Noam Chomsky on Mass Transportation

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 9:11 AM

I wonder how long his drive to the Alwife terminal of the Red Line would be.   From there it would be eight minutes to Kenall-Sq.-MIT or fifteen minutes plus up to five minutes connection waiting time to MIT's front door via Central Square and the Dudley bus.

The running time from the Lexington Station to North Cembridge should be available, but I doubt it is much more than fifteen miniutes.   A ten minute drive from his home to the station parking lot, fifteen minutes on the train to North Cembridge, another eight miniutes on the Red Line, four for waiting and four for traveling. another ten minutes for the bus from Cetnral Square, five waiting and five traveling, a total less than 45 minutes.

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 10:23 AM

Apologies to one and all, and particularly Norman Chomsky.   Lexington has not had passenger rail service for some time, and apparently has no rail service at all now.  The station still exists, recycled for other use.

Waltham is the nearest commuter rail station, four miles away, and since the Alwife terminal of the Red Line is only six miles away, driving there makes more sense.

Professor Chomsky is in error on one point.   The conspiracy that was judged was the conspiracy to deprive other bus manufacturers of a market, not the business decision to put the electric street railways out of business, which was not a conspiracy since it was all in the public's view.

Indeed the USA Judiciary cooperated with this business decision by saying that power company ownership of transportation companies constituted a monopoly without doing the same with regard to oil companies, car manufacturers, rubber companies, etc.

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Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 11:53 AM

Chomsky's remarks on health care, from interview transcript at link.

http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20130227.htm

"In fact healthcare is a remarkable case. We have about twice the per capita cost of other rich countries and relatively poor outcomes, in addition to tens of millions people dying every year because they have no insurance. The new program will dig into that a little, but nowhere near where it should. For people who are worried about the deficit -- which they shouldn't be -- it's declining and not that serious -- the deficit would be erased if we had a healthcare system like comparable countries. The reasons are not terribly obscure. It's the only virtually privatized, lightly regulated system in the world. So it's highly inefficient with huge administrative costs: advertising, profit for private companies, huge salaries, a lot of waste, cherry picking, and all kinds of things.

"There are a couple parts of the US system, which are government run: one is the VA system -- Veterans Administration. That's kind of like European countries, about the same level of costs and efficiency. Medicare, which is government run, is much more efficient than the privatized system. The costs are going up and there is a lot of talk about the burden of Medicare -- but that's because it has to work through the privatized insurance system. Its own administrative costs and others are quite low in comparison. It's quite interesting to look at the proposals that are now being discussed. So one of the proposals for dealing with the deficit problem (which again is not a major problem -- the banks care about it but the population doesn't and they're right) that is being bruited around is that the age of Medicare eligibility should be increased. That's quite an interesting proposal. For one thing, it's got a class basis. Professionals, white-collar workers, and so on tend to live longer than truck drivers and construction workers and people doing hard manual labor. As you move up the level at which Medicare eligibility comes, you are essentially harming the poorer working people, benefiting the wealthier, educated sedentary. Even more interesting is the fact that raising the age is a move from a more-efficient system to a less-efficient system. So it's actually more costly.

"But the way cost is measured is just ideological, not an economic necessity. If costs are transferred to individuals, they are not considered costs. If it's a business, then it's a cost. If it's the government, it's a cost because the rich don't like to pay taxes and business of course wants to have profit. If you can find a way to transfer costs to individuals, then that is called savings.

"You came up here on a train. The train from New York to Boston takes almost the same amount of time as when my wife and I took it 60 years ago. If you were in any European country, it would take a third of the time probably. And that's a cost, but a cost to you, not a cost to Amtrak or to the government. And it's the same -- you know I had to fly yesterday for some talks. If you fly on an airplane, in order to save money for the private carriers, they don't circulate air. Well, there's a cost to that too ... one of the costs of not circulating air is that it circulates diseases. So if somebody on the plane has a cold, everybody ends up with a cold or the flu or something. But that's a cost that is transferred to individuals and therefore it doesn't count when you measure efficiency."

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:06 PM

Wanas, I do not know if you are a veteran, but it is clear you are not keeping up on Veterans affairs.   There has been some severe problems in the way the VA administrates healthcare.  I do not wish to speak ill of anyone, and you might wish to do some investigation before you hold it up as better than the private sector.

In any beaurocracy, there tend to be people who are dedicated public servants, and there are many in the VA who work hard and put in unpaid overtime to see that Vets get a fair break and are restored to health as quickly and economically as possible.  But then there have been a few that have abused their power and position.

