Transportation Rant (Eine Verkehrstirade)

A recurring topic on the internet is the abundance of public transportation — bus and rail — crisscrossing much of Europe, and how bleak the contrast is in the United States. There are all sorts of arguments as to why that is, but this article jumped out at me because one particularly bad argument keeps coming back up like a bad case of reflux: // Ein immer wiederkehrendes Thema im Internet ist der Überfluss an öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln – Bus und Bahn – der große Teile Europas erschließt  und wie brach im Vergleich dazu die Vereinigten Staaten liegen. Die Meinungen gehen auseinander, warum das so ist, aber dieser Artikel erregte meine Aufmerksamkeit, da ein spezieller Grund wie ein schwerer Fall von Sodbrennen immer wieder kehrt.

Joe Dendy, chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party, says that he has two conditions for supporting the Braves’ proposed move (h/t Jim Galloway):

1.) That Cobb County citizens won’t have to pay higher taxes as a result, and

2.) “It is absolutely necessary the (transportation) solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

Again, that’s from the chairman of the Republican Party in the state’s wealthiest, most sophisticated GOP stronghold. If you want to know why the Atlanta region has trouble acting and thinking like a region, why we have abandoned mass transit options that every other major urban area in the country is pursuing, and why we have forfeited the economic dynamism that once made this city/region the envy of much of the nation, there you have it.

Joe Dendy, Vorsitzender der Republikanischen Partei von Cobb County, knüpft die Unterstützung der Atlanta Braves (ein Baseball-Team) an zwei Bedingungen:

1) Bürger von Cobb County sollen daduch keinen höheren Steuern zahlen müssen,

2) Es ist unverzichtbar, dass die Verkehrslösung nur die Zufahrt für Autos in und um Cobb County, von Norden und Osten, wo die meisten Atlanta Braves-Fans herkommen erleichtert, nicht aber die Zufahrt nach Cobb County mit der Bahn von Atlanta aus.

Nochmals, das ist eine Aussage des Vorsitzenden der republikanische Partei im wohlhabendsten, am höchsten entwickelten Bollwerk dieser Partei in den Staaten. Wenn man wissen will, warum Atlanta Schwierigkeiten hat, wie einen Region zu denken, warum sie stillgelegte Massentransportmittel habe die sonst jedes größere Stadtgebiet im Land versucht zu bekommen und wenn man wissen will, warum wir unseres Wirtschaftskraft, um die einst diese Stadt/Region im ganzen Land beneidet wurde, eingebüßt haben – hier liegt der Hund begraben.

The Republican chairman is saying that his crowd doesn’t want people from the city of Atlanta to be able to take a public rail line to see the Atlanta Braves (baseball) home games in their future stadium, outside of the city. The Republican chairman is actually saying, his crowd doesn’t want those (non-white) people from the city coming into his county. Der republikanische Parteivorsitzende sagt, dass seine Meute keine Menschen aus der Stadt Atlanta haben will, die mit der Bahn kommen, um ein Spiel der Atlanta Brave in deren künftigem Heim einem Stadion außerhalb der Stadt, anzusehen. Tatsächlich meint der Vorsitzende, seinen Meute will nicht diese (nicht weißen) Menschen aus der Stadt in ihrem Bezirk.

But I want to add something more here — part of the bickering about Europe’s great rail system and America’s less-than-great counterpart often includes the argument that America is the Land of the Automobile, and that her resources go primarily to the highways. Let’s get this straight right now: America’s roads suck. Yes, they do.  Europe not only has good train lines, it had well-paved, well-maintained roads, with a lot of cars traveling on them. And anyone who thinks that America is the only country having a love affair with the automobile has not met the German Autobahn Driver. Aber ich möchte noch fortfahren – im Hickhacks um Europas großes Bahnnetz und Amerikas unterdurchschnittliche großem Gegenstück wird oft ins Treffen geführt, dass Amerika das Land des Automobiles sei und das Investitionen vor allen im Straßenbau landen.Um das hier klarzustellen: Amerikas Straßen sind mies. Ja, das sind sie. Europa hat nicht nur ein gutes Bahnnetz sondern auch gut asphaltierte und gewartete Straßen  mit viel Autoverkehr. Und jeder, der denkt, Amerika sei das einzige Land mit einer Liebesbeziehung zum Auto, ist noch nicht dem deutschen Autobahnfahrer begegnet.

