Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Back to the future-trains-provide investment opportunities for Iowa.

Many years ago TRS spent summers gandy dancing on the old Burlington Northern Railroad. Yes, even as a lowly spiker I drank the railroad kool-aid and have been a committed proponent of more use of railroads for passenger use since TRS was a mere freshman Hawkeye.

Today’s DM Register had a short story about a
planned passenger route between Chicago, a city with a great train station, and Iowa City. Since the traffic is far greater between Des Moines and Chicago one has to believe that it might be an even busier. Des Moines is also in the middle of a geographic area that encompasses four major cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Omaha, Chicago and Kansas City) that are already connected by a large rail network.

The dramatic and long suppressed inflation in the energy economy makes it pretty clear that the US will experience some significant cultural changes. It seems that the future will, of necessity, prioritize efficiency of energy consumption over efficiency of time. A 21st investment in relatively high speed passenger and light freight and mail between close cities like Des Moines, Omaha, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago could make Des Moines the hub of great rail network-returning to Iowa’s great and more prosperous. Let’s face it, no one really has to be in Chicago any faster than nonstop rail express between Des Moines and Chicago could get one from downtown Des Moines to Grant Station in downtown Chicago.

Trains are something like forty times as energy efficient as freight trucks, and a hundred times more efficient than planes. We don’t know the ratio for passenger cars but, since cars are the most inefficient way to travel it seems the ratio would be even greater. Trains are a less expensive and far more comfortable and pleasant than either air or car travel.

Building such a network certainly seems like a better use of the State’s money than most of nonsense, boondoggles and union graft that consumes the taxpayers’ money. How about it guys, let’s think outside the box.


Anonymous said...

I actually like this idea. Run it on biofuels and you could probably gin up much support. A train ticket to any of the big four (Omaha, Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City) would be a lot less expensive than driving there.

RF said...

Agreed, Sporer. This is something we definitely need to do, especially with our long-term needs in mind. One of the obstacles to this is that while we have been losing rail track miles over the years, rail freight has actually increased significantly at the same time. There are difficulties accommodating passenger rail with the busy freight rail. Solution is obviously to invest in the infrastructure to expand both passenger and freight rail. We’ve been subsidizing car, truck & air traffic disproportionately compared to the more efficient rail & marine transportation.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, Teeder, this actually makes a whole damn bunch of sense! Every now and then a blind pig finds a root to chew on........

The Real Sporer said...

Didn't even think about biodiesel for the locomotives.

Wouldn't hurt to slow down the frantic pace of life just a little either.

If the Japanese can build their fantastic electric rail system there is certainly no reason we couldn't have solar trains either.

The government exists to provide for our shared physical infrastructure. The poorest and wealthiest among us drive the same roads and sewers and hence that is a shared asset. My complaint, Anon, is that we spend money on many things of which the benefits aren't shared.

archie brooks lays ugly chicks said...

The reason this hasn't happened yet is because the government has not figured out how to make money off of it.