Saturday, May 29, 2021

TrainTard Doesn't Understand America


ScrewYouTube burped up this piece of offal onto my "recommended" list, which is Reason #2,074 on the list of Why They Suck. But it's time for an Andy Rooney essay.

Hitherto Unnoticed Schlub loves trains? Yippee for him. Whatever.

In fact, I like trains. Sometimes. Lots of people take it farther. Build them. Ride them. Obsessively photograph them and totally geek out on them. Okay, great. Walt Disney was that guy. Which is one of the few reasons I like trains: you can get from New Orleans Square to Tomorrowland without walking through the human car wash of too many people, all blocking every square foot of real estate to watch the ninth parade of the day.

But ArmChair TrainTard thinks train transit is great everywhere.

Counterargument #1 - I don't have to share a ride with these guys:

Not that I'd mind the shooting practice, but doing it every day, both ways?? Hard pass.

Think that's a new problem? An urban problem? Think again:

Second problem TrainTard "forgot" to mention:

Nice that he was caught, but it doesn't do the woman on the tracks any good; she's paté.

Problem #3:

One dumbass anywhere on the route, and you're delayed, maybe injured. The "Sorry, boss; stupid people" excuse works once. The second time, they tell you to either get a car, or update your resumé. The third time, your stuff is in a box at the lobby security desk, and there's a new guy at your desk. Game over.

Problem #4:

"Just let government do the driving." Sh'yeah, right, when monkeys fly outta my butt. The speed of the DMV, the efficiency of the Post Office, the customer service ethic of the TSA, and the health and safety of the VA, all rolled into one. 

Problem #5:

Gold stars optional.

'Nuff said.

TrainTard yakks about how nifty trains are in Europe. Well, yes. In countries where the streets were made for horses and itty-bitty wagons one way, a thousand years ago, where the entire "downtown" is a village slightly smaller than the mall I grew up visiting in the 1960s, FFS, and where you can cross five countries in a couple of hours, without trying very hard, on a bicycle. If all the states were MAssholia, Connecticut, and Rhode island, they'd be nifty here too. But there's Tennessee, from end to end. Montana. Califrutopia from north to south. And by God Texas, from halfway here to halfway there, a full day even if you're driving at speeding ticket speeds. I've seen me do it, and it was a full day. El Paso to Texarkana, and the same thing going the other way back from Loosiana to New Mexico. Trapped on a train for that? O Hell No!

Passenger trains were nice. In 1870. Compared to pack mule trains.

They went broke for the same reasons stagecoaches and steamships did: better ways of doing things.

If Califrutopia, for one example, wanted to seriously build a fastrail line that would work, it would be one from Frisco* to San Diego, with maybe four-five in-between stops: San Jose, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and OC. And go right up the coast. Not make fifty stops in every boondoggle one stoplight cowtown in the Central Valley, to payoff every demoCommunist crony construction contractor from Chico to the Imperial Valley.

The other line would go L.A.-Vegas, non-stop, at 200+MPH, on a best-course virtual beeline across the desert, and to hell with the desert protection NIMBY horsesh*t. And it would cost twice as much to go to Vegas as to leave it, both to keep the riff-raff off, and because people coming back are already broke. It would also save time over even airline flights, because of all the security hokum you'd eliminate at both ends.

So feel free to build those lines.

But anywhere else, just in this state?


Americans do understand trains.

They're slow, they stop in sh*thole neighborhoods, break down in slums, carry the worst of the lumpenproletariat at garlic-and-stinky-cheese-Frenchman-breath-and-b.o range, and you're trapped, for hours, in Hell's Waiting Room, with the lot. Hoping the engineer isn't stoned, or texting, and that no @$$hole walks or drives onto the tracks ahead, and that the tracks and trestles are where they're supposed to be since the last time they fixed them.

A car means you can stop when you want, where you want, in heat- or air-conditioned comfort, listening to only your music, and kids, or not, without toting your luggage three miles, dining wherever and whenever you like, stopping when you need to, making any side trip(s) that tickle your fancy, and overall, twice as fast as any train, to anywhere, once you factor in slow sections, stops, layovers, etc.

This is why we built Route 66, freeways, and the Defense Interstate Highway System: because personal choice and individual liberty, bitchez.

