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.


Linda said...

This is truly a capital idea! If packages can get somewhere on time, why can't people?

If I remember correctly, Amtrak does still use bus service on a lot of its lines that don't have connecting rail service but I don't believe they have an ferry service. Too bad - I bet that would work real well!

Jamie said...

The main reason that Amtrak has bus extensions is that no one wanted passenger rails in the 60s so the freight lines were given precedence nationwide.

You used to be able to go from Union station in Lost Angeles to the whole of the Central Valley in California with the wonderful Mohave Line with shooter lines to Las Vegas.

Now passengers have to take a bus from LA to Bakersfield and then pick up a train as far as Marysville and then buses (well you get the picture) The packages are much more comfortable.

carol g. said...

We are going on a cruise in May. It departs from San Pedro. Now... the hubby-person had the brillian idea of taking the train to LA... WRONG. Bus from Sacramento to Stockton, train to Santa Barbara (I think he said)... then back on a bus. We're driving to San Pedro. On the way back from an Alaskan Cruise (which ended in Vancouver), hubby had to take a bus from Vancouver to Seattle, then got a train to Sacramento. Very inconvenient and expensive!! I, myself, am not physically able to travel on a bus.

You're right... love Gordon... am now on a Jimmy Buffet "tour"...

Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

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Please check it out.