Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Government Trains Cripple France & Britain

Millions of people across the pond received a lesson in the American value of Emersonian self-reliance today as government rail left them stranded. Commuters in Paris packed into cars during the reduced service, and London buses were overflowing. City sidewalks were full of walkers and thousands of bikers took to the streets in both capitals.

Strikes hobbled public transit across France and in London on Tuesday, forcing tourists and commuters to alter their plans as they bore the brunt of a wave of discontent over government cost-cutting measures — a wave expected to soon prompt walkouts elsewhere on the continent.
French unions staged a nationwide walkout over plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, cutting service on trains, planes, buses and subways. London Underground workers unhappy about job cuts closed much of the city's subway system — the first in a series of 24-hour strikes planned for the fall.

The French strike coincides with the start of debate in parliament over a plan to overhaul the money-losing pension system so it will break even in 2018. The government insists the reform is essential as people are living longer, and it has urged everyone to show "courage" as it tries to chip away at the huge national debt.

The French retirement age of 60 is already among the lowest in Europe. In contrast, neighboring Germany has decided to bump the retirement age from 65 to 67 and the U.S. Social Security system is gradually raising the retirement age to 67.

Meanwhile the Obama administration yesterday announced their intention to throw another $50 billion down the porkulus rat hole, including 4,000 more miles of rail transit, road repairs, and more trolleys. Just what we need, more dependence on an increasingly bankrupt federal government, and less self reliance.

It's not working for the Europeans, and it won't work for us either. The United States acheived her greatness through individuals taking responsibility for their own transportation. We won't regain our honor by shirking that responsibility onto the public.


  1. That couldn't happen here in Cincinnati. If the Streetcar conductors went on strike, Brad Thomas and Governor Kandace Klein would stop everything they're doing and volunteer to drive the streetcar themselves.

  2. COAST could do something to stop the streetcar and increased public transit from happening, but they'd probably just fail. Oh wait, they already did.

  3. Oh Cincinnati...

    Your provincial, backwater ways never cease to amuse me.

  4. Jason Gloyd's mortgage is still past due.

  5. I just hope nobody talks about all the court-ordered judgments against me.

  6. Seems to me that this is really just a commentary on the use of unionized labor to provide a public service. If you want to criticize that framework, go for it (I might even join in). But I don't think that this is an appropriate argument to use in opposition of expansion of rail transit. Extrapolating this out, does this mean you oppose the presence of transit in places like NYC (where employees are unionized)? Surely you don't propose that we shut down the subway and commuter rail systems in NYC and tell everyone to drive (or take the bus). I'm open to your general premise of lower taxes/less government interference, but this seems like a case of over-reaching for something/anything to throw at the local transit supporters.

  7. DLP,
    We don't have anything against unions per se. Their are good ones and bad ones, and they strike for good and bad reasons. The situation in Paris seems like an overeaction to us, but c'est la vie, they're French.

    The point is that structuring a society around a series-type transit system, such as rail, creates unnecessary vulnerability to complete collapse. Parallel-type systems, such as road networks, include inherent redundancy that reduce disaster to mere inconvenience.

    If one of the roads you normally drive to work is closed, it's no big deal, you just take a different route. But if you live on an island with one bridge, having that bridge go down can ruin your life.

    Not much anyone can do about a place like NYC which is already so rail dependant. But places with well developed roads need to leverage that investment with BRT or better city bus service. Much more bang for the bucks than anything on rails.

    You can build over 50 lane miles of road for the cost of one mile of subway. And you can use those roads whenever you want. Rails require you to travel according to some bueaucrat's schedule. If the aim is mobility, roads are hands-down a better use of public money.

  8. Did someone say mortgage? Someone should go to the Clerk of Courts website and look at my woeful record on that topic.

  9. COAST will say "you could buy a Prius/Hummer for every transit rider", but they would never actually advocate public dollars being used to buy a Prius or Hummer for people who can't afford a Prius or Hummer or are actually fiscally responsible and walk or bicycle instead of owning a vehicle.

