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Building the Future
Author: BobR    Date: 05/20/2013 13:13:37

After the economic crash of 2008, there was an immediate clamor for "New Deal"-esque infrastructure rebuilding. With all types of "shovel-ready" projects lined up, the initial stimulus bill was passed. Most of these projects dealt with road and bridge repair. Very little, however, was allocated for Big projects, large infrastructure items that America has done in the past, like Hoover Dam. With dangerous bridges and an antiquated electrical grid, it seemed like we were poised to finally make that commitment for the future.

That commitment didn't happen of course. The problem is both a curious dynamic between conservative and liberal policy in general, and Republican obstructionism against President Obama in particular (as well as President Clinton - we'll explain why in a minute). In general, Republicans don't like government spending taxpayer money on anything other than the military (and themselves, the hypocritical bastards). Liberals like to use socialistic solutions to large problems (like transportation, fire and police services, etc.). Where anti-socialism paranoia prevents intelligent solutions, the private solution is often burdened with regulations intended to prevent opportunistic businesses from taking advantage of the public trust. The result is a worst-of-both-worlds situation where private industry operates on a "barely meeting minimum expectations" standard in an effort to maximize profits.

Meanwhile, as we funnel taxpayer funds into the pockets of well-connected government contractors, our infrastructure suffers. As we spend over half of collected taxpayer funds on a bloated military, other countries fly past us into the 21st century. The commuter train crash/derailment in Connecticut on Friday is a sad reminder of what happens when we set priorities on things that don't matter, and neglect what we really need. Investigators found a cracked track. Did it cause the accident or did the accident cause it? In reality, the cause of the wreck is an aging infrastructure that needs to be fixed.

There's a bit of "common wisdom" that people will not give up their cars for train travel. The problem with that bit of "wisdom" is that it's not true. The "carmeggedon" that's expected as people have to drive into NYC for work until the rail is fixed and the NTSB gives it its blessing is one proof that denies the false consensus. Sure, the NYC area is a nightmare for driving, there are a LOT of cars there, and the subway and other regional transportation options are unlike anywhere else in the country. But those options are there because they work.

Comparisons to European models are often denied because America is so spread out. Sure you can take Amtrak from NY to Atlanta, but why would you? It's as slow as driving a car, and as expensive as flying. Unless you want to make the slow journey part of the experience, or are deathly afraid of flying (or being groped by a TSA agent), there' no impetus to embrace rail travel.

The answer of course is high-speed rail. This holy grail is often given lip-service, but rarely given any serious attention. Again naysayers pronounce it's too expensive and would not get used. The experience of the one high-speed rail line in North America - the Acela - shows that is not the case. The AmTrak Acela currently has over half of the DC-to-NYC travel market, overtaking air travel. FYI - AmTrak has a special relationship with the U.S. government, receiving funding, yet still operating as a for-profit private company.

The Acela shows, however, the problems with the current system. It can operate at 150 MPH, but rarely does, because of speed limitations over aging bridges. There is also the weight of the trains, due to governmental regulations on structural crash resistance for the cars, something not required in Europe because they have a modern infrastructure on the rails, and crashes are essentially non-existent.

Part of the reason France doesn't have this problem is because they are not afraid of a little socialism. They nationalised the rail system, ensuring that rail travel was consistent, held to a modern standard, and well-funded. Their maglev train system runs at up to 186 MPH on a consistent basis. I've taken the train from Paris to London; it's amazing. Their "slower" Téoz trains travel at "only" 125 MPH.

The Acela was developed when Bill Clinton was president and the economy was booming on the Tech Bubble. He still managed to get it done with the Republicans hounding him with their witch hunt. President Obama is also facing Republican witch-hunts, with the added problem of an economy still suffering a hangover from the 2008 crash, and a Republican Congress fixated on constraining all spending. There is also the McCarthy-esque fixation on anything that could be construed as "socialism". With all these roadblocks impeding any sort of potential to progress, the hope of a modernized transit system looks slim.

When comparing our failures to keep up with other countries' success stories, the response often is "yeah, but that won't work here". The rationales given are generally based in ideologies, not possibilities or practicalities. If we can build a Hoover Dam, if we can build the Eisenhower interstate system, if we can build the largest most well-funded military in the world, we can certainly bring our electrical, train, and air traffic control systems up to modern standards. It just requires us to agree that the government can and should do it.

