Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Posted by Andy Cummings
on Monday, August 23, 2010

I was set to pondering Dan Machalaba’s September feature, “What to do about NIMBYS?” when I stumbled across this column in the Manteca Bulletin (Calif.), "Be very afraid: UP toying with monster trains."
The columnist tells us to “be very afraid” of “monster” trains. This all goes back to a famous (notorious?) experiment Union Pacific ran in January, running an 18,061-foot intermodal train from Dallas to the Los Angeles area. The columnist asks an entirely fair, non-alarmist question about the train:
The real question is how many lives will be shortened because of longer UP trains?
Say wha?
You see, his claim comes from the fact that a train that’s as long as three normal trains blocks crossings for three times as long. If you’re in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, you could die waiting for the crossing to clear. Now, some of you are reading this right now saying, “Yeah, but if you run three times as much freight on each train, you only have to run a third as many trains, so the crossings aren’t blocked for any additional length of time.” To which I say, well, yeah. But why should that get in the way of trying to scare the bejesus out of people based on an experiment that occurred seven months ago and hasn’t been repeated, particularly on a slow news day?
Or, as Helen Lovejoy of “Simpsons” fame once phrased it: "Won't somebody please think of the children?"
Our friend goes on:

What makes this a tad disingenuous is that railroads are fighting attempts by truckers to increase the weight and length of trucks allowed on the interstate system. The reason? The railroads claim there are safety considerations but the more a truck can haul the more completive they are against the railroads.


Your tax dollars and mine go toward fixing the roads truckers damage, while railroads are left to maintain their own infrastructure. So, yeah, how dare the railroads lobby to block subsidies to their competitors from growing to even higher levels?
Now, some might even say talking of “shortened lives” in relation to the railroads, while ignoring the potential safety impacts of heavier trucks, could qualify as “disingenuous.” But not me. I’m just thinking of the children.

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