20 February 2007
An Old Idea
After watching all the news of airline passengers mouldering for hours on the ground, bus stations from hell that look and smell like skid row, trains that cost too much and don't go anywhere you want to go in one trip or on time, I would like to propose a solution: Give the nation's transportation system to FedEx.
Once upon a time, there actually was a combined system that worked before the pieces were discarded. Ever the innovator, Santa Fe was one of the pioneers in intermodal freight service, an enterprise that (at one time or another) included a tugboat fleet and an airline, the short-lived Santa Fe Skyway. A bus line allowed the company to extend passenger transportation service to areas not accessible by rail, and ferry boats on the San Francisco Bay allowed travellers to complete their westward journeys all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway officially ceased operations on December 31, 1996 when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.
If you can't get people in the air, put them on a train. If the train line fails, call in the buses. Run ferrys down the major rivers, and then get someone who knows how to deliver stuff on time efficiently and at a reasonable cost to run the whole shebang. Combine all of this with metro rails, trollies, pick up/delivery vans and maybe everyone could get where they want to go without having a nervous breakdown.
There are times when a monopoly isn't a bad idea, but just to throw some competition into the works, let UPS have the East Coast and Fed Ex the west. They could even throw in the U.S. postal service as a bonus. Then the mail carrying railways of the 1800s could get things to you on time in 2010.
I couldn't find Judy Garland singing Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe, so you get Gordon Lightfoot at his best.