By Community Matters
Amtrak takes people for a ride – ‘Gullible’s Travels’
“Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
“In a riveting tale of colossal negligence and corporate skullduggery. . . auto makers duped the American people. . . .”
So reads, in part, the introduction to the book “Taken for a Ride”. A film by the same title references General Motors as artificially inseminating the American public, giving birth to the notion that “motorization is the wave of the future.” The gestation period however called for aborting what was literally in the way – street cars. Steel track ran right smack dab down the middle of the road – space GM wanted for its new automobiles. And since in 1922 only one in ten owned a car, Alfred P. Sloan (President, General Motors) saw the opportunity to seize 90 percent of the market share.
Problem: Streetcars impeded ‘progress’.
Issuing ads across the country, General Motors figuratively ‘sold the public a bill of goods’ promoting four tires vs. two rails calling the motorization of America “the most important event in this history of community transportation.”
It worked. The campaign that would leave the tracks abandoned and the ‘Red Cars’ “junked, stacked, and left to rot” was based on creating the impression “of a nationwide trend away from rail. But there was no trend.”
What happened was an ad-created ‘need’.
Is this same scenario being played out in Lakewood? Are we being duped again, only this time ‘railroaded’?
In a six-page letter dated November 14, 2008, addressed to George Xu, Planning and Strategic Assessment Manager, State Rail and Marine Office for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Dave Bugher, Community Development Director and Assistant City Manager for Development for the City of Lakewood systematically and extensively derails WSDOT’s plan to thrust as many as 12 high speed trains per day through the business districts and neighborhoods bordering the track here in town. Ironically, a similar pattern as was propagated among the public nearly a century ago is once again being passed off as proof of a need that doesn’t exist.
WSDOT’s contention that “the plan” will alleviate I-5 congestion – i.e. “embrace transportation strategies to change driving patterns” – is, per Bugher, “debatable as applied to Amtrak Cascades service.” And, Bugher’s reference to WSDOT’s acknowledgement that “over 80 percent of Cascades trips are leisure-based” leads Bugher to the conclusion that “the plan” is not in fact founded upon the “demand for Amtrak Cascades service” but rather “appears to be strongly tied to marketing.”
More billboard baloney is suggested by WSDOT’s contention that “of every $1 billion invested in rail, an estimated 20,000 new jobs would be created curbing global warming and supporting cleaner energy.” Bugher responds to this and several other claims, calling them not only “superficial”, but “outrageous” since “no supporting data or evidence (is) included to offer a logical foundation for the argument.”
So what’s ‘the real McCoy’ here?
One of the apocryphal tales surrounding the true source of the phrase “the real McCoy” was one William S. McCoy, an American rum-runner captain and boat builder who became famous for never watering his booze and selling only real top-quality products. Nice to know back then that if you were a boozer you could ‘get boozed’ sooner than later. Which brings us to the point. Is Amtrak the real McCoy? Are we indeed going to be saving the planet by purchasing a ticket to ride? Or are we being taken for a ride?