A modest counterproposal to Gov. Strickland’s rail project

…stagecoach service between Cleveland and Youngstown, running on Highway 422.

The advantages are many:

1. Stagecoaches are green, much greener than locomotives. Horses run on renewable and Ohio-grown hay and oats. Coaches are primarily built of renewable wood. The project would not require  rails or other environmentally-expensive infrastructure, though expansion of one shoulder each way along 422 would be advantageous (such as found on 528 in Geauga Co).  Horses could also  help keep the right-of-way mowed. There is a tailpipe emissions problem however. (Speaking of that, why don’t the Amish have to bring their conveyances to get sniff-tested? A horse with buggy on that rotating drum at the E-check station, with a big fan in front and the tailpipe wand up its tailpipe….I’d pay good money to watch that.)

2. Local talent, local jobs. There are plenty of qualified teamsters along the route (who, since these are government jobs, will probably have to become Teamsters). Granted, unemployment is low in Geauga Co., because the Amish employ themselves and each other. But if need be, we could import laid-off Amish from the RV industry in Indiana, who could also participate in Ohio’s revitalized buggy and harness industry. Granted, a stagecoach is more complex than a simple Amish buggy, but it’s the same technology, and with the aid of cost-overrun contracts, I’m sure any Amish buggy shop could produce suitable rolling stock, complete with kerosene lanterns, state-of-the-art Victrola sound system, and as a premium add-on 3G wireless Internet.

3. Economic development. Given that the trip will take about a day and a half, there will be need for hospitality services. The Welshfield Inn, JDs Post House, and the Halfway Inn will all see increased traffic (and if I ever run for public office, I expect quid pro this quo). The coach will overnight on the outskirts of Warren, by the intersection with the 5/82 loop. There are a few motels there already, as well as the start of a stagecoach-fit “entertainment district”,  IYKWIMAITYD, stocked with Asia’s finest.

4. Animal rescue.  Since it’s no longer legal to slaughter horses for food in the Land of the Free, there’s a problem with people abandoning horses. PETA can lobby the state government to put these horses to work instead of shooting them, Granted, some would never make it up the 700 Hill into Welshfield, but what do you want, efficiency or mercy?

5. People are just as eager to go to Youngstown as they are to Cleveland.

Now, just as in the governor’s proposal, there will be objections . One will be cost.  In 1863, the cost of a stagecoach trip between Nebraska City and Denver (535 mi) was $75, or about $.14/mi, which would make the trip $9.10. But those are 1863 dollars, equivalent to .455 oz of gold, now worth about $492. If you think the gold market is in a bubble right now, other means of calculating dollar equivalence give  values between $131 and $17,236. But the state subsidy required to make the trip cost-competitive would actually be quite small. Assuming no subsidy in the 1863 figure, and using its gold equivalent value, a competitive ticket price of $10 and a ridership of 200 per year, I guesstimate that the annual cost to the state would be about $100K, much less than the rail project. But since the project will require several dozen state employees, the actual defecit will be higher.

The other objection will be time. Why should people spend a day and a half making a trip that they could make in an hour and a half? If you have to see somebody NOW, why aren’t you doing it on Skype? Stagecoaches, like railroads, are romantic. But there are lots of railroads; this would be the only common-carrier stagecoach used for actual transportation, and would make Ohio a leader in what will doubtless be the primary transportation mode of the 22nd Century. It’ll be a great tourist draw…isn’t tourism supposed to solve all our economic problems? Anyway. time is a relative thing. If we really want the stagecoach to be competitive, we can declare 422 to be one big 20 mph school zone, and exponentially  increase the number of highwaymen controlling it. We can jack up tolls on the turnpike too, just in case anybody gets shunpikey ideas about 422. You know in your heart that there’ll be more Staties on I71, and a special gas tax to pay for the train, so why not for the stagecoach?

Let’s face it, spending $400m to build and $17m a year to operate a train to take 6 hrs to make a 4 hr trip is distinctly lacking in imagination. Not even making the tracks out of Rearden Metal would help that concept.  It’s been a long time since Ralph Perk’s hair, “4 dead in Ohio” and the burning river put Ohio on the map. Isn’t it time we did it all over again, with feeling?

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2 Responses to A modest counterproposal to Gov. Strickland’s rail project

  1. Jim Quick says:

    Good idea, the Amish could start a couple buggy whip factories to. Makes as much sense as paying 2 1/2 Milllion people through Insurance Companies to collect money from folks and distribute it to Doctors and Hospitals. We wern’t so lucky, we got 40 mil in Michigan to build three (er comfort stations) between Port Huron and Chicago. I believe it would be more coat effective to put each passenger in a new Caddie to make the trip. Probably be there before the train as well. What is it with Liberals, thinking that since Europe and Japan have trains all over we shoulkd too. Even if we did, we would end up in a decrepid train station in the middle of a ghetto somewhere.
    Jimbo

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