out of the game of Rollerball, an ultraviolent sport in which he has become to dominant. See, Rollerball was intended to get aggression out of the public through vicarious means, and to teach that you fail as an individual. Jonathan defies the corporation, leading to a bloodbath at the end as the championship game is played with no rules and no time limit - a battle to the death.

I suspect that mass transit is intended to serve a similar purpose; to teach that one must depend on the state, that individual action is pointless. In a world without cars or other private conveyances, one where there never had been such things, the public would be baffled by the notion that you could come and go as you pleased, that it would be possible to simply up and leave.

The ability to control the movement of people is the ability to control them. I wrote about this a while back.

In the end, high speed rail is inefficient and stupid. Why ride on rails fast when you can simply fly?  It makes no sense, yet it is something that the Left will never give up on because it serves an ulterior motive. It's about control; it always is about control.

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