Thursday, December 24, 2009

Amtrak Strands Holiday Travelers

An electrical malfunction outside New York City brought train service to a standstill Wednesday throughout the northeastern United States. Some trains are stranded just outside Penn Station. Others are stuck between Newark and New York City. The trains have enough electricity to power the lights and heat but not the engines.

Spokesman Cliff Cole said Amtrak was investigating Wednesday's malfunction and there was no indication human error caused it, but that extreme weather can affect the electrical system. Weather across the region Wednesday morning was seasonally cold but mostly clear. At Washington's Union Station, at least one train was announced as canceled and some passengers said they were told by Amtrak personnel that the problems were related to cold weather. Nicole West-Burns, who was getting off a southbound train, said Amtrak told her and other passengers getting on in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning that the doors were frozen shut.
Electrical problems are nothing new on the Northeast Corridor, by far Amtrak's most heavily traveled route. Three disruptions occurred within a month in 2006. The worst, on the Thursday of Memorial Day weekend, stranded tens of thousands of passengers for up to four hours, some in sweltering tunnels. That was blamed on problems at power stations and substations built in the 1920s near Philadelphia. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2007, damage to overhead wires near New York disrupted service for about 2 1/2 hours.

Cincinnati streetcar supporters maintain that rail travel is far less susceptible to weather trouble than other transportation options. But they continue to ignore the "all or nothing" nature of rail travel. Cars, buses, taxis, and airplanes have the ability to detour around bad weather, closed facilities and other snafus, whether they're weather-related or not. Rail is inherently limited to a single possible path, and when that path is blocked, nothing can pass the blockage, so travelers have no choice but to wait. And all the other travelers simply stack-up behind them.

Amtrak has earned a nationwide reputation for poor service and low reliability. And now Ohio has named Amtrak to be the operator of it's speculative 3C rail starter project. The Urbanophile says, "this would be a big mistake. Amtrak’s brand in most places is terrible and the politics around it have been poisoned. Why would we want to saddle our brand new state of the art high speed rail system with Amtrak’s old school operating practices, antiquated work rules, and legacy costs like retiree pensions? Let’s start de novo on this one. We don’t need to just change technology. We need to change the whole culture around rail operations."

Several thousand holiday travelers in New England probably couldn't agree with him more.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Rail Fail

Winter storms recently hit a number of cities in the northern hemisphere, bringing some colossal rail failures with them.

The Eurostar train which runs in a tunnel underneath the English Channel between London and Paris has been shutdown for the 3rd straight day due to snow, stranding 60,000 travelers. While trolley proponents blather on about underground trains being unaffected by snow, more than 2,000 people were trapped in the dark and cold tunnel -- some for more than 12 hours. How does an underground train get stopped by snow, you ask? Good question. Engineers say especially bad weather meant that snow was being sucked into the trains in a way "that has never happened before."

Almost all international train travel was halted to and from the Netherlands, where the meteorological service issued a storm warning. Trains were delayed in Poland because of frozen points and damaged rails.

And there was more bad news for people trying to use public transport in the South East of England.
  • All London buses have been withdrawn from service due "to adverse weather and dangerous driving conditions".
  • Many Tube lines are partially suspended and the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines entirely suspended.
  • South West Trains is running a reduced service on most routes and passengers are advised not to travel unless their journey is essential.
Not only are Portland (bow to the NorthWest when you say that) streetcars replaced by buses during extreme weather, but "domestic rail services across the UK were delayed and buses replaced trains in many areas."

This year's annual Snow Train, which shuttles skiers between Paris and the French Alps, has also been summarily cancelled. It has nothing to do with the weather, mind you. This rail failed for the usual reason: it's just too darned expensive.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

History Repeating...

Don't Cry For Me, America

In the early 20th century, Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world. While Great Britain's maritime power and its far-flung empire had propelled it to a dominant position among the world's industrialized nations, only the United States challenged Argentina for the position of the world's second-most powerful economy.

It was blessed with abundant agriculture, vast swaths of rich farmland laced with navigable rivers and an accessible port system. Its level of industrialization was higher than many European countries: railroads, automobiles and telephones were commonplace.

In 1916, a new president was elected. Hipólito Irigoyen had formed a party called The Radicals under the banner of "fundamental change" with an appeal to the middle class.