72 comments (Latest Comment: 05/21/2013 02:26:41 by Will in Chicago)
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Comment by velveeta jones on 05/20/2013 13:30:01
Morning!
I would so love to take that new fast train that goes from Paris to London!!! Wish we would spend more on trains.

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 13:30:56
:scurries around blog, filling up trash bags: A little help here! Mom & Dad are gonna be here any minute and they said no parties!

Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 13:35:37
Morning

Ever want to strangle a field manager on a Monday morning?

Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 13:36:12
Morning, comrades.

Nobody was shot this weekend. I shall recount our experiences eventually.

I am also pleased to report that the gun club abuts Maynard's new solar farm project. Another leader and I surreptitiously 'crossed the fence' while we were birdwatching yesterday morning. (Worth it - about a half-dozen purple finches in a courtship ritual were seen.)

In any case....

(And another black mark on Troop 250...I seem to be the only coffee fiend. There was never a pot of coffee around when I needed one. )

Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 13:38:40
Quote by Mondobubba:
:scurries around blog, filling up trash bags: A little help here! Mom & Dad are gonna be here any minute and they said no parties!


I was out working the gardens all weekend - got the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucs, and cantaloupe planted. Even picked up some fancy bottles to start making some homemade extracts. I know not of this party you speak of.


Comment by Raine on 05/20/2013 13:39:11
Good morning!

Excellent piece, BobR -- Everyone I know would rather take a train, they just want it to be faster and more affordable.



Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 13:46:54
Quote by Raine:
Good morning!

Excellent piece, BobR -- Everyone I know would rather take a train, they just want it to be faster and more affordable.




I love taking the train, never taken the Acela though, just costs too much.

Comment by trojanrabbit on 05/20/2013 13:47:22
Because of that crash, Mrs. Rabbit and her brother had to go through a lot of headaches to find a way home from South Bend. I spent a good part of the day yesterday thinking I'd have to go to Penn Station and pick her up later today.

As it turns out, she was able to get a train that goes through Albany and Springfield, rather than NYC, so she'll arrive tonight (and at 7:30 instead of midnight, which Mr. Rabbit doesn't mind at all).

Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 13:47:48
Boston to Washington, DC is 450 miles by road. It is absolutely unconscionable that I can drive there faster than I can take the train. (Except Acela, but not by much.)

But there's another point - ever hear of the 20th Century Limited? It used to make the run from NYC to Chicago in 16 hours in the early part of the last century. It was called a "limited" because of the limited number of stops it made.

Travel between Boston, NYC, and DC, would be vastly improved if such a concept came back and the train only made a handful of stops instead of in every hamlet.

And let's not forget the requirement for "cab signalling', which is also non-existent in Europe. We have a national rail "speed limit" because of this, except along the NEC where such devices exist.



Comment by Raine on 05/20/2013 14:05:39
I really appreciate Bob mentioning our electrical grid as well. I was one of the millions of people stuck in NYC in the Northeast Blackout of 2003.

It was a power grid failure that affected over 50 Million people. We were stuck in NYC -- a very dark Manhattan. Slept on the floor on Grand central Station and hopped on ANY train we could find leaving Manhattan.

It affected rail travel, air travel and gas production. Why? no one invested in a smarter grid. Cell phones went down; there was no power at the cell towers and that affected the area's 911 system. People could not pump gas -- they are all electronic.

People were worried about Indian Point Nuclear plant as it went down too.

and we are still not there. 10 years later and we still aren't there.



Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 14:14:47
Quote by Raine:
I really appreciate Bob mentioning our electrical grid as well. I was one of the millions of people stuck in NYC in the Northeast Blackout of 2003.

It was a power grid failure that affected over 50 Million people. We were stuck in NYC -- a very dark Manhattan. Slept on the floor on Grand central Station and hopped on ANY train we could find leaving Manhattan.

It affected rail travel, air travel and gas production. Why? no one invested in a smarter grid. Cell phones went down; there was no power at the cell towers and that affected the area's 911 system. People could not pump gas -- they are all electronic.

People were worried about Indian Point Nuclear plant as it went down too.

and we are still not there. 10 years later and we still aren't there.



Speaking of the grid, I remember when I was a kid, Pepco was rock solid steady. These days from what I understand if you spit on sidewalk, various parts of Montgomery County go dark.

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 14:19:04
Quote by wickedpam:
Quote by Mondobubba:
:scurries around blog, filling up trash bags: A little help here! Mom & Dad are gonna be here any minute and they said no parties!


