Will the Trump Train Trump the Train?

The Donald Trump Administration Features an All-Star Lineup of Transit Haters

How the 45th US president-elect and the issues that dominated his high-voltage election campaign will actually turn out as a matter of policy continue to be subject to intense speculation. However, drowned out by all the din about the wall, illegal immigrants, Muslims, ISIS or trade pacts, there were a lot of other issues that merited equal attention, one of which was transportation, or more specifically, the fate of American train. The answer to what a Trump administration will bode for American public transportation is, unlike the other ones, pretty clear-cut with hardly any room for ambiguity. America is notorious for its anti-transit attitude, and under a Trump administration that will only get amplified. The American passenger railway (railroad as they call it) and mass transit will simply put, die. Though the number of Americans who consider mass-transit some kind of anti-American enslavement socialist propaganda out to destroy America and its cherished values of freedom and liberty has dwindled, an overwhelming majority of Trump supporters namely in the rust, bible, flyover belts are mostly still totally anti-transit, and more than that, the Republicans / conservative establishment itself is filled to the brim with transit killers. The Trump train will throw the American train under the bus.

America could’ve achieved a lot with regard to high-speed rail in the past eight years. Over his two terms, assisted by Vice-President Joe ‘America’s number one Railfan’ Biden, President Obama tried to create a consensus to build a federally funded pan-American high-speed railway network, technologically at par with those in Japan and Europe. Though the federal government doled out billions in federal grants to convince states to this end, after eight years of his Presidency, there is sadly nothing to show for it. Republican lobbies and anti-transit interest groups actively and furiously lobbied against all these rail projects, resulting in all of them getting eventually stopped, scrapped, voted out or unilaterally killed by Gubernatorial executive orders. The few that survived, like the California HSR struggled (and is still struggling) against seemingly insurmountable headwinds and obstacles thrown in front of it by the anti-rail lobby. Forget high-speed, even commuter railway projects, which would’ve solved the greatest commuter gridlock on the planet was unilaterally dismantled by a single order. VP Biden proposed spending $53 billion to build a national high-speed rail network in six years, but this was shot down after majority Republican senators outraged against it.

High Speed Rail 07-09-2009

A large majority of the red lines on the map above were killed by Republican governors, substantial lobbying by big oil, big auto, and anti-transit groups. In the Sunshine state, Jeb Bush (yeah) started campaigning against the 521 km Miami-Orlando-Tampa route, which in 2011 another Republican Rick Scott killed off through executive order, forfeiting a $2.4 billion federal grant. In Ohio, John Kasich and in Wisconsin Scott Walker killed off federally granted high-speed rail projects and returned the $1.2 billion allocated to them. In most other areas, they were thwarted or throttled by lawsuits, referendums, protests and so on. But nothing beats Chris Christie, the transit anti-Christ who single-handedly destroyed all of New Jersey’s commuting dreams when he unilaterally killed off the ambitious “Access to the Region’s Core” project, a transit master plan that would’ve solved commuting woes between New Jersey and New York (after work had started and $600 million was already spent), and as a bonus has run New Jersey transit into the ground, literally. And Christie is one of his closest confidantes. (Update: it seems Christie’s decisions to screw up the Jersey commute has come back to haunt him as Trump seems to have dumped him like a hot potato. We will wait and see where this goes). In short, the Trump administration will feature an all-star lineup of anti-train superstars.

And so, once again, we see the hope of the 21st-century technological wonder of the modern train supersede the ancient, outdated contraption being the 18th-century car, die a miserable death. If Trump and his team have their way, they will probably pull a sequel to the “GM Streetcar Conspiracy“, privatize and then shut down Amtrak, pave over the tracks and convert it into another highway, because it had always been highways that made America and the world great. Oh, and Hitler too. Thank God Amtrak ordered those new Avelia Liberty trains from Alstom when they could, else it would’ve ended with the Acela.

Why does the American establishment, especially the Republicans show such resistance towards the train? This is because powerful establishments all over the world, from the US oil lobby to the private bus mafia in Kerala are shit scared of the train, as it is the only real threat to the dominance of the oil-auto complex. Trains are natural choices for fast intercity transport. More people. Less cost. Less Infra. More comfort. Much faster, greener, cleaner. But still, hard-selling marketing campaigns pour so much money and effort at sustained anti-train campaigns and have kept on throwing insurmountable obstacles at any effort to allow trains to flourish. America offers subsidized gasoline to cars and aeroplanes while it cancels rail projects under the false excuse of “funding trouble”. All this, only to keep America addicted to oil. You realize there is a lot at stake for a few when you see the obvious being usurped and the convoluted being hard sold at its expense.

