The government builds, maintains and operates the transportation
infrastructure of roadways, airways and waterways. Private companies provide
and operate the vehicles that use this infrastructure to move people and
freight. Passenger rail transportation operates totally backwards.
Private companies build, maintain and operate the railways and the government
provides and operates the rail passenger vehicles. Fixing this backward
implementation of the national railway infrastructure would go a long way
to solving the problems with passenger rail service and return a fare
and competitive environment to transportation.
Let's look at doing for the railways what we have done for the highways,
the airways and the waterways. First, the government needs to take
responsibility for creating the modern high-speed rail infrastructure
that this nation needs and deserves. Such a project needs to be
approached with the same enthusiasm, financing and political muscle that
was applied to building the national interstate highway system.
I am not suggesting that government take over the railroad companies,
but I am suggesting that some roles need to be reversed. Shipment of
freight by rail should continue to remain in the hands of the private
railroad companies. I'm even suggesting that the responsibility for
moving passengers over the rails should be done by private companies
and not by the government, just as it is in every other mode of
I am suggesting the government take ownership of the railway
infrastructure. The government needs to build that infrastructure to
adequately serve the needs of the nation and then take responsibility
to maintain that railway infrastructure. That will make the relationship
between the railways and both government and private industry more on par
with the relationship that other modes of transportation have with government
and private industry.
Once the government has responsibility for maintaining, operating and
upgrading the national rail network, just as the government has taken
responsibility for these aspects of other transportation modes, private
companies will continue to provide the trains and marketing to move
freight over these rail lines. In addition, responsibility for passenger
rail transportation will be moved to existing or new private rail companies.
These changes will place railways on par with highways, airways and
waterways where government provides the infrastructure with private companies
providing vehicles and seeking passengers and freight shippers.
This will have a number of effects, not the least of which will be to
open up the railways to competition and end the feeding frenzy of
mega-mergers. Just like trucking companies, any railroad company will
be able to compete for business anywhere in the nation. Since any
railway can be used by any railroad company, individual rail companies
are not restricted to the markets where they may enter. This will also
make possible the existing of many private passenger rail providers.
Any private company that wishes to open rail passenger service may do
so by just paying for use of the tracks on the proposed routes.
Obviously, there are many more implications and even problems that will
accompany this suggested solution. These are ideas that would need to
be examined. The goal is to place rail at parity with other modes of
transportation so that its profitability and usefulness to the nation
can be examined fairly without the present systematic biases that tend
to make rail look costly.
The government invested heavily to build the highways, airports and
waterways knowing full well that it would be years before user fees
would be able to pay back the taxes and bonds used to finance these
major national projects. The same will be true for building a proper
national rail system.
Massive funding will be needed to upgrade the present national network
of railways to serve the needs of today and the next century. Just as
with the building of the interstate highways system, funds will need to be
found to build this system today with the expectation that taxes or other
fees derived from future use of the system will eventually pay off the
cost of building and then continued operation.
Go back to the main index and read the article on "Reverse History" for
some ideas of what upgrades I believe are needed to create the national
rail system this nation requires.
Note: I have not included for consideration publicly operated transit
buses, subways, ferries and other modes of local urban transportation.
Municipalities often provide local government operated modes of
transportation over roads, waterways and rail. In those cases the
vehicles are usually owned and operated by the government. This article
is concerned with longer distance inter-city transportation and not
local transit systems. For those longer distance modes of transportation,
the infrastructure is almost always owned by the government with the
vehicles owned and operated by private companies, except for rail.
Click here to return to the
TIP Top Page
Visit related pages from this and other web sites:
|Click below for pages in the directory of TrainWeb sites:|