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Front Page » October 3, 2002 » Opinion » You know, you can't get there from here
Published 4,216 days ago

You know, you can't get there from here


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By DONALD KAUL
Minute Man Media

Last month:

•US Airways filed for bankruptcy protection.

•United Airlines said it would have to do the same by mid-November unless it got major concessions from labor unions and suppliers.

•American Airlines announced it would be cutting jobs, planes and flights in an effort to stay afloat.

•Amtrak twice had to pull its newest and fastest trains out of service on the Boston-New York-Washington run because it discovered cracks in the structure of the trains. This came a few weeks after Amtrak had come within days of shutting down because it had run out of money. Only a last-minute infusion of cash from Congress saved it.

Let's face it folks, we may be a world-class military power but we are a Third World transportation power, and losing ground.

It's kind of funny, really. Here we are, all puffed up about being the greatest country on earth (and if you don't believe that, just ask us) and we can't figure out how to get from here to there.

France figures it out. So do England, Germany, Japan, Spain and dozens of other countries, but it seems to be beyond us. We not only don't have the answers to our transportation problems, we're not even asking the questions.

For example, when's the last time you heard an American president talk about transportation policy? With me it's been so long that I don't remember it happening.

Thus we have a ramshackle, hit-or-miss rail system that can't even serve its prime areas---places where the people actually would use trains if they were reliable and efficient---and an airline system that only works if the weather is good and there aren't any bomb scares and nobody goes on strike and passengers don't mind being strip-searched every once in a while.

What about cars, you say? Well, what about them?

In the past year I have driven thousands of miles throughout the eastern United States and I'm here to say that the experience is one of unrelieved horror.

Have you tried driving on an Interstate highway at the legal speed limit recently? How about five miles per hour above the speed limit? It's worth your life. If you're in the left lane, people angrily pass you on the right and cut back in front of you in a huff. I've even had a SUV pass me on the right when I was in the right lane traveling at the speed limit. He used the shoulder of the road.

But it's not just the speed. I've been driving a car for 50 years and I can honestly say that the quality of driving today is worse than any I've ever seen. No matter what the traffic conditions, the weather, the time of day or week, practically everybody is in a hurry. They weave in and out of lanes---often cutting off drivers to do so---tailgate, fail to use their turn signals and otherwise display horrendous road manners.

All that, of course, is when they're not using their cell phones or playing with their onboard computers or fiddling with their CD players.

And then there's the thrill of driving along at 75 miles per hour and looking in your rearview mirror to see it filled by a gigantic radiator grill. Driving would be bad enough if the roads were in good shape, but they're not. It's much safer in cities, of course. You can't have an accident if you can't move.

Our answer to all of this has been�nothing. Basically nothing. There has not been a real innovative transportation initiative in this country since Dwight Eisenhower's National Defense Highway Act, which didn't have much to do with defense but did give us a decent high-speed road system.

Those roads are now falling apart faster than we repair them under an ever-increasing onslaught of cars and trucks. And we are doing next to nothing about trying to find alternatives.

You would think that the self-admitted greatest country on Earth would do better than that. Wouldn't you?


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