Friday, April 17, 2009

I hear that train a coming.... It's the Barack Obama Express

President Barack Obama's announcement yesterday that he favors high speed rail in the United States got me wondering why politicians love the flair of these public transportation projects but not the details behind them.

Obama is not the first pol to share his or her vision for modernizing public transportation. Weston Martinez, a candidate for the District 9 seat in San Antonio, told me he favors the use of WiFi equipment on new VIA buses. In Weston's view, I could go downtown on a bus and surf the Internet while I went to an appointment or saw the Spurs defeat the Mavericksin the upcoming playoffs.

While I support these visions, American transport officials need to export a couple of German public train and bus executives to first fix the current transportation infrastructure.

I can only imagine what German transportion executives would think of the Amtrak train station in Beaumont, Texas. My son, who attends college at Lamar, couldn't find the train station to come home for Thanksgiving because there wasn't one. While a November monsoon pelted him with rain, he waited for the train which was two hours late. After writing a letter to both the president of Amtrak and to Lamar, the chief executive at Amtrak told me that city officials had not wanted to fund a train station. Thus, the sign without a covered enclosure located in some of the lest desirable neighborhoods of Beaumont. Meanwhile, the Lamar president said he would get back to me as I asked him why he didn't address the issue of public transportation for his students. I'm still awaiting his update on when he will get Beaumont city officials to build a train station for his students.

Here in my 'hood, the closest VIA bus station is a good six miles away. At the North San Antonio Chamber's transportation summit, VIA officials addressed the need for more bus stops. Again, that probably won't happen because most of my neighbors are three car types who abhor the idea of public transportation even with a WiFi setup.
It's not that I am negative about the trains. My office is filled with trains memorabilia. I would love to travel places by rail. It's just that when the train comes into San Antonio, it should arrive on time, not two or three hours later.
For public transportation to work well, it needs to become reliable. By importing a couple of European or even Japanese train executives to change the culture of our public transportation system, we can address some bigger issues before we add high speed railways to America.

Once we address those issues, I'll be the first in line to buy a ticket on the Obama Express.

1 comment:

SA_Techster said...

The "Obama Express" is alot more than high speed rail (I support high speed rail, I do not support alot of his other policies).