And we don't all want to live in postage-stamp sized Hootervilles. Some of us - most, in fact - would far rather live with this outside our front door:

Or a reasonable facsimile.

With the nearest neighbor at a distance measured in miles, and the nearest train horn at a distance measured in leagues.

Given the choice between hearing my neighbor's yappy dogs, and coyotes or wolves, and tiptoeing over Mrs. Idiot's Fluffy-made landmines, or bear scat and cougar kills, I'll take the wild version, eleven times out of ten, thankyewverymuch.

The problem isn't that America doesn't understand trains.

It's that TrainTard doesn't understand Americans.

He should enjoy his fetish, and fly his freak flag, in private. But don't try and flip your malfunction into a problem on the part of 330M other people. Narcissism and paraphilia is a bad combination.

You want to ride a train?

This is the pinnacle of that experience:

It even had dinosaurs, forty years before Jurassic Park. And not one recorded mugging or robbery aboard, since ever.

*(I'd have made it Seattle to San Diego, and added a stop in Portland, but the folks up north would have blown the passes before they'd let that happen, and looking at Portland and Seattle lately, the feeling is mutual from the southern end. Y'all are on your own, and those are your tards up yonder, not ours. They're not even acting up like Portland and Seattle in communist politburo Berzerkeley, FFS, which tells you all you need to know about that.)


JC said...

Many years ago my father worked for the B&O rail road. It then became the Chessie System. In 1979 to save money my father got a rail pass for me to travel to Grafton WVA from FT Lauderdale Fla with a stop to transfer in DC
It took over 24 hours to get to DC because the train stopped at every little town along the way.
In the time it took to get to DC I could have driven to DC and back to the Jacksonville Fla area.
Thinking rail will work in the USA excepting some very specific routes is insanity.

T-Rav said...

Personally, I like trains. And their tram/subway equivalents in the cities. I spent a year in Germany not long ago, and had some very pleasant experiences hacking about Europe in them. No muss, no fuss, just walk down to the station, buy a ticket, and hop on; read a book and watch the countryside go by without having to look at the car in front of you all the time.

However, I also learned from that experience that there is no way a mass rail system would work in America, and it would be foolish to try. Not being in a vehicle you have responsibility and control of cuts both ways, and anyone who gets on a train thinking they're going to reach their destination on schedule, all the time, is in for a rude awakening. Ditto if they expect to get low prices and good service in all circumstances. Often I got all three, but there were plenty of times I got none of them.

There's also the problem that anyone with a vehicle can use a road, whereas a rail line is inherently anti-competitive. Either the government controls it all, or each rail company controls its line and shuts out rivals. (Or the government extensively regulates line use, which is a stepping stone to simply taking them over entirely.) Whatever scenario you get, the lack of opportunity for competitors exacerbates the problems you get with the quality of rail travel; they often have little incentive to improve.

In short, I wouldn't be sorry to see a broader passenger rail network in America, but Aesop is right: the reasons there isn't one have more to do with the intrinsic drawbacks of train use than with Americans not understanding them.

RandyGC said...

Show me an advocate for building a massive passenger rail system in the US, and I'll show you someone that does not understand basic economics.

Also: take your post, replace "train" with "bus" and it works as well.

Borepatch said...

I can't figure out why "Progressives" think that the future is 150 year old technology.

SiGraybeard said...

There was an article about the realities of trains in an engineering trade magazine I get. Mostly mechanical design but they run occasional articles on other fields, this time traffic engineering.

The major problem is that if you took the continental US and laid it onto Europe, you can fit all of Europe in the CONUS. (It's iffy to do this way, but try it at The True Size of) The population centers in the US are too widely separated to make rail travel useful.

Railways require high population densities to be be economical means of transmit. Guess what? Pretty much any place in the US that can efficiently use a rail system has it.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Aesop, I actually did a study on the Los Angeles Red and Blue Lines as a part of my senior study project (in Political Science, of all things). Mind you, this is back in Days of Yore, when we had to look everything up in physical books and journals and so forth. What the data back then stated (not sure it has changed) is that trains work well in countries where there are concentrated populations living and going to concentrated work places. The U.S. largely, is not designed that way - certainly not since the advent of the automobile. And even for many of the European and Japanese Train Examples (I have used both), there is an underlying sub-network of trains and buses to help make things go. Biggest example I have is going from Tokyo to Hakodate (Island of Hokkaido). Three hours to go three (it appears the Shinkansen goes much further now).

