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Morgan Hill
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September 27, 2022

Letter: It’s time to privatize transit

Regarding more public sector rail transit boondoggles feasting off taxpayers forcing up gas taxes and auto fees so that politicians can crow “success” about boondoggle monstrosities like County Transit, Caltrain, Amtrak, etc., thanks for considering transport options, one of my favorite subjects. 

The late Secretary Mineta said, in 1996 while I was doing post-doc study of transport law and policy at the Institute which now bears his name, “The crucial question in transportation today is: What should government do, and what should it leave to others?” He was right then, and he’s right now, God bless his soul. 

Private or public? Capitalist or socialist? What does history tell us? In his immortal “How We Built the Transcontinental Railroad,” Grenville Dodge recalled Lincoln’s advice to him at the White House in 1864 when Dodge insisted that the TC railroad be government owned. Lincoln was right then, but we have not learned from our history. 

During WWI, the Wilson Administration nationalized the railroads, bringing chaos, and stopped traffic dead in the tracks, so in 1920 we de-nationalized the RRs. But we didn’t learn from our history. 

In 1970 Congressmen stood on the floor of the House and proclaimed that Amtrak “would be self-sufficient in three years.” Never happened; deficits have only worsened. On Sept. 11, 2001 we had Amtrak, but what was the airport security like? Traffic World reported that Amtrak’s subsidies by Sept. 11, 2001, in $100 bills, was a stack higher than the World Trade Center Towers had stood. And still we have not learned from our history. 

Promoters of the CAHSRA Bullet Train, including Hon. Rod Diridon, who I debated on Prop. 1 before the election in 2008 said that we didn’t need to worry about UPRR’s eminent domain authority being superior to CAHSRA’s eminent domain authority, they would make Gilroy the South Bay Hub, and go on BNSF’s tracks. Of course, to do that you’d have to move Gilroy to Stockton. And still we have not learned from our history. 

It’s high time that we privatized socialist transit, all modes, and returned to our free enterprise roots in transport in the USA and boondoggle capital California. Caveat viator. 

Joe Thompson

Past-President, 1999-2001, 2006, Gilroy-Morgan Hill Bar Assn.

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