    COAST: just think of all the money you could have in your retirement accounts if you didn't send in all those car and insurance payments over the years.

  10. Mallory's White MonkeySeptember 11, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Just think of all the money you could have in your retirement account if you didn't waste money on things like a house or apartment. You can believe me when I say I've chosen to go without a home just like you can believe that I don't have a car.

    B. Tomas

  11. So, Vietnam, yes that's right, Vietnam, is investing 50 billion in rail. Vietnam.
    What is wrong with you COAST people?
    Vietnam is spending 50 BILLION on rail. 50 billion.
    You know, Vietnam?
    50 billion!
    Seriously, you don't think we can put a circulator in our great city?
    Do you understand what civic minded means?
    Do you understand that we are the richest country in the world, but you wouldn't be able to tell by the health and education of our people?
    Vietnam is putting us to shame.

  12. I agree, we should strive to be more like Vietnam.

    We will invest billions more in rickshaws as part of our diverse public transportation network. Brad Thomas and Governor Candace Klein have even volunteered to operate the first of these modern rickshaws.

  13. Wow two racist comments by COASTers in commenting on a single article. You've really outdone yourselves now, guys. You need to actually visit France and Vietnam (today, not forty years ago).

    I guess by "living room" rule, you mean the "living room" where COASTers get together, smoke cigars, and dish on the various cultures of the world that are different from their own.

  14. I'll visit France, when the people there learn how bathe.

    Coleman, thank you for mowing my lawn yesterday. You know how much we appreciate you.

  15. When the zipperheads from Vietnam can fight their own wars without wasting American blood, I'll support their efforts in public transit.

  16. to quote COAST:
    "The point is that structuring a society around a series-type transit system, such as rail, creates unnecessary vulnerability to complete collapse. Parallel-type systems, such as road networks, include inherent redundancy that reduce disaster to mere inconvenience."

    And having a transit system that is only oil dependent, puts us all at risk, especially considering we are past peak oil. What collapse are you talking about? If gas shoots up to $10/gallon, your roads are going to be pretty empty, unless people start using horses on them. Coal can run rail for the next 100 years.

    Rail expenditures in this country account for less than .1% of the DOT, the rest is roads and airports, shouldn't we have some alternatives rather than going 'all in' on just one type of transportation system?

  17. Cars and Trucks never cause problems right?


  18. ^Glad you brought that up.

    China, like most communist countries, loves to force its people into passenger rail. It's the ultimate form of big-brotherism. With rail, the government gets full control of where, when and how its people can travel.

    Unfortunately for their people, one of the inevitable side effects of passenger rail spending is that governments underfund their roads. China has spent trollions on rail and has seriously neglected road expansion. That's one of the reasons the situation you cite is so screwed up.

    Another reason can found by examining the picture in the article. It's all trucks as far as the eye can see. Communists don't need to dictate to inanimate objects, so they ignore traditional freight. Instead, they treat their human beings as freight by piling them onto passenger rail trains.

    Here in the USA we do it right. We use trains for freight and cars to let people go where they want to when they want to. That's the difference between communism and freedom. The identical difference, incidentally, exists between passenger rail and passenger automobile.

  19. Yet another disastrous blog post by Mark Miller. Mark, there is this place called New York City. It is the center of world capitalism. There, hundreds of thousands of men and women who make a lot more money than you guys (hell, half you don't even have jobs) ride commuter trains, subway trains, and Amtrak trains every day.

  20. ^They also pay some of the highest taxes on the planet. Funny, but it's still not enough. NYC relies on subsidies from the rest of the state and nation to keep its trains running. Rail is so expensive that it turns even rich folks into government dependent welfare queens. Not exactly something to aspire to.

  21. I don't think Jake Mecklenborg should talk about either: 1) blogs that are disastrous; or 2) lack of money.


We follow the "living room" rule. Exhibit the same courtesy you would show guests in your home.