12 July 2006

Amtrak is Not An Anti-Terrorism Investment.

One of the arguments frequently tossed around in support of Amtrak funding is the need to have a backup to the nation's vulnerable air travel infrastructure, which proponents note, was brought down in its entirety on 9-11, while Amtrak continued to operate. In their words:

Amtrak does serve an important national security purpose. This should not be a politicized issue; the consensus of transport security experts is that redundancy in transportation options is key to the continued flow of people and goods if one mode is disabled.

This benefit is minimal. Trains are easy terrorism targets. Consider:

*New York, September 11, 2006 (thwarted al Qaeda attempt).
*Mumbai, July 11, 2006.
*Farwell, Michigan, June 16, 2006.
*Jhelum, Pakistan, January 30, 2006.
*London, July 7, 2005.
*Los Angeles, January 26, 2005.
*Madrid, March 11, 2004.
*Hyder, Arizona, October 9, 1995.
*Tokyo, March 21, 1995.
*Tokyo, September 25, 1986.
*Tokyo, November 30, 1985.

I took a train into Washington D.C. every day as Congress was debating the Gulf War resolution. Every day, every one of us was well aware that we were sitting ducks, vulnerable to invisible terrorists who could target any point between the station where we embarked and Capitol Hill, much of it invisible to the casual passerby.

Rail has lots of virtues. It is exceedingly fuel efficient and moves freight at lower costs per mile-ton than trucks. It is easily converted from fossil fuels to electricity generated from clean sources, if necessary. Rails require less land than roads do. Casual users find rail systems easier to understand than buses, and as a result, are less hesitant to use them. Rail transportation is less accident prone than driving. Rail transportation is roomier, and therefore, more comfortable, than driving or flying. But, rail is very vulnerable to terrorism.

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