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Dukakis on Pax Rail per NYTimes 1 Sept 2001

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  • Canal1@qwest.net
    September 1, 2001 A Down-to-Earth Solution to Airport Gridlock By MICHAEL S. DUKAKIS BOSTON -- Air traffic delays have reached epidemic proportions. With jets
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2001
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      September 1, 2001

      A Down-to-Earth Solution to Airport Gridlock
      By MICHAEL S. DUKAKIS

      BOSTON -- Air traffic delays have reached epidemic proportions. With
      jets coming into airports every few minutes — at La Guardia, it's
      one
      every 110 seconds — the slightest hiccup in the system sends air
      traffic controllers to Plan B: Hold everything.

      Despite some temporary improvement, one-quarter of all flights in the
      country arrive late at their destinations. For the past five years,
      every time a new flight is put on the schedule by the airlines, one
      additional flight is delayed. If you're an airline passenger, you
      just can't win.

      But the answer to airport chaos is not forcing communities to accept
      more runways or new, expanded airports. The answer is high-speed rail.

      Fully one-third of all flights out of American airports today are for
      350 miles or less. That is true at O'Hare in Chicago, where a war has
      raged over plans for airport expansion. It is equally true in San
      Francisco, where people are at each other's throats over plans to
      fill in part of San Francisco Bay to build another runway.

      If all those passengers were on a first-rate, high-speed rail system,
      the gridlock that our airline passengers experience every day would
      ease considerably. In the Northeast corridor, for example, 10 million
      travelers a year have an option to take high-speed rail to New York,
      Philadelphia and Washington, and 70 percent choose the train over the
      plane.

      Yet federal money continues to flow overwhelmingly to highways and
      airports. This year Congress spent $33 billion on highways, $12
      billion on airports and only $521 million on passenger rail — and
      more than a third of that went to a railroad industry retirement
      fund.

      Why don't we invest more in high- speed rail service? The typical
      complaint is that people won't choose trains. But that's not true
      —
      if the service is fast, efficient and reliable.

      Between Boston and New York last year, Amtrak carried enough
      passengers to fill more than 3,800 shuttle flights between Logan and
      La Guardia. With the introduction of the high-speed Acela Express
      this year, those numbers are growing. In fact, in July Amtrak
      recorded its highest monthly ridership in 22 years.

      Moreover, the popularity of rail is no longer just a Northeast
      phenomenon. In Washington State, Amtrak and the state have developed
      the Cascades service, which connects Seattle to Portland and
      Vancouver, producing a fivefold increase in ridership since 1993.

      In California, where the state has committed $250 million for more
      rail, the corridor between San Jose and Sacramento is the fastest-
      growing rail line in America.

      Last November, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state
      constitution mandating a statewide high-speed rail system. The
      governors of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia want the Northeast
      Corridor to become the Atlantic Corridor, with high-speed rail
      service from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta. (Construction has already
      begun on the Washington-to-Richmond leg.)

      In the Midwest, nine states have produced a high-speed rail plan that
      would link Chicago with the major Midwestern cities.

      In short, people all over the country want high-speed rail service.
      Dozens of states, fed up with gridlock on their highways and winglock
      at their airports, are demanding a transportation system that
      includes rail.

      Now the federal government must act. Congress is currently
      considering the High Speed Rail Investment Act, which would provide
      $12 billion in bond financing over the next 10 years to support high-
      speed rail projects that have been developed by 36 states. As much as
      $3 billion would be available for the Northeast corridor, allowing
      Amtrak to reduce the length of trips between Boston and New York to
      just three hours, and between New York and Washington to just over
      two hours — and serve many other communities in between.

      The legislation has the support of 170 House members and 57 senators,
      including Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader, and Trent Lott,
      the minority leader. With the support of a new president who says he
      wants to tackle tough problems with bold solutions, we just might get
      the rail service we need.


      Michael S. Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts and Democratic
      presidential nominee, is a political science professor at
      Northeastern University and the vice chairman of the board of
      Amtrak.
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