To the editors:
David Moberg's article of February 26 could be expanded into one of those "Tom Swift" books we read in eighth grade, but I had trouble basing but a few sentences in fact or reality ["Faster Trains for a Stronger Future"]. I love speed and trains probably more than the average guy. But, in case you haven't noticed, we've been crying "poor-mouth" in this country for most of the 37 years I've been on this earth and there's very little light at the end of the tunnel.
We're broke! Look what happened outside Gary just recently. We're so cheap we can't widen a one-track bridge to two. We can't get slow trains rolling on existing rails, let alone the 22nd century "gee-whiz" projects Moberg describes. Locally, we are considering using Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern and Wisconsin Central tracks for new passenger lines. And I'm sure there are many more similar ideas around the country. All these projects are fine ideas, but all seem hopelessly stalled.
If anything, we should think more like the Swiss, less like the French. I'll believe French TGVs are "solidly profitable" when three American accounting firms say it's so. I'd like to know who all these people are that so urgently need to get to Saint Louis, Detroit, or Milwaukee, yet have a problem with a $50 or $60 airfare. Don't they have access to a telephone, fax machine, or next day air? Even if the technology and money for "fast trains" were even close, wouldn't it make sense to test it in a weather friendly environment like Las Vegas to Los Angeles?
We need to walk better before we can run. There are more cost-effective things we CAN do in the near future to make our existing plant and equipment more efficient. Revising our tax structures, solving the nuclear waste disposal problem, straightening and electrifying rail lines, then more X2000-like things, dual fuel (hydrocarbon/electric) commuter vehicles, finishing the "missing links" in our highway system (I-90), faster, closer airports, fewer but fuller planes; all of these would be just a start to get the infrastructure where it would have to be to even consider Moberg's pipe dreams.
David Moberg replies:
Who's broke? The United States is the richest country in the world and has the lowest tax rate of leading industrial countries despite spending far more than most on defense. If we're broke, then some of Cappeller's good proposals are also out of the question and no less Tom Swiftian than anything I described. But if we really want to use our resources wisely, we should emphasize a modernized rail system with a range of technologies over more interstate highways and "faster, closer airports."