The Airline Industry, Following Detroit Down the Tube

It’s 200 miles from Washington to New York. A high-speed, Bullet-train,
at 200mph, would make the trip, city-center to city-center in something
approaching an hour and twenty minutes (figuring the get-up-to-speed
and the slow-down times).

Well, the poor dears—they’re all going broke.
Jammed into my five-abreast seating, legs going to sleep, un-fed and
un-watered as a cow being shipped to slaughter, I’m supposed to give a
damn. $500 to Prague from Chicago and twice that from Chicago
to Seattle, both tickets on the same airline. How does that make any
sense?  I sit between fellow-sufferers who may have paid half
(or twice) what I did. We each get the same screaming child three rows
down, no matter the price of the ticket and who can blame the poor kid?
I would scream as well, but an air-marshall might drag me off when we finally land.
This is the misery we have come to call plane-travel. Pardon me all
to hell if I don’t shed a tear at the impending demise of various
airlines. USAir is trying to swallow Delta to become the world’s
largest airline. Will that enhance service, improve maintenance, bring
back decent wages or assure pension and health plans? Not on your life. It’ll be a stockholders’ bonanza and a further erosion of passenger service.
It’s long past time for plain-talk about plane-travel. It just does not
make sense as a business model and the sooner they all go broke, the
sooner logic will take over (in place of government-subsidized
hysteria) and we can all go back to getting from point A to point B in
some sort of comfort and dignity. Airplanes are the least efficient
choice for trips of less than 1,000 miles. They cost too much, take too
long, are disrupted by weather and scheduling and are just plain
damnably inhuman environments.
Trains are the answer, although there’s hardly anyone alive who
remembers the golden days of train-travel in the middle of the last
The New York to Washington shuttle is as good an example as can be found. It’s an hour flight. Wow—New York to the nation’s capital in an hour—ain’t life grand? Except for the fact that New York to Washington is not where
the flights actually go. They actually take off from an airport an
hour’s cab ride (far more in rush-hour) from downtown Manhattan and
they land at an airport a 45-minute cab ride (far more in rush-hour)
outside of Washington.
That ‘one hour shuttle’ on Delta Airlines ran an hour and nineteen minutes late in September, every single day,
one hundred percent of the time. Given the possibility of
traffic-delays and the intricacies of constantly changing boarding
procedures, it’s impossible not to plan getting to the airport at least
an hour ahead of takeoff.
So, let’s see. That ‘hour flight’ now takes two additional hours on
the takeoff end, an hour and nineteen minutes delay due to various
runway and servicing backups, an actual hour of flight and another
forty-five minutes cab ride into Washington. Elapsed time for an hour’s
flight, close to five hours.
It’s 200 miles from Washington to New York. A high-speed, Bullet-train,
at 200mph, would make the trip, city-center to city-center in something
approaching an hour and twenty minutes (figuring the get-up-to-speed
and the slow-down times).
But we don’t have Bullet-trains. There’s not only no
high-speed rail from New York to Washington, it doesn’t exist Denver to
Los Angeles, Chicago-Cleveland or Houston-Tampa either. The distance
from Chicago to New York is roughly 900 miles and passes through
Cleveland, Pittsburg and Philadelphia—all of which are likely passenger
destinations. A Bullet-train, stopping at each city, would reach New
York about six hours after having left Chicago.
But there are school-bus crossings and bad track and conflict with slow freight-trains to worry about.
Not so. Not if the already paid-for, already available
rights-of-way between the downtowns of America’s major (and minor)
cities are used. These are called the Interstate Highway System. Dwight Eisenhower built ’em, back in the fifties. There stands not a single grade-crossing between New York and Los Angeles. Yeah, it’s a big undertaking for either private industry or government.
happen to prefer government, no matter that I want them out of most of
the stuff they’re in, because rail and air and highways are public
transportation in the best sense of the word. But they’d probably screw
it up.
will come again to America; light-rail within the cities and high-speed
rail for intra-city transport and it won’t come because bleeding-heart
liberals think it’s a good choice. It will come when we get tired of
taking off our shoes to go someplace and weary of the five hours
air-travel requires of a 53-minute flight.
When American Airlines and Amtrak both go down the tubes, perhaps
someone with the vision of Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson will
invent a ‘transportation company.’ It will bid on rail routes across
our Interstate highways, lease light-rail to American cities and
provide air service to those places it makes sense to fly. Such
companies wouldn’t poison the well for one another, profiting instead
on getting people places in comfort, on time and with a reasonable chance of arriving relaxed.
That model once existed. It was called a railroad.
Commentary in the newspapers;

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