Various friends who rent cars and go on American road trips on their vacations confirm this regularly. The Beau suggests that it has something to do with the materials with which American roads are paved — they need repair more often. Is it part of planned obsolescence? A way to milking the state transportation budgets? Keeping maintenance jobs? Viele Freunde, die im Urlaub mit dem Mietwagen in Amerika unterwegs waren bestätigen das regelmäßig. Mein Freund nimmt an, dass es etwas mit dem verwendeten Asphalt zu tun hat – diese muss öfter repariert werden. Ist das Teil einer geplanten verkürzten Lebenserwartung? Eine Methode, die staatlichen Transportbudgets zu melken? Um Arbeitsplätze in der Erhaltung zu sichern?

U.S. residents might want to complain less about taxes in general, and more about just where that tax money is going, if it’s not to at least keep the roads up to standard. (Update: in comments, tirola46 directs me to this post on the reason for this difference.)

Please, America, get with the 21st century and build some new rail lines. Future generations will thank you.

US Bürger dürfte sich weniger über Steuern im Allgemeinen beschweren, als darüber, wo das Steuergeld verschwindet, wenn es nicht wenigsten zur Straßenerhaltung genutzt wird. (Aktualisierung: triola46 kommentiert mit diesem Link über der Grund für den Unterschied zu Europa)

Amerika, bitte komm endlich im 21 Jahrhundert an und baue einige neu Bahnen. Künftige Generationen werden die danken.

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7 Responses to Transportation Rant (Eine Verkehrstirade)

  1. Infrastructure is so 20th Century! The 1% just use helicopters and jets, don’tchaknow…

  2. tirola46 says:

    The difference between US and EU highways are the foundation, in EU much deeper with higher initial cost. Here is a good read about this issue:
    http://gizmodo.com/5857416/why-american-roads-are-so-bad

  3. Marcellina says:

    Thank you, tirola. I’ll put your link up into the post.

  4. paschberg says:

    In fact the gap between road building an road maintenance is also widening in Europe. Most roads in Tirol haven been built between 1950 und 1980. Those Roads will come to the state of renovation or even almost rebuilding in the following three decades. Some roads will perish (as railway unfortunately in Europe still do). In Tyrol approximately 700km of middle ranking road might be at disposal (not officially, but if you just imagine a map, measuring every road that’s somehow doubled by another one).
    On the other hand due to the Austrian audit board the adequacy of rail transport is measured on comparison with traffic frequency on major roads. Using those “Systemadäquanzkriterien” Tyrol would need 100 to 300 km more of railroads. At the moment we build only ca. 10km, the Regionalbahn in Innsbruck (with a few homemade “Republicans” against it – also here in Europe), the Brenner Tunnel might be quit long, but of no development use for the valley itself.

  5. paschberg says:

    P.S. To defend USA a bit:
    Rail transport and infrastructure maintenance in general is also a matter of population density.
    USA 32 / km², Europe 75/km², Switzerland (the most dense rail country of the world) 195 / km².
    USA had once substantially more railways than Europa. The rail dying started in USA approximately past WW I, in Europe past WW II (and a bit by politics before – Reichsautobahn).
    Despite our well maintained railways in Europe still freight haulage in the USA is still very high (http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=34 ). Just India, China and Russia are comparable. South Africa was always quite good – maybe as they had advisors from Sitzerland?

  6. Marcellina says:

    Ah, but the USA has clusters of dense population and then large stretches of vast nothing. Rail transport through these empty places is still a good idea. But housing developments and new communities are still being built up on the outsides of cities. I come from a town that is one hour’s drive from Philadelphia; there is no longer a train, and bus service to the nearest “S-Bahn” takes well over an hour. This town is positioned perfectly between country and city, but it is dying. I cannot help but think that renewed train service, which was promised and never delivered, would have helped that town and helped people get to jobs along the line.

  7. paschberg says:

    Around Lehigh Valley there was a good transportation system till the 40´ies of past century (do you write about a town in this area?). The Liberty Bell Limited is well known (well, in circles of rail enthusiasts 😉 also in Europe. s. http://ceramembersblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/img101.jpg
    Of course the densely populated areas are everywhere good targest for railtransport, unless the surroundings are not built up in sprawl.
    And public transport will always work good if there are hight densly populated areas with good footpath networks to reach stations, separated by open (despite agrar use) “empty” countryside.

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