Amtrak operates this intercity train at a considerable deficit. The public debate about subsidizing U.S. rail has never been more contentious. I believe it’s imperative that we keep our existing train service running smoothly and on-time. It would also be amazing if I could get out of this bathroom.
The numbers seem staggering at first but they pale in comparison to the cost of updating the highway system. Interstate highways are subsidized at a rate of 45 cents per mile compared to 44 cents per mile for rail. If that doesn’t help put things in perspective, here’s another example. I’ve been trapped in this bathroom for at least 20 miles. The total federal subsidy for the distance I’ve spent incredulously pulling at this broken door as my screams reach a bellowing crescendo is only $8.80 — hardly a steep price to pay for clean, reliable infrastructure with doors that don’t jam.
The most important point in the debate might be public transit’s role in alleviating global warming. Scientists all agree the planet is getting hotter. It’s still not as hot as this poorly ventilated bathroom but I don’t want to hijack the conversation by seeming selfish. I just want someone to help me get this door open. Imagine an asphyxiating heat that grows more severe with each desperate shake of this old broken door — that’s the ominous threat posed by global warming.
The rail infrastructure we built during post-war America needs to be updated for future generations. Our cities keep growing but our transportation infrastructure is not keeping pace with the demands of the global economy. In order to remain globally competitive, we must connect our most valuable assets — people. We should consider this a basic right of living in a free society. The need for humans to connect is even more basic than food and shelter. I say this knowing that I may need to eat the onboard liquid soap to survive until Chicago.
This brings me to another vitriolic issue in the national debate: information technology. If you’re like me you’re a big proponent of net neutrality. I’m sure you don’t want to see America floundering behind other countries when it comes to affordable access to high speed internet. Even though this train boasts free Wi-Fi it works so poorly that I presently have no internet access. This is problematic because I can’t tweet someone for help. I don’t have cell access either. Basically I’m stuck here until the cleaning crew finds me later this evening.
If this were a train in Finland, I would have full LTE coverage. Of course, I would not be in this situation because Finland isn’t traveling on trains built in the 1950s. Only Americans do that shit. I’m afraid we’re falling behind and our failure is manifesting itself in strange but subtle ways — like being locked in a sweltering, connectionless, windowless, southbound train that operates so loudly it muffles your screams of terror.
If you oppose spending tax dollars to upgrade the US rail system, please consider changing your view. My rapidly depleting oxygen supply is a testament to the disintegrating public infrastructure in this country.
Also, if you are reading this article on the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago please think about responding to my desperate pleas for help.