Rich Campbell: Former speech writer for railroad trade group says region ‘too nice' in opposing AAF

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 1:00pm

By Rich Campbell TCPalm

Treasure Coast residents are “too genteel” in their opposition to All Aboard Florida.

So says Vero Beach resident Stanford Erickson, a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley (Class of 1961) who values the role of public activism in shaping government and corporate decisions.

Given his professional background, Erickson’s perspective on All Aboard Florida — the planned high-speed passenger rail service that will bring 32 daily trains whistling through our region beginning in early 2017 — carries considerable weight.

A former speech writer for the president of the Association of American Railroads in the mid-1970s, Erickson understands the railroad industry like few in our region. He also understands the freight-shipping industry, having worked from 1977 to 1986 as vice president of public relations worldwide for Sea-Land Service, once the largest container-shipping operations in the world.

Erickson, whom I met earlier this month at the Federal Railroad Administration’s open house in Vero Beach, visited more than 50 U.S. ports during his tenure at Sea-Land.

He is skeptical of All Aboard Florida’s plan to create a high-speed passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando.

“I know of no passenger rail service that is profitable, particularly if you define profit as covering all expenses and producing a return on investment,” Erickson said.

The real future of railroads is in freight, not passengers, according to Erickson.

“When I was working for the Association of American Railroads, I habitually would read the minutes of our board of directors’ meetings,” Erickson said. He recalls a statement by one of the directors that read: “Pigs, we railroads prefer pigs to passengers. Pigs are not only more profitable, but they don’t talk back.”