CAMPENNI IS SPOT ON- HOW MANY DERAILMENTS, ACCIDENTS OR DEATHS DOES IT TAKE BEFORE OUT STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS SEE ALL ABOARD FLORIDA FOR THE FOLLY IT IS?
Trains, Society And Rights
I read about one more train accident this morning involving a car in Los Angeles. As we know, this is no isolated freak occurrence. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2014 there were 2,280 crashes involving cars and trains which resulted in 267 fatalities and 832 injuries. The statistics state that 50% of crashes happen within 5 miles of the motorist’s home, and that in car/train collisions, the motorist has a risk of being killed 20 times greater than a car/car crash.
While train/car accidents are significantly less than they were 30 years ago, are these reduced numbers of much comfort to the surviving families or to us as a society? In the wake of the horrific collision that occurred earlier this year in suburban New York, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that New York’s version of railroad police now are giving motorists tickets at rail crossings to prevent more crashes. An auto or truck is no match for either a lumbering freight or a high speed passenger train.
In 1847, New York City authorized freight rails to run in the center of an avenue on the west side of Manhattan. At that point in time, Manhattan had a population of less than 500,000 most of who lived and worked below 14th Street which was far from the rails. As population grew, the trains running at street level killed more and more people. At one point, they had “cowboys” on horses waving flags in front of the trains to warn people. Eventually in 1929, Robert Moses elevated those Westside freight rails and it became known as the “High Line”. With the growth of interstate trucking and the loss of manufacturing in Manhattan, the “High Line” was eventually abandoned resulting in a neglected ruin. With imagination and tenacity, visionaries turned the “High Line” into a park that people from all over the world come to visit today.
I mention the “High Line” to make a point. Perhaps we are ready, as Manhattan was almost 90 years ago, to stop the fiction that a freight or passenger line can safely operate at road level in a populous corridor. How many derailments or accidents or deaths does it take before our state and federal governments sees this folly for what it is? Should we also have cowboys waving flags? When does the good of the many triumph over the interest of the few?
Sometimes individual rights must be curtailed for the greater good. The nation decided that a cohesive society was better maintained by a policy of non-discrimination than the individual’s right to deny service based on race. No right is absolute including property rights. Time, demographics and new technology change what society deems appropriate and lawful. It may be that we reached a moment when the right to have a railroad in the center of a population hub consisting of millions of people is no longer feasible.