Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Hillary and Trump, are you paying attention to us?

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Hillary and Trump, are you paying attention to us?

Hey, Mr. Trump! Yeah you! The guy with the odd orange hairdo. You interested in supporting an American industry that invests billions of private capital, building worthwhile things, instead of constructing that ridiculous, narcissism-inspired, “beautiful” Mexico-financed wall you want to erect on our border with a valued NAFTA partner?

Hey Hillary! Yeah you! The woman who must be sick of answering questions about emails no one except misogynistic politicians really cares about. You interested in supporting an American industry that operates safely, employs hundreds of thousands of hard-working men and women, pays hundreds of millions of dollars in income, real estate and payroll taxes, and doesn’t ask for government handouts?

There’s a letter I’d like you both PERSONALLY to read and comprehend. Not your campaign staffs. Not your transition team members, about half of whom will be seeking employment after November 8. No. I want YOU to read this letter, and learn something valuable.

No, it’s not my letter. It’s from a very important person in the freight railroad industry. That’s right, FREIGHT RAILROAD INDUSTRY. His name is Ed Hamberger, and no, I haven’t spelled his last name incorrectly. Mr. Hamberger heads up a very important organization, the Association of American Railroads. You need to pay attention to what he has to say:

Despite undeniable recovery since the Great Recession, economists largely recognize that U.S. economic growth is less than ideal, which is why reinvigorating the economy and increasing American productivity has rightly been a focal point of your respective campaigns. From tax reform to smart regulations, ideas and discourse can only help in crafting policies that will increase GDP, wages and job growth.

The U.S. freight railroad industry, which generated $274 billion in annual economic activity in 2014, is equally focused on these important priorities. Privately owned and maintained, U.S. freight railroads move the economy and drive commerce by safely, efficiently and affordably connecting businesses, goods and people. The net economic effect of freight railroads, which included $33 billion in generated taxes and approximately 1.5 million supported jobs in 2014, positively affects other economic sectors.

We are able to do this because the industry makes massive annual private investments in U.S. rail infrastructure – more than $600 billion in the past 35 years, including $30 billion in 2015 alone – despite the economy’s ups and downs. As both of your campaigns have stressed the need for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, freight rail has been a leader in the transportation sector in making the private investments necessary to maintain a modern rail network that is the safest in the world.

Therefore, I write you . . . to outline our macro-value to the United States economy and voice the industry’s support for transparent and data-driven public policy that ensures fairness and proper oversight. As one of America’s greatest deregulation stories, freight railroads have leveraged smart policy that allows the industry to earn the revenue needed to operate and grow the safest and most reliable rail network in the world.

I understand the delicate balance between government oversight and the need for industry to be able to react quickly to changing market forces. The freight rail sector believes rules and regulations require thorough stakeholder input, including from industry, and thinks that reviewing and improving the process for regulations would further extend the benefits of American industry to the larger economy.

Meeting future demand for freight transportation and across the larger economy in all sectors requires smart public policies and balanced economic regulations.

The AAR has been in touch with pertinent information for your campaign and will continue to do so moving forward. We thank you for your time and welcome a thorough follow-up discussion.

So, Hillary and Mr. Trump: Any questions? Do you understand what’s at stake here? Do you think you could quit bashing each other over the head with annoying, expensive TV ads and silly tweets and talk about stuff that really matters, intelligently and in civil terms?

Oh, by the way, Mr. Trump: America’s railroads are already great. Always have been. Just thought you should know that.





William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

With Railway Age since 1992, William C. Vantuono has broadened and deepened the magazine's coverage of the technological revolution that is so swiftly changing the industry. He has also strengthened Railway Age’s leadership position in industry affairs with the conferences he conducts, among them Next-Generation Train Control, Light Rail, and Rail Insights. He is the author or co-author or editor of several books, among them All About Railroading; John Armstrong’s The Railroad: What It Is, What It Does; Railway Age’s Comprehensive Railroad Dictionary; and Planning, Engineering, and Operating Light Rail, With Applications in New Jersey.

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