Barack Obama announced his new transportation-stimulus initiatives yesterday, including a renewed emphasis on rail infrastructure. In trying to sell rail service to a nation that has mostly eschewed it, though, Obama tried trotting out the notion that train riders don’t have to worry about security:
What we need, then, is a smart transportation system equal to the needs of the 21st century. A system that reduces travel times and increases mobility. A system that reduces congestion and boosts productivity. A system that reduces destructive emissions and creates jobs.
What we’re talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America. Imagine boarding a train in the center of a city. No racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes.
Forget, for the moment, that one still has to get to the train terminal just the same as one gets to the airport, and that one still has to walk across rail terminals just as they do to get to airport gates. Forget, too, that trains are notoriously late, causing delays, even if in Obama’s utopian vision that he alone can get the trains to run on time. “Taking off your shoes” refers to security practices at airports adopted after Richard Reid’s aborted attempt to blow up a plane with explosive shoes. Is Obama seriously arguing that train terminals won’t have to have security against terrorist attack?
Does “Madrid 2004” ring any bells?
We can certainly enjoy a laugh over the notion that trains are the 21st-century technology Obama has in mind for transportation. Having a President casually dismiss security at rail terminals, especially if he succeeds in getting people on the trains, is another matter entirely.
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