The American century of the past 100 years was created and fueled by big oil. The campaign to establish the automobile culture was probably the most complex and extensive project ever undertaken by mankind. The war on the train started when they realized it was imperative that America (and the world) be kept obsessed with oil to ensure that their power and influence lasted, which is why rail projects in the US face unimaginable amounts of resistance. Over the past century, railroads were strangled to death by restriction and regulation under the guise of controlling the Robber Barons, while highways and airports were allowed to expand indiscriminately with government support. City-based mass-transit was just killed off in one shot. This was followed by sustained campaigns backed and powered by oil billionaires which have been throwing money at propaganda that transit is anti-American, waste of tax-payer money (hugely expensive useless wars apparently aren’t), while nurturing visions like that of a rustic American Dream of sprawl and cars being the embodiments of those cherished American ideals of freedom and liberty, materialistic ideals achievable only if enormous automobiles are driven down massive highways at every available chance. An entire universe was built around this cult of the internal combustion engine, ensuring the wealth from oil would flow uninterrupted for a hundred years.

Hey dude, you are no American! You are a bloody Indian who hasn’t even been to America yet!” People might want to say. True that. However, I am still very much entitled to be worried about trains in America because as the seat of the world’s power and money, is the greatest influencer of our times, and decisions that country takes decides the direction the entire world takes. Indians, for instance, pretend to be living in America by buying cars and driving around everywhere, paying exorbitant amounts to cabs or airlines or kindergarten to believe they are confirming to “free-markets“, all like America. IF America had promoted trains and transit instead of ugly, wasteful, inefficient, polluting 19th-century “blow up kerosene in a tube” technology, we would’ve not just had trains running at 900 kph on the ground, but would’ve been a much healthier and advanced civilization, the kind we see in fancy movies that are ironically also made in America. And riding trains would’ve been considered cool as well.

It is laughable that Americans expect Trump, who rode on an anti-establishment wave to become the 45th President-elect, to “break” the corrupt monopoly that runs the American establishment. The above-mentioned “corrupt” establishment was built and run by big oil and big auto, which also created the despised 1% zillionaire elite, which includes Donald Trump. If Americans had a chance to break its back, it was during these last eight years, and they squandered it. And now they expect the very people who actually form a big though a different pillar of said “corrupt establishment” to break it! Trump’s party and backers are all vehemently anti-rail, he denies climate change, derides technology and science, which are all that are generally the reasons why the world needs to adopt more railway transportation methods. Since there is no problem with automobile and aeroplane emissions, there is no need to switch to trains, right? And anyway, the vision Trump supporters have of an America made great again does not include the train. And no, as the all-weather friend of the international oil cartels, Hillary wouldn’t have done jack about trains either. Bernie? Possibly. But there is no use talking about all that now.

All of world history and of the past century was dictated by the dude in the star-spangled hat trying to ensure the continuance of his power and wealth, for which millions of people sacrificed their lives and the world has come to the brink of destruction, only because a handful of people wanted to remain unimaginably wealthy and powerful. And Trump and his gang are easy picks for these people, who will ensure the fledgeling American high-speed rail industry is all but killed. So, in the end, the corrupt government-sponsored monopoly of the plane and the automobile will continue their hegemony, without even giving a chance for the train to offer competition. In a few years time, even India will have overtaken America in railway technology, while Americans will be kept happily dreaming in the Matrix that trains, which could’ve been their saviors, are evil Communist designs, and that 6.2-liter V8s are the means and end to salvation as they destroy the world around them, a world they only share with other billions but feel entitled to destroy as it were some kind of family heirloom of theirs, for some misguided ideal they think they believe in. And now, as things get ugly, as facts and reasoning are “post”, any ideas for a logical and scientific solution to the world’s pollution crisis, any dream for a pan-American high-speed railway network can be given a silent burial as the downhill plunge sadly accelerates like a Shinkansen N700.

God Bless America.

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