Among Irigoyen's changes: mandatory pension insurance, mandatory health insurance, and support for low-income housing construction to stimulate the economy. Put simply, the state assumed economic control of a vast swath of the country's operations and began assessing new payroll taxes to fund its efforts.

With an increasing flow of funds into these entitlement programs, the government's payouts soon became overly generous. Before long its outlays surpassed the value of the taxpayers' contributions. Put simply, it quickly became under-funded, much like the United States' Social Security and Medicare programs.

The death knell for the Argentine economy, however, came with the election of Juan Perón. Perón had a fascist and corporatist upbringing; he and his charismatic wife aimed their populist rhetoric at the nation's rich.

This targeted group "swiftly expanded to cover most of the propertied middle classes, who became an enemy to be defeated and humiliated."

Under Perón, the size of government bureaucracies exploded through massive programs of social spending and by encouraging the growth of labor unions.

High taxes and economic mismanagement took their inevitable toll even after Perón had been driven from office. But his populist rhetoric and "contempt for economic realities" lived on. Argentina's federal government continued to spend far beyond its means.

Hyperinflation exploded in 1989, the final stage of a process characterized by "industrial protectionism, redistribution of income based on increased wages, and growing state intervention in the economy."

The Argentinean government's practice of printing money to pay off its public debts had crushed the economy. Inflation hit 3000%, reminiscent of the Weimar Republic. Food riots were rampant; stores were looted; the country descended into chaos.

And by 1994, Argentina's public pensions - the equivalent of Social Security - had imploded. The payroll tax had increased from 5% to 26%, but it wasn't enough. In addition, Argentina had implemented a value-added tax (VAT), new income taxes, a personal tax on wealth, and additional revenues based upon the sale of public enterprises. These crushed the private sector, further damaging the economy.

A government-controlled "privatization" effort to rescue seniors' pensions was attempted. But, by 2001, those funds had also been raided by the government, the monies replaced by Argentina's defaulted government bonds.

By 2002, ".government fiscal irresponsibility. induced a national economic crisis as severe as America's Great Depression."

In 1902 Argentina was one of the world's richest countries. Little more than a hundred years later, it is poverty-stricken, struggling to meet its debt obligations amidst a drought.

We've seen this movie before. The Democrats' populist plans can't possibly work, because government bankrupts everything it touches. History teaches us that ObamaCare and unfunded entitlement programs will be utter, complete disasters.

Today's Democrats are guilty of more than stupidity; they are enslaving future generations to poverty and misery. And they will be long gone when it all implodes. They will be as cold and dead as Juan Perón when the piper must ultimately be paid.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rand Paul Money Bomb

Are You Ready for a Tea Party?

Published on 14 December 2009 by Christopher Hightower in General News, In The Media

On December 16, 2007, supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul broke the all time fundraising record by raising $6 million in a single day, holding tea parties throughout the USA to protest an oppressive government.

The sentiment spread like a flame of liberty across the entire country, as more people became aware of the dangers government control poses to their lives, liberty and property. Millions of people from all political backgrounds now participate in local tea parties, and are proving too volatile to channel into supporting politics as usual, causing headaches for politicians of both parties who would ignore the Constitution or vote to further burden the people.

Dr. Rand Paul’s race is a microcosm of the ideological struggle afoot. Founder of Kentucky Taxpayers United, Dr. Paul is one of the concerned citizens who stepped forward from the movement to fight the status quo and restore our founders’ vision of liberty. He has shaken up politics in Kentucky, rising above the establishment candidate in the polls, and outraising all candidates in the third quarter.

On December 16, the diverse coalition of patriots backing Dr. Paul will attempt to outraise the establishment machine once again, a feat that would put Rand in a commanding position according to this analysis at the Bluegrass Bulletin. Without the support of lobbyists and special interests, the success of this effort will depend entirely on donations of any size from concerned individuals. So if you are able, please join in this historic undertaking!

Please pledge at and donate what you can on December 16!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

COAST 2009 Christmas Party

You are cordially invited to the COAST 2009 Christmas Party
Thursday, December 17, 6:30 PM at Slatts Pub in Blue Ash

Please come help celebrate the Christmas season, and the efforts and successes of COAST in 2009 with many of our endorsed 2009 candidates and COAST leadership.

