Friday, May 15, 2015

the Amtrak accident



And I'm sitting here going, "Isn't it possible the engineer had a seizure or something and it was something really bad but fundamentally unavoidable?"

Disclaimer: I use Amtrak. I like Amtrak's long-distance service. I wish Amtrak owned its tracks so its on-time performance was better.

I hate flying, and I hate what airport security has become - a big show to make people think they're safe, performed by a group of poorly-trained, low-paid people, some of whom get power-crazy and make the people they're supposed to be serving miserable.

Amtrak is a lot nicer - for now - about security. (Oh, there are occasional screw-ups, and that doesn't mean local or federal LEOs can't hassle someone - there's a story out about some guy allegedly traveling to the west coast with a lot of cash on his person, and at some point DEA agents got on the train and used the asset-forfeiture rules to claim they could take it, because they assumed it was drug money, when it actually appears to be otherwise. But that's a problem that could happen anywhere).

I've never had my bags searched. I've never had to go through a scanner. Once or twice, going through one of the larger cities on the route I take, Homeland Security or someone walked the train, once with police dogs, but they never said anything to me. (Granted, I travel in the sleepers, am a middle-aged white female who looks very non-threatening....)

But I get tired of all sides of the issue using a tragedy to try to make hay.

Also, with the "defunding" thing and some people talking about how deeply and mortally offended they apparently are that some of their tax dollars go to Amtrak: meh. There are a lot of things my tax dollars go to fund that I am really not crazy about. And the comment about "I never take it, why should my tax dollars to to it" makes me want to go, "Childless homeowner here, let me tell you about my property taxes." (And all the sales taxes I pay - here, we have close to a 10% local sales tax. Some of that is to fund new school buses. Some of that is to fund a sports center that was presented as The Best Thing Ever And Will Bring Big Revenues To Town Because Tournaments but really didn't. I've never been out there, but I pay for it.

The problem is, if you're going to have not-privately-run (And I don't think any company would take it on in this era) multi-state trains, it's probably gonna be a Federal thing. And yeah, we can argue the role of Federal dollars and if they should be paying for that - but once the people all get out of the hospital. Same with the "more funding for infrastructure" argument.

I'm traveling myself in less than a week. Yeah, on Amtrak. No, I'm not worried. For one thing, it's western long-distance service and the fastest it is allowed to go is 79 mph (and given the freights Amtrak competes with, it's often slower). My bigger worry is that some Bubba decides he is gonna race the signal and try to get across the tracks ahead of the train - that happens fairly regularly (usually with freights) and nearly every time the car loses.

But yeah. Is this what the news has become now? Two big echo chambers depending on what channel you choose to watch? Ugh. (I try to get my news online but even then it's hard; so many sites are either virtually content-free or else have loud autoplay video. Or they make you watch what they are showing on television, which misses the point: I can read faster than I can watch, and if I'm trying to quick grab some news in 10 minutes I don't want to sit through some talking head)

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