Thursday, July 23, 2009


The generals didn't want it. Secretary Gates was against it. President Obama threatened a veto if congress continued funding for the F-22 fighter jet. Well, to put it mildly, I'm pleasantly surprised that the military industrial complex lost one. Despite spreading manufacturing and jobs over a majority of American states, the U.S. Senate decided that it made no sense to build jets designed to deal with the Soviet threat, decades after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Still, I've got to ask the obvious question: With all those jobs at stake, couldn't we find something else for the defence industry to make? This is a point I've made before. (On the former version of The New Common Sense) We once had an extensive interurban system in the United States. Why not rebuild it?

For people too young, or with no sense of history, light rail used to not just connect neighborhoods within cities, but different cities as well. There was a time when, with some small gaps that required some walking, one could ride from the suburbs of Boston, to the island of Manhattan, albeit with dozens of transfers. Here in Los Angeles, we had the red car system that connected communities as far apart as Santa Monica and Riverside. I'm not arguing that we should build such an extensive light rail system. People do like cars, and will continue to favor private transportation over mass transportation. But, high speed, elevated rail lines, not subject to crossing traffic, and quiet enough to go through neighborhoods, and over buildings; that connect the already existing transit systems of different cities; or that connect rural communities with nearby urban areas, would do this country a world of good. Here in southern California, a line that would run from Santa Barbara in the north to San Diego in the south would take a lot of cars off the roads, allow people to increase the area in which they can hold jobs, and allow me to go to San Diego for the weekend for $5. Such a system could keep small towns alive, allowing easy and low cost commutes to urban centers. And a system built to bad weather standards, could allow quick evacuations from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and blizzards. And since we're talking about an airplane fuselage on wheels...well, Northrup, Boeing, and General Dynamics are a natural to design, and build a modern, high speed, interurban system. All that's needed is for the federal government to get involved. Accept bids for a common track design for the whole country so that, if warranted, systems can be linked up over time.

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