When: 6:30 PM, Thursday, December 17, 2009

Where: Slatts Pub
          4858 Cooper Rd.
          Blue Ash,Ohio 45242

Monday, December 7, 2009

Trolleys Get Trapped in Snow, But Buses Roll

The CincyStreetcar blog is falsely implying that streetcars have no problems in snowy conditions, and cites Toronto as a case in point. Like most overly-rosy predictions regarding trolleys, the truth is altogether different.

Last season one snowstorm dumped 15.75" of snow on Toronto creating transit mayhem:
"The extra snow is forcing people to park closer to the middle of the road, sometimes unknowingly impeding the progress of the electric trolleys, which are tethered to wires overhead and can't swerve around them.

And now they're getting tough on anyone who gets in their way, promising to tow you if you don't keep the route clear. The TTC admits there has to be a better way for the Better Way, but they haven't found one.

"So far on McCaul alone, we had about 13 vehicles in a matter of an hour and a half," complains TTC spokesman Mario Jurinic. They're asking you to park at least a foot and a half away from the rail or be on the hook for a tow and a ticket.

And it's not just the TTC that's dealing with the tight squeeze. A driver named Dave found himself boxed in by a stuck streetcar, leaving him no way to get his parked car out of the space he'd found."
The year before that Toronto streetcars had similar problems sharing the road with cars:
"Snow shovellers used to shaking their fists as plows leave a mountainous windrow at the bottom of their driveways may now sympathize with the TTC, which saw St. Clair streetcar service paralyzed on Sunday because of piles of snow left by city plows.

Snow removal machines clearing Avenue Road left a hefty barrier of snow across the new and controversial dedicated streetcar lanes on St. Clair Avenue West, blocking service for at least two hours and forcing at least six streetcars to sit idle. A similar problem caused delays to streetcars on Queens Quay."
Snowstorms create gridlock on streetcar routes. Buses can get around stalled cars, stuck cars, parked cars, and other track blockers, while streetcars simply stack up and go nowhere. Buses get creative and adapt to these messes, but streetcars just sit around and wait for a tow-truck for themselves or the offending vehicles.

Even in the North American Mecca of public transit, Portland (bow when you say that), TriMet advises riders to not only prepare for delays, but if things get really bad, expect a bus to show up to replace your failed rail option:
"During a major disruption, we use shuttle buses
If we expect MAX, WES or Streetcar service will be interrupted for a significant period of time, we'll send out shuttle buses to carry riders between stations. That means you'll go to the station like you normally would, but you'll board a shuttle bus instead. (It will pull up near the station, with a sign that says "Shuttle.") Unless otherwise indicated, the buses will stop at all stations your train would serve during its normal hours of operation."
TriMet notes that bus service will be curtailed on some routes with very steep hills, but these are the same routes that are too steep for a streetcar under normal conditions.

If we're going to wind up using buses for our steepest hills, and sending buses out to bail out stuck streetcars, why should we bother with trolleys in the first place?

Riders made a choice a half century ago. They abandoned old money-losing streetcars in favor of new inexpensive buses. The old-timers who gave us this city were smart folks. They made the right choice; let's honor it.

Photo courtesy of here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meet Future Senator Rand Paul This Weekend

Even if you don't live or vote in Kentucky, their next senator will have a profound effect on the composition of our federal government. That's one reason you should take an interest in this race. Another is the quality of the candidate. Rand Paul is the son of Congressman, and former Presidential Candidate Ron Paul, and has as much common sense and fiscal conservatism as his famous father. Plus he's a very personable and down-to-earth guy who loves to discuss politics with regular folks like us. He's also a proud member of COAST.

This weekend you will have two chances to meet, and get to know him yourself. Both events are free and open to the public. He will share some remarks at the following receptions for him:

Friday, December 4, 2009
5:00 - 6:30 PM
400 Buttermilk Pike
Fort Mitchell, KY 41017

Saturday, December 5, 2009
4:00 - 5:30 PM
2395 Progress Drive
Hebron, KY 41048

Immediately following Saturday's reception, Dr. Paul will give the keynote address to the Boone County GOP Dinner. This event is also open to the public, and is a bargain at $50 per person. A luxurious meal will be provided while you hear from nearly every prominant Republican politician in northern Kentucky. Reservations are encouraged, but not necessary. Call Michael Moreland for details at 859-816-1314.

2009-12-09 Update View some of Rand's remarks below.