Amtrak’s utter incompetence

by Stephen Smith

There’s a lot to be said for Amtrak’s mismanagement, but a lot of it is technical and inaccessible to the layman. This, however, is unconscionable: Amtrak still does not offer wireless internet – either free or paid – on any of its trains. Megabus and Bolt Bus (whose tickets between DC and NYC are about $20), however, have had wireless for about two years, and I’m pretty sure some Chinatown buses have had it for longer. Amtrak’s normal tickets on the Northeast Corridor are about four times the cost of tickets on Bolt Bus and Megabus. Tickets on the Acela are about eight times the cost of bus tickets, and the service is heavily marketed towards business travelers who put a high price on their time. But no internet. It’s apparently coming to Acela in about six months and the rest of the Northeast Corridor by the end of 2010. Had intercity buses and airlines not introduced wireless internet, I seriously doubt Amtrak would have ever had the business sense to do it.

Originally posted on my blog.

Obama’s genius high-speed rail plan

by Stephen Smith

Just in case you were under the impression that Obama’s high-speed rail commitment was genuine, the Boston Globe would like to disabuse you of that notion:

The railroad tracks from Boston to Washington – the busiest rail artery in the nation, and one that also carries America’s only high-speed train, the Acela – have been virtually shut out of $8 billion worth of federal stimulus money set aside for high-speed rail projects because of a strict environmental review required by the Obama administration.

Because such a review would take years, states along the Northeast rail corridor are not able to pursue stimulus money for a variety of crucial upgrades.

Instead, the $8 billion is going to be split up to ten ways amongst other regions, such as California, the Gulf Coast, and the “Chicago Hub.”

I love the irony of environmental standards stopping the Obama administration from making the one high-speed rail investment that has any chance of getting people out of their cars.

Originally posted on my blog.

Video: Sandy Ikeda on The Unintended Consequences of “Smart Growth”

I came across this video interview of economist Sandy Ikeda by the Mackinac Center. Sandy currently blogs at thinkmarkets and has contributed guest posts to Market Urbanism. I thought Sandy did a great job discussing many of the topics we cover in this site. Sandy is particularly insightful when it comes to the “dynamics of intervention” as it relates to how the planning philosophy in the early days of the automobile created living patterns now disdained by modern planners. Today, Smart Growth planners want to use top-down coercive methods to correct the wrongs of past planners top-down follies, but will they get it right this time? Check it out:

The Unintended Consequences of “Smart Growth” from Mackinac Center on Vimeo.

Update: Here’s what Sandy has to say at thinkmarkets…