Sunday, April 07, 2013

“If the source of funding isn’t fares, then Amtrak needs to go away”

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
It’s 12:00 a.m. on Monday, April 8 as I write this. I’m tired, and I want to go to bed. I have to get up tomorrow morning, and go into the office. For some reason that I do not completely understand, I take a quick look at my e-mail inbox on my iPhone before placing it into the neat little iHome device that serves as a musical alarm clock. (Apologies for the advertisement.)

Oh, look: I have one e-mail. Let me see what it is. Well, it’s another comment on Frank Wilner’s excellent blog on Amtrak haters that needs my yay or nay. Here’s what it says: “If the source of funding isn’t fares, then Amtrak needs to go away.”

Oh, give me a break. I think I’ll deep-six this one. (I’m the editor-in-chief. I can do that.) So I do.

But wait just a minute. That comment is so ridiculous, so off-the-wall, and so typical of people who are totally clueless about public transportation, that I think I should respond with a blog, and maybe have a little fun while doing it. I think I’ll stay up for a while. This is too tempting to resist!

Okay. Here goes. Let’s try some analogies. For clarification purposes, let’s assume that “the source of funding” means “100% of the source of funding.”

• If the source of funding isn’t airline fares, then the air traffic control system and airports built with any level of public funding need to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t motorists or truck drivers or trucking companies or taxicab companies or limousine services or whatever, then all of our nation’s roads—including the Interstate highway system—need to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t passengers, then our commuter rail, rapid transit, light rail, bus, paratransit, and people mover systems need to go away.

Do you see where I’m headed?

Let’s take this a little further. This is fun!

• If the source of funding isn’t bicyclists, then bike paths need to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t the people who enjoy themselves in our public parks, then our public parks need to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t pedestrians, then sidewalks need to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t physically handicapped people, then wheelchair ramps (indeed, all ADA accessibility provisions) need to to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t people who drink only tap water, or shower every day, or flush their household toilets at least once a day, or regularly wash their hands, or use water for cooking, then our reservoirs and sewer systems need to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t restricted to parents with children in the public school systems, then our public schools need to go away. (I have some experience with this. Many years ago, I worked for a public school system in a township that was largely populated by senior citizens living in retirement villages. Many of them resented having to pay school taxes, their reason being that they didn’t have children in the public school system. Well, excuse me, but somebody paid for your education!)

• If the source of funding isn’t restricted to people who actually exercise their right to vote, then government needs to go away. 

Now, I know the following examples are rather ridiculous, but what the heck:

• If the source of funding isn’t crime victims, then the police department needs to go away

• If the source of funding isn’t people whose houses catch on fire, then the fire department needs to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t the Vatican, then the Catholic Church needs to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t homeless people, then our homeless shelters need to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t hurricane victims, then FEMA needs to go away.

• If the source of funding isn’t people who recycle everything that is recyclable, then recycling plants need to go away.

I could go on and on and on and on . . . . . . . .

Those last few examples were pretty silly right? Well, no sillier than “If the source of funding isn’t fares, then Amtrak needs to go away.”

By the way, it wasn’t Congressman John Mica who submitted that comment on Frank Wilner’s blog. Do you think he might have used a pseudonym?

I will close this early morning commentary with a very astute observation from Railway Age’s esteemed Senior Consulting Editor, Luther S. Miller:

“The United States of America is not a business. It is a society.”