Returning to Chomsky's transportation, I got the following capsul history of the B&M's Lexington branch from Wilapeida:

This line started out in 1846 as the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad, which connected its namesake towns in Massachusetts. It continued under the name of Lexington and Arlington Railroad in 1867, was purchased by the Boston and Lowell Railroad in 1870, and by 1873, under its Middlesex Central Railroad subsidiary, had reached as far west as Concord. The Boston and Maine Railroad purchased the entire line outright in 1887.

Passenger service remained strong through the early- to mid-1900s, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority acquired the line to continue commuter service, with B&M retaining trackage rights along the line for freight service. A passenger train stranded at the Bedford Station during a snow storm spelled the end of MBTA's passenger service along the line in 1977, and freight service was discontinued soon after in 1981.

The line was abandoned in segments over time. The furthest western reaches of the line in Concord were abandoned in 1926; and the section between Bedford and Concord seeing abandonment in 1962. Rail service continued along the line to Bedford until the last freight train in 1981. Finally, in 1992, the entire line was rail-banked, and the right-of-way now serves as the Minuteman Bikeway today.

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Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 9:04 PM

daveklepper

Wanas, I do not know if you are a veteran, but it is clear you are not keeping up on Veterans affairs.  

 

I am a veteran. Did you sign our petition yet?

http://heroes.vfw.org/site/PageNavigator/2014_NoCutsNoWay.html&autologin=true

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 9:11 PM

Wanswheel, you indicate that suburbanization was social engineering fostered by GM, et al. in the southern California case in the 1950s.  However, suburbanization had been going on for a century before that in places like New York, Phily, and Chicago.  The railroads were quick to embrace it.  By the early part of the 20th century, developers would build trolley lines out to their new suburbs, and then unload the trolley soon after the last lot was sold.  In the general prosperity that followed WWII, you didn't have to brainwash people to have them move to the suburbs.  Trolley and interurban lines had been dying for years, and the PE was simply one of the last to go.  Virtually the only rail transit to be saved were some rapid transit lines saved by cities, or commuter lines that railroads (the only rail mode that still had money) were required to carry, until metropolitan agencies started to rescue them also.  In the PE case, the patient was already on life support.  GM simply pulled the plug.  It was a generation before LA realized what they had let slip away.

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Posted by wanswheel on Thursday, May 15, 2014 2:00 AM

"I edited two posts to put all of Noam Chomsky's words in quotation," I say to myself at 3 a.m.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, May 15, 2014 3:04 AM

Via the American Legion website.    (I belong to the post at Heidelberg, Germany.)

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, May 15, 2014 3:07 AM

Also, let us see, the MBTA bought the line to continiue passenger service and then used the snowstorm incident to close passenger service!   Seems to be some commuters were asleep at thei switch.   Possibly Norman Chomsky should be the sparkplug for an  initiative to restore the line?

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Posted by wanswheel on Friday, May 16, 2014 12:36 PM

Excerpt from Lexington city website

“Between 1870 and 1915, Lexington's population more than doubled - from 2,270 to 5,538.  During this period the improved access offered by the railroad continued to have a major impact on development in town, transforming the rural town into a railroad suburb.  In 1867 the name of the railroad was changed from the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad to the Lexington and Arlington Railroad.  In 1870 the line became part of the larger Boston and Lowell Railroad and within a year service had been expanded with eight trips a day from Lexington to Boston and two on Sundays.  The line was extended to Bedford and Concord in 1873.  In 1886 the Boston & Lowell laid double track to Lexington.  In 1900 eleven trains ran daily each way between Lexington and Boston with seven runs on Sundays.”

http://historicsurvey.lexingtonma.gov/lexareas/suburbanization.htm

1956 timetable

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=47645

Bedford Depot website

http://www.bedforddepot.org/history/

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Posted by John WR on Sunday, May 18, 2014 7:53 PM

wanswheel
"You came up here on a train. The train from New York to Boston takes almost the same amount of time as when my wife and I took it 60 years ago.

Chomsky is not really accurate here.   It is true that the Acela takes 4 hours, the same as the Merchants Limited did.  But there was one Merchants Limited in each direction.   There are 10 Acelas each week day.   Amtrak also runs Northeast Corridor trains which are slower but it runs 10 of its fastest trains.   In the days of the New Haven you were far more likely to ride a slower train.   