Scenic? For sure. The Tohoku region is one of the most beautiful of Japan. Long term ability to make it work on a daily basis? Not really there.

Even in the urban arena that we live in (or to quote the inestimable Hillbilly Hobo, Karen, a human feedlot) they are constantly pushing for more "light rail" which will benefit a smidgeon of the population while taxing the entire population. And, of course, this does not count in the inevitable waste, bureaucracy, and greed that can only be the function of government led "improvement project".

For the moving of heavy and large amounts of goods? Sure. A modernized travel system? Try commuting in the Tokyo Rush Hour (I have) and get back to me about the joys of train transit.

And yes, the dinosaurs were always very cool.

T said...

Even better than a car: Looking down at the cars backed up on I-10 leaving Gulf Shores, AL, as you fly over them at 120 knots.

And Aesop is right: crossing into Texas from Louisiana on I-10, there's a sign that says: El Paso, 895 miles.

Texas is bigger than France.....and France is the largest nation in Europe.

Roy said...

Wow. The name "Traintard" just barely scratches the surface of that guy's ignorance of America. Does he think that we have never had passenger train travel here in the US?

Aesop, everything you've said in this post, I agree with. But I want to add something else. In his graphic, he posits a big blue void area in the central US where according to him "there are no trains." The reality is that this country is criss-crossed with a spider web of tracks that go into or pass through nearly every burgh big or small in the USA. Indeed, we have the largest rail system on Earth. Let me repeat that...

The USA has the largest rail system on planet Earth! Running away.

It's nearly twice as big as the next largest rail system - China.

The difference is that in the USA, the rail system is about 80% freight.

Why do you suppose that is?

Well, it's exactly as you say. A free people has decided that the convenience of the automobile and the speed of jet travel has almost completely negated any benefit in travel by train. The only place in the US that passenger rail works is in the densely populated northeast.

For him to posit that we in America don't understand trains is just stupid. The truth is that he just doesn't understand America.

Peter said...

Passenger rail works west of the Mississippi, err umm... west of the Appalachian, no -- how about everywhere but the NE corridor If and Only If you consider it like a land cruise ship.

I've used Amtrak for two purposes -

- getting Boy Scout groups from Minnesota to Philmont in New Mexico.
Drive the group from Rochester MN to Fort Madison, Iowa - board the SW Chief there, ride the train for 20 hours to Raton, NM. Board the Phil-buses and on to Philmont.
Few worries about sleepy drivers etc.
Philmont logistics deals with the train being late, etc.

- Getting from MN to Sacramento to visit the in-laws.
Wife and I are of an age where we don't have to worry about limited vacation, so a slow trek, without taking our shoes off, or getting scanned by the TSA, was appealing.
Again, drive from Rochester to Des Moines, Iowa - board the California Zephyr, roughly a day and half later arrive in Sac. (Roughly, since the first time, traveling for Christmas, the train was 24 hours late into Sac. Something about having to chip ice off every turnout going across Nebraska.)

Charlie said...

A few years back our own traintards here in Ohio were pushing for high speed rail. Turns out the average speed was 35 mph. 35 MPH.
And yet they called it high speed rail. Actually got close to getting the funding passed.

Matthew W said...

It's really not to difficult:
If there were a market for train travel in an area, there would be train travel in an area.

Stealth Spaniel said...

Train travel worked well in the 1890's thru the 1960's because we were civilized then. The train stations appealed to an upper class that loved to travel with pets, kids, and grandparents in tow. That is why train stations of that era were filled with shops, restaurants, and porters to serve every need. Air travel was starting to take hold in the 50's but everyone knew the damned planes were dangerous.It was a different people in a different time.Now? As iconic as the LA train station is-it's dangerous to be there. Most of the stations in the midwest have closed, become shopping malls (another dying thing), or been torn down. Americans like their freedom to come and go as they damned well please. With what they please. Hence the RV market is on fire. I love trains, but their time has passed.

The Overgrown Hobbit said...

My locked-down Ancient Mom got a sanity break because I was able to full-quarantine (NO human contact) for 2 weeks and Bataan Death March down the coast *by car* (ditto).

Trains? We don't need no stinking trains.