Passenger Rail Nuts Won't Go Away

Apparently, the membership of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association and their supporters on the Allen County Council and the Fort Wayne Mayor's office are not living in the same economic times as the rest of us.  $40,000 dollars in taxpayer money has now been pledged to study the practicality of implementing new passenger rail service between Chicago and possibly Columbus and Toledo that will pass through a rail station in Fort Wayne. Richard Davis, who seems to be in a conflicted position as the president of the Fort Wayne Downtown Improvement Association and as an NIPRA board member, said that the $80,000 (or is it $120,000) economic study will explore the benefits of returning rail service to Fort Wayne. Costs are estimated to be somewhere between $145 million (dream on!) and $745 million (impossible since proposed service is 400 miles between terminus points).

Just to give a flavor of the costs involved, Indianapolis recently studied putting in a 19 mile rail commuter service from 146th Street in Fishers to Downtown. The cost of upgrading old Nickle Plate track would likely cost $50 million.  The plan was to minimize equipment purchases by refurbishing four locomotives and eight cars available at the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville for $20 million.  This project never got off the ground despite a modest proposal to run from 6 to 9 am and from 4 to 6 pm at 30 minute intervals or 10 trains per day.

Sadly, a Chicago-Fort Wayne-Toledo-Columbus train (or two) running on conventional track at speeds under 60 miles per hour will serve not a single commuter passenger.  A similar scenario exists for Amtrack trains passing  through Waterloo, Indiana (25 miles north of Fort Wayne) four times a day, twice in each direction.  The average passenger count boarding and de-training is only 60 per day and that ranks Waterloo as the third busiest Amtrack station in the state!

From every practical statistical measure that is presently available for all to see (without fattening the wallet of some lying consultant) indicates that passenger rail  is impracticable out here in flyover country.  I do not propose to write a book about the uselessness of rail transit, particularly since the Cato Institute has already spent the time doing so. Just one story from their compilation should do the trick.
For example, in 2006, Tennessee spent $41 million [a veritable bargain!] to start the Music City Star, a commuter train from Lebanon to Nashville. In 2008, the second year of operation, the train carried a weekday average of just 264 rush-hour commuters to and from work and fares of $616,000 barely covered 15% of the line's $4.1 million operating costs. This represents an annualized cost of $25,000 per commuter, enough to buy each commuter using  the train a new Toyota Prius every year for the next 30 years. Yet Nashville's Regional Transportation Authority hopes to parlay the "success" of this line into getting funding for six more commuter-rail routes, while transit officials in Louisville, Indianapolis and other cities cite the Star as and example of a "successful" train  they wish to emulate.
So what is it about choo-choo train nostalgia that trumps basic economics and American lifestyle preferences? Too many liberal Nanny Staters is likely the only answer.

Criticism of Rick Santorum (Cliff Notes Version)

Writing in FrontPage Magazine, Ben Shapiro bores into Rick Santorum's candidacy:

[There is a] popular perception of Santorum as a religious extremist focused on restoring American morality via the unbridled power of the state . . . since he’s been a big government conservative who has voted in favor of bigger government over and over again.

And then there’s his Washington insider status. This is a campaign of Washington outsiders. . . . Santorum was a big time lobbyist . . . - he was the point person for the so-called K Street Project, an effort dedicated to getting conservatives into high ranking lobbying positions . . . – but the effect was to make Santorum the key figure in a lobbyist-legislator revolving door. Santorum has pulled down an inordinate amount of cash for quasi-lobbying since leaving Congress, making nearly a million bucks per year each of the last two years.

And then there’s Santorum’s record on the unions, which is squishy at best. He voted for a 1993 bill protecting union members from being fired over strikes. He also backed the Davis-Bacon Act, requiring government contracts “to pay workers the local prevailing wage.” He opposed the National Right to Work law in 1996.

Rick Santorum’s supporters suggest that attacks on Santorum are attacks on conservatism. This is sheer and absolute nonsense. Conservatives had better vet . . . candidates before the liberals have a chance to do so. If the liberals find damaging material you can bet they will hold it until right before the election and then spring it as an October Surprise that suddenly changes everything.
Ben missed a small point or two, but by and large, Ricky Bobby ain't no conservative and that is why my primary vote will go to the only candidate who can list has conservative accomplishments - Newt Gingrich. Willard Mitt Romney has no record of governing conservatively and Crazy Ron Paul is well, he is 'um, Crazy Ron Paul.

Time To Revisit EPA Regulation Of Radon

One of Ronald Reagan's final acts as President was to sign into law the Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988. This law, when implemented by the EPA and reinforced by state laws and regulations, saddled homeowners with the costly task of reducing indoor radon levels to those prevailing outside. Never mind that "this is inherently impossible since building structures, by their very nature, trap radon gases coming out of the earth. In addition, the legislation made radon disclosure mandatory in most real estate transactions ...."

So what's all the fuss about radon? Radon itself is the gaseous product of deteriorating uranium found everywhere in the earth's crust. In the 1950's data collected from a small percentage of the 2000 or so U.S. uranium prospector's mines indicated a high number of lung cancer deaths among these miners that was first believed to be radon-caused. Retrospectively, the data was incomplete, most miners smoked tobacco, and mines were dusty, ill-ventilated, and likely contained breathable powdery uranium oxide. But then, the unthinkable happened:

Radon, however, remained a concern of homeowners in Western Mountain states until 1984 when Stanley Watras, an engineer, set off alarm bells by walking into a nuclear plant under construction in Pennsylvania. The radon level in his home was 16 times that permitted in mines; in fact, the house had been built over an abandoned mine. Suddenly it appeared that uranium and radon were widespread; the gas became a concern not only for miners but for householders nationwide. Anxiety rose and with it the burden imposed on homeowners. Suddenly another "spook" had joined asbestos and lead as a toxic specter to be feared.
The EPA has ignored concrete evidence including an extensive 20-year Finnish epidemiological study ending in 1996 that found no evidence of radon-induced cancer and  surprising findings that should have put the government back on its heels.  Professor Bob Park succinctly describes the findings:
Studies by [Univ. of Pittsburgh] physicist  Bernard Cohen found lung cancer rates are consistently lowest in areas where radon levels are highest. Such "ecological" evidence was dismissed by BEIR-VI [for the EPA], which relied entirely on case control studies. This is reminiscent of the debate between physicists and epidemiologists in the EMF wars. The physicists were right. 
Pay attention the next time a house sells in your neighborhood.  A Radon Services truck will arrive which will test for radon and most assuredly install a mitigation system  of some kind which most certainly will not adjust indoor radon levels to those outside the house.  The seller will pay an extra $1,000 or so which he will, in many cases, pass onto the buyer in the purchase price.  The Nanny State wins yet another battle for the control of your life!