And a reason the trains cannot make better times is because the  Shoreline was laid out before the Civil War and it still operates.   There is a straight stretch between Providence and Boston where much higher speeds are possible.   However, the laws of gravity have not changed since the line was laid out and that limits speed.   

Perhaps Professor Chomsky refers to the proposed new alignment that would be straighter and a lot faster for him as he coms from Boston to New York.   But such a line would miss people who need to leave from Providence, New London, New Haven, Bridgeport and intervening stations.   People who live along the line would not agree with the Professor.   

Europe certainly does have some high speed trains.   But it has a lot of low speed trains for local traffic too.  

PS.  Dave Klepper points out that the New Haven had two 4 hours trains, the Merchants Limited and the Yankee Clipper.   I stand corrected.   But Amtrak still runs 10 of them.   

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, May 19, 2014 2:46 AM

I have sent a message to Chomsky.  If he replies (after all, i am an MIT grad.) I will do everything i can to see rail service restored, whatever is possible from my remote locaton.  Obviously he has to be the point man.

The eventual plan IS TO EXTEND THE RED LINE TO ROUTE 128 WHICH WOULD MEAN REVIVAL OF A LEXINGTON (AND ARLINGTON AND BEDFORD) STATION.

He could begin by proposing that the Town Council take a pole of residents on the idea.

At one time there were two 4-hour trains each way NY - Boston under Dumain's New Haven management, both the 5pm Merchants Limited and the 1pm Yankee Clipper.  All others took at least 20 minutes longer.

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Posted by John WR on Monday, May 19, 2014 8:58 AM

Wanswheel,  

Thank you so much for Chomsky's comments on suburbanization.   Clearly, his objection is to our constantly expanding suburbs which by their nature make us automobile dependent.   Public transportation is the suburbs is difficult because they are so spread out that having the population concentration to make public transit work is difficult.   

But what I find hard to understand, and I have always found hard to understand, is the contradiction between Professor Chomsky's eloquent denunciation of suburban life and his own choice to live in the suburbs.   He lives outside of Boston.   He could have chosen to live on a subway line or at least a bus line to get him to the station but he didn't.   He chose the suburbs with no public transit.   So his message is really "Do as I say don't do as I do."  When social critics give this kind of a message it is no wonder that they are ignored.   

Professor Chomsky, in his public statements, trashes his own lifestyle choice.   

John

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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, May 19, 2014 11:24 AM

The correct term is public transit or public transportation.  

In Dallas public transit is a vital component of the mobility equation.  It makes it possible for low income people, as well as some commuters and mobility impaired citizens, to get to a job, medical service provider, school, entertainment, etc. Without it they would be stuck.

According to 2007 and 2012 data furnished to me - anyone could get it under the Texas Open Records Act, approximately 45 per cent of the bus riders in Dallas do not have an alternate mode of transport.  Moreover, according to the same data sources, approximately 25 per cent of the light rail users don't have alternative transportation.

Some of the strongest supporters of the Dallas bus system, which preceded DART, were from North Dallas and the Park cities.  These were the most affluent areas of Dallas at the time. They would not be caught dead on a bus. But they recognized that without a reasonable bus system their maids and gardeners could not get to work.  Decades ago I was on a citizens advisory board for the transit system.  I remember several board members tell me this.

Concomitant with the growth of the DFW population and the implementation of the light rail system, as well as the TRE, the demographics of the ridership has changed noticeably. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of public transit users in Dallas have no alternative means of transport. It is in the interest of the community writ large that they do.

Unlike many people who extol the virtues of public transport, I used it for 38 of the 40 years that I worked in Corporate America.  With the exception of my early career years in NYC, I did not need to do so. My experiences have led me to believe that most Americans, given a reasonable choice, will choose the convenience, comfort, and privacy of a personal vehicle over public transport.  Exceptions occur in high density, urban areas, but even in places like Dallas and Houston, where traffic is severe, most of the people that I know opt for the family buggy.

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Posted by wanswheel on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 1:40 AM

John WR

He chose the suburbs with no public transit.   

Chomsky says, in the interview transcript at link, that he moved to Lexington in 1965 (and gives his reasons why). The 1956 timetable shows 2 morning trains to Boston and 2 evening trains to Lexington. I don’t know if he had a choice of 2 trains in 1965, but there was at least some service until 1977. So he had 12 years of opportunity to take the train to work for once.

http://www.lexingtonbattlegreen1971.com/files/Chomsky,%20Noam.pdf

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 1:17 PM

My guess is that he did try it, did not know about the North Cambridge transfer point, and in any case then the Red Line did not go past Harvard Sq., and two buses would have necessary from N. Cambridge to MIT.  So he went to North Station.  Then at least two rapid transit trains to MIT.  Total transit time at the time was at leas double that of driving, unless traffic was very heavy..

