Finance high-speed trains, not Amtrak pork

Although I've been a lobbyist for federal funding for high-speed trains, I must say that Jane Holtz Kay's argument to boost taxpayer subsidies to Amtrak was off the track ("Bring back the trains, fast," opinion page July 3).

The Amtrak $12 billion high-speed train bill in Congress is flawed, because future "high speed" Amtrak trains won't be fast enough to compete with air service outside of the Northeast. Amtrak's claim that its future trains will ease airport congestion is shockingly inaccurate.

Amtrak will spread money around the country, pork-barrel style, including cornfield states that have no high-speed train market. Meanwhile, Amtrak underinvests in routes where we really need fast trains, like Boston to New York.

Instead, Congress should pass a bill that encourages creation of imaginative public-private rail partnerships and spending on routes with bona fide market potential. Otherwise, let's get ready to kiss our $12 billion goodbye.

Joseph Vranich Irvine, Calif. Author of 'Derailed: What went Wrong and What to Do About America's Passenger Trains'

Sadly, while there may be new funding for high-speed rail infrastructure, it seems that policymakers aren't really considering passenger rail to be a viable alternative to more highway and airport construction. Twelve billion dollars over 10 years for high-speed rail is chump change when considering the enormous amounts that are being proposed for air and highway transportation each year.

Brent C. Isaacs Indianapolis

The July 3 opinion piece, "Bring back the trains, fast" by Jane Holtz Kay was right on the money. Ours is the only country that relegates passenger rail, and indeed all public transportation, to third-class status. The trucks and buses use highways built by tax dollars. The airlines use airports and an air traffic control system paid for by public funds. (Note: There is no tax on aviation jet fuel.) Railroads must buy and pay taxes on every inch of land, and then pay for installing and maintaining their tracks, signals, and traffic-control systems. How can rail possibly compete financially with cars, trucks, buses, and the airlines?

What has most impressed me on visits to European countries is their excellent (tax-supported) public transportation system. In Amsterdam, trains leave the stations every 15 to 20 minutes for destinations throughout Europe. In Switzerland, a person can get to any place in the country by public transit.

My wife and I love trains, are retired, and have the time and money to travel throughout the country. Do we ride the trains? Not at the current level of service.

Bruce Snider Advance, N.C.

MBAs understand productivity

Beyond the use of loaded language such as "litany," "parade," and "flog the worker," Jonathan Rowe's opinion piece also demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of economics ("A misguided quest for 'productivity,' " June 28).

As a recent MBA graduate, I must inform the author that students are not subjected to "ridicule and scorn" for questioning productivity data or the reliance on it by managers. To the contrary, we were encouraged to examine it critically to understand the limitations of its accuracy and validity in management and policy decisions.

I congratulate Mr. Rowe on his epiphany that the factors used to measure productivity are incongruous with his own personal values. The rest of us, however, wish to be informed.

Robert Morris Dallas

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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