Monday, January 19, 2009


Amtrak train in downtown Orlando, Florida.Amtrak Locomotive
image via
Wikimedia Commons
First, as a libertarian, I'm of course holding my nose even just writing this post... things should be funded by private enterprise rather than government. But since it's being talked about, and it's going to happen anyway... might as well make some constructive suggestions

Everyone has ideas for what sort of infrastructure the big stimulus should build. Everyone says be smart, and avoid pork... way easy to say but hard to do.

Some stuff is obvious:

  • Improve the electric grid so that renewable energy can be routed to where it is needed.
  • Fix bridges, tunnels, water mains, and so forth that really need it
Those are both "construction" sorts of things. Manufacturing has been hit too, though.

Amtrak has seen a surge in ridership of late, as other modes of transportation have become pricier. But they're running into limits. Why? Amtrak has a rolling stock shortage. For years, their capital budget has been far short of replacement, and there are lines of passenger cars in need of repair, awaiting funds. New trains or more frequent service are proposed and often deferred because there just isn't the rolling stock available.

So then... build some... increase Amtrak's capital budget, and get the shops going repairing things. That has the advantage of not only stimulating manufacturing, it also produces something that's actually needed, and when used, will reduce energy consumption.

And don't limit it to Amtrak, review all the other mass transit modes and see what capital improvements for rolling stock have been lacking. We need that more than we need new freeways that promote urban sprawl.

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1 comment:

Mackensen said...

Hear, hear. I recently took the Empire Builder out to Portland (well, Spokane, but that's a long story), and had all kinds of problems--frozen switches, a malfunctioning dining car, an engine with a bad axle. All these could be fixed by capital investment.

The way I look at it, private railroading was damn near wiped out by years of bad overregulation (eventually causing the Penn Central disaster). If railroads are to get back on their feet, they need the same assistance regularly given to roads and the airlines.