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Posted by John WR on Saturday, May 24, 2014 6:07 PM

As I read Noam Chomsky's interview almost all of it was about antiwar activities during the Vietnam War.   He did say he and his wife wanted to move to Lexington because it was a rural area and there were a number of farms there.   A rural areas with farms seems not to be a good place to build a subway line.  

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, May 25, 2014 8:04 AM

right on, but it is not a rural area anymore!

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Posted by John WR on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 5:06 PM

Dave,

According to Wiki in 1960 the population of Lexington, MA was about 27,650.   Now it is 31,000.   What is not clear to me is that Lexington really justifies a subway line to Boston.    Professor Chomsky indicters he would like a subway to take him to work.  

John

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, May 29, 2014 6:55 AM

The population count for a given municipality can be misleading since it doesn't account for what may have happened beyond the city limits.  There may have been a fair amount of development outside the city limits that wouldn't show in the population figures, especially if the municipality hasn't annexed any land over time.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:25 AM

and  how did the populations of Bedford and Concord change?

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Posted by wanswheel on Thursday, May 29, 2014 1:17 PM

Just to be clear about what Chomsky said, when asked, “What made you choose Lexington?”

NC: Well, when my wife and I moved up here [to the Boston area] in around 1950, we were urban people. We lived in kind of middle class urban settings. And in fact, I had never been more than a couple of miles from home until I went to college. You know, virtually––that's a bit of an exaggeration––but hardly more. We moved up to Boston. We lived in Allston, and then moved over to, you know, various, you know P_____ Street in Cambridge, kind of lower middle class urban settings. By the time we got mobile––you know, we would travel around the region––and Lexington looked to us like far west. We had this dream that someday we'll move out into the “far west” and kind of enjoy ourselves “in the plains of ––––,” you know, that sort of thing. Out here Lexington was a lot more rural in those days, I should say. But in fact it was still about like one-third farms in the 1950's.”

Middlesex County population

1950: 1,064,569

1960: 1,238,742

1970: 1,397,268

1980: 1,367,034

1990: 1,398,468

2000: 1,465,396

2010: 1,503,091

2013: 1,552,802 estimate

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Posted by John WR on Monday, June 09, 2014 7:21 PM

This is a new experience for me.   Usually I argue for public transportation and many posters shoot me down.   Here I am arguing against it and many posters are shooting me down.    

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 3:25 AM

I will report that I used Norman Chomky's MIT email to ask him to try driving to Alwife and using the Red Line from there, or to try using the nearest commuter station and transferring either to bus or Red Line at North Cambridge.  I also offered to help in any way I can do so usefully in organizing an advocacy group for the Red Line extension.   Usually, when I contact people at MIT for any reason, I do get a reply.  I do contribute regularly to the Alumnni fund, even though my income since moving to Jerusalem has been almost entirely Social Security.  I have not received a reply from Norman Chomsky.

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Posted by gardendance on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 8:29 AM

I don't usually drop names, but I know his brother David Chomsky. This is the first I've heard that momma Chomsky had 3 kids. Who's Norman?

Patrick Boylan

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Posted by John WR on Thursday, June 12, 2014 5:27 PM

Dave,   

Thanks a lot for your effort.   I really appreciate it.  What is says to me is that Noam Chomsky is not really all that interested in public transit.   Edmund Burke said "No man made a bigger mistake than the one who did nothing because he could only do a little."   You sure have not made a mistake here.   

But perhaps you will ultimately get a reply.   

John

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, June 13, 2014 6:32 AM

Professor Norman Chomsky teaches and researches linguistics at MIT, but his fame has more to do with his politics, where he clearly espouses a form of Socialism.   (I don't except in very special cases.).  He has also written at least two books critical of israel (I question some of the facts presented) and has in the past defended the rights of  a Holocaust denier to promote and teach his views, even though he is of Jewish origin.  Since he and I are both part of the greater MIT family, i would still help him in any worthwhile cause while still disagreeing with him on others.   That to me is "the American way."  (Both USA AND Canadian)  Even his linguistic ideas have run into some opposition, though they do make sense to me.

What does brother David do?

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