I was out working the gardens all weekend - got the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucs, and cantaloupe planted. Even picked up some fancy bottles to start making some homemade extracts. I know not of this party you speak of.



Yeah, right Mala. You we up on that table on Saturday night, belting our Abba tunes!

Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 14:20:17
Quote by Mondobubba:
Quote by Raine:
I really appreciate Bob mentioning our electrical grid as well. I was one of the millions of people stuck in NYC in the Northeast Blackout of 2003.

It was a power grid failure that affected over 50 Million people. We were stuck in NYC -- a very dark Manhattan. Slept on the floor on Grand central Station and hopped on ANY train we could find leaving Manhattan.

It affected rail travel, air travel and gas production. Why? no one invested in a smarter grid. Cell phones went down; there was no power at the cell towers and that affected the area's 911 system. People could not pump gas -- they are all electronic.

People were worried about Indian Point Nuclear plant as it went down too.

and we are still not there. 10 years later and we still aren't there.



Speaking of the grid, I remember when I was a kid, Pepco was rock solid steady. These days from what I understand if you spit on sidewalk, various parts of Montgomery County go dark.



sneeze in Del Ray and they blow transformers

Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 14:21:16
Quote by Mondobubba:
Quote by wickedpam:
Quote by Mondobubba:
:scurries around blog, filling up trash bags: A little help here! Mom & Dad are gonna be here any minute and they said no parties!


I was out working the gardens all weekend - got the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucs, and cantaloupe planted. Even picked up some fancy bottles to start making some homemade extracts. I know not of this party you speak of.



Yeah, right Mala. You we up on that table on Saturday night, belting our Abba tunes!


that was a table? I thought it was the blog stage

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 14:23:13
Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 14:41:49
idiot callers - my eye is twitching

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 14:42:23
Quote by wickedpam:
Quote by Mondobubba:
Quote by wickedpam:
Quote by Mondobubba:
:scurries around blog, filling up trash bags: A little help here! Mom & Dad are gonna be here any minute and they said no parties!


I was out working the gardens all weekend - got the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucs, and cantaloupe planted. Even picked up some fancy bottles to start making some homemade extracts. I know not of this party you speak of.



Yeah, right Mala. You we up on that table on Saturday night, belting our Abba tunes!


that was a table? I thought it was the blog stage



One too many boxes of wine?

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 14:45:54
Speaking as we were on impediments to navigation and other delays, I was coming up Mandarin Road this morning and one of the stately, yet shallowly rooted oaks had fallen across the road blocking both lanes. Most disconcerting.

Do a street view on Google Maps and you'll see what I mean.

Comment by Raine on 05/20/2013 15:01:35
Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 15:06:57



Yeesh! What an asshole. On a lighter note, I love the sign the woman on the right side of the picture is holding.

Comment by velveeta jones on 05/20/2013 15:14:26
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...

Comment by Raine on 05/20/2013 15:17:25
http://i221.photobucket.com/albums/dd113/lamepandp/twitter_zps15b2495d.jpg


Comment by Scoopster on 05/20/2013 15:17:47
Mornin' all.. Goodness I've been in the wrong thread all morning!

Comment by Raine on 05/20/2013 15:19:35
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...
I would have eliminated it. Where there is one, there are more.






Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 15:20:07
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...


of snakes and bugs I say thumbs down - they all should die except ladybugs, fireflies and butterflies.


Comment by BobR on 05/20/2013 15:22:45
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...

Poisonous snake? Hell yeah you kill it. It won't be so nice to you if you accidentally get too close, anymore than a bear won't eat you because you're a vegetarian.

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 15:26:05
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...


Hell, when a grass snake got into my house I went all Homer Simpson on it with a bat.

Comment by Scoopster on 05/20/2013 15:26:47
Quote by Raine:
http://i221.photobucket.com/albums/dd113/lamepandp/twitter_zps15b2495d.jpg

http://images.bluegartr.com/bucket/gallery/7feb494af6739c5dff9676f8599c3725.PNG


Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 15:26:59
Quote by Raine:
http://i221.photobucket.com/albums/dd113/lamepandp/twitter_zps15b2495d.jpg





Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 15:36:30
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...


We caught and released numerous frogs, tadpoles, shiners, turtles, and brown water snakes this past weekend.

But we're Boy Scouts.



Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 15:44:37
Quote by Scoopster:
Quote by Raine:
http://i221.photobucket.com/albums/dd113/lamepandp/twitter_zps15b2495d.jpg

http://images.bluegartr.com/bucket/gallery/7feb494af6739c5dff9676f8599c3725.PNG



Mine is variation on the theme. "It's the law. Now shut up and do something constructive." I didn't include, "you giant asshole."

Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 15:51:04
Quote by TriSec:
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...


We caught and released numerous frogs, tadpoles, shiners, turtles, and brown water snakes this past weekend.

But we're Boy Scouts.



I read the bold, underlined (mine) as shriners....


Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 15:52:31
Quote by wickedpam:
Quote by TriSec:
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...


We caught and released numerous frogs, tadpoles, shiners, turtles, and brown water snakes this past weekend.

But we're Boy Scouts.



I read the bold, underlined (mine) as shriners....





Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 15:54:08
Massachusetts has a strict catch-and-release policy for Shriners, yes.



Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 15:59:21
Quote by TriSec:
Massachusetts has a strict catch-and-release policy for Shriners, yes.




Are you required to tag them? Is it a chip that goes in the fez?

Comment by Raine on 05/20/2013 16:03:58
Oh Gohmert. (the Video is stunning. all of it.)

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 16:12:05
Quote by Raine:
Oh Gohmert. (the Video is stunning. all of it.)


Louie, being from Texas I'm sure you have heard the phrase, "don't take a knife to a gun fight." You did this you tool.

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 16:24:02
Raine, how was da wadding?

Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 16:24:38
Comment by Raine on 05/20/2013 16:29:15
Quote by Mondobubba:
Raine, how was da wadding?
IT was a blast!

Awkward moment... My sisters boyfriend Joe rolled Gross oma in her wheelchair to the dance floor so we could dance....


What song you ask? The most inappropriate Queen song ever to dance with your 94 year old Oma... Let's just leave it there.

Bobber gave a surprise toast to his new Brother in LAw that made my sister and I both cry...

Saw lot's of family and friends. I will be posting pictures this afternoon.


Comment by velveeta jones on 05/20/2013 16:29:57

Quote by Mondobubba:
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...


Hell, when a grass snake got into my house I went all Homer Simpson on it with a bat.

:rofl:


Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 16:32:14
Quote by Raine:
Quote by Mondobubba:
Raine, how was da wadding?
IT was a blast!

Awkward moment... My sisters boyfriend Joe rolled Gross oma in her wheelchair to the dance floor so we could dance....


What song you ask? The most inappropriate Queen song ever to dance with your 94 year old Oma... Let's just leave it there.

Bobber gave a surprise toast to his new Brother in LAw that made my sister and I both cry...

Saw lot's of family and friends. I will be posting pictures this afternoon.


That yellow dress was saved by that black shrug - didn't know your sis had a fondness for bees


Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 16:43:58
Quote by velveeta jones:

Quote by Mondobubba:
Quote by velveeta jones:
Hey, what does the blog think about this:

went to take out garbage
found copperhead snake at foot of trash can
got machete to kill it
daughter freaks out and says "no!"
I let it live

Maybe I should have killed it? I dunno. They are not terribly venomous.... but still...


Hell, when a grass snake got into my house I went all Homer Simpson on it with a bat.

:rofl:


I totally freaked out. I beat that poor snake flat. I think what caused me to lose was that it was in the house. I still feel bad about it.


Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 16:44:31
Quote by Raine:
Quote by Mondobubba:
Raine, how was da wadding?
IT was a blast!

Awkward moment... My sisters boyfriend Joe rolled Gross oma in her wheelchair to the dance floor so we could dance....


What song you ask? The most inappropriate Queen song ever to dance with your 94 year old Oma... Let's just leave it there.

Bobber gave a surprise toast to his new Brother in LAw that made my sister and I both cry...

Saw lot's of family and friends. I will be posting pictures this afternoon.



More that you posted on Book of the Faces?

Comment by Mondobubba on 05/20/2013 17:03:11
Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 17:07:51
A Scout is Kind.

A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing.

FUCK! IT'S IN THE HOUSE!!!! IT'S IN THE HOUSE!!!!!! may just be a "good reason".



Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 17:10:37


Florida: What’s their state beverage, a half-glass of warm tap water?



Comment by wickedpam on 05/20/2013 17:29:05
Quote by TriSec:


Florida: What’s their state beverage, a half-glass of warm tap water?




I agree about FLA - it should be Flamingo! And VA - I like the idea of it being an Owl, we have a few that live in the woods by the community garden, they're very cool

Comment by TriSec on 05/20/2013 17:50:49