It could be the plot of a dystopian novel from the pen of a Sarah Palin ghostwriter. But no, it's the serious suggestion of Ohio's Democratic governor, Ted Unelectable Strickland:
Take $400 million in federal "strimulus" funds, add a dollop of non-existent state revenue, and throw that money toward a notoriously corrupt group of industrialists to build a new transit system that is so slow, expensive, and inconvenient that it's guaranteed to attract few riders, displace no automotive traffic, save no energy, and yield no technological innovations. And it will be run by Democrats, up and down the line.
Leading Ohio Democrats including congresswoman Marcy Kaptur have broken with the governor and attacked the project as a doggle -- that's a boondoggle with no boon.
Formally it's called the C-cubed or 3C Train because it would connect the big-government capital Columbus to the rapidly deteriorating cities of Cincinnati and and Cleveland. (Dayton will also be en route, but calling it the DCCC Train might constitute a bit too much disclosure for comfort.) Unofficially, it's already known as "Snail Rail" or the "Turtle Train."
Strickland's answer to Soul Train is the Slow Train. In world standard language, the project is referred to as 慢车衰行, which translates loosely as "Slowpoke & Western Decadence Railroad."
China and Japan will have their Bullet Trains achieving average speeds of 215 MPH. Meanwhile, we will have Scamtrak, a Bullshit Train achieving an average speed of -- unbuckle your seatbelts -- 37 MPH.
Yes, that's a big three-seven, less than the claimed age of Jack Benny, for the state that calls itself "the Birthplace of Aviation." You read itr correctly. That's THIRTY-SEVEN, as in less than the speed of John Glenn circling his current office in Columbus.
The Ohio press has been absolutely brutal to the governor on this issue, as he struggles to stay competitive with the challenger to his reelection, John Kasich, now 6-10 points up in the polls. The Columbus Government Examiner covers the issue at http://www.examiner.com/...
There you can find links to Marcy Kaptur's opposition, as her city, Toledo, rises to the eighth highest poverty rate of all American cities. Also note the links to the rival and rational proposal for Tubular Rail, which has been ignored by the Strickland Administration.
So I've done some back-of-the-envelope calculations -- it's hardly rocket science -- and I can now attest: If we don't want to go tubular for some unspoken reason, then at the planned average speed of 37 MPH, we could ditch the train and produce more jobs, with more green benefits, at lower cost, and faster transit times, by subsidizing a system of Amish horse buggies on Ohio highways.
I'm totally serious. Let's do the math.
According to UltimateHorseSite.com, which bills itself as "the ultimate site for everything horse" -- and who's to argue? -- an average horse in "canter/lope" mode travels at a speed of 10-17 MPH. Most horses can gallop at 30 MPH, but thoroughbreds can reach 40 MPH, with maximum speeds of 50 MPH over short distances.
It would seem then that a system of horse-drawn buggies could not compete with Strickland's Bullshit Train.
But that would be to underestimate the flaming incompetence and corruption of the current Columbus administration. You see, the Turtle Train would not nearly travel a direct route between the serviced cities. That would have required the construction of new track and the purchase of new rights-of-way, failing to line the pockets of private rail companies, i.e. campaign contributors.
So, the Ted Train idea would cobble together a route from three existing private rail lines over 150 years old, each of which twists and turns, making a one-way journey from Cincinnati to Columbus take about six hours. That's half a day to commute for work or catch a ball game, all to provide a windfall profit for companies like CSX.
By comparison, horse-drawn buggies could use direct, nearly straight-line paths on the roadways. And because each buggy would carry passengers headed toward a single destination, they wouldn't need to make constant stops, except for emergency shoe repair.
These elementary considerations lead to the clear conclusion that Amish-style buggies, which also rely on an existing industrial capacity in Ohio, would deliver passengers faster to destinations, and with more comfort, constancy and flexibility. A buggy system would provide far more full-time jobs, avoiding the bulge of construction employment that then leads to mass layoffs, as would occur with the Bullshit Train.
Since Strickland has already argued that old-style coal plants qualify for funding under "Advanced Energy" programs, there should be no problem counting horse buggies as "advanced technology" by Strickland rules. Especially since the buggies would provide substantial fuel for Ohio's anticipatyed "biofuels bonanza" -- the centerpiece of Strickland's energy policy.
And speaking of horse manure, my rough estimate is that a hundred thousand buggies operating 12 hours a day for a year would not produce nearly the amount of horse shit produced by the Ohio legislature and executive agencies over that same period of time. Yet the smaller quantity would be of much higher quality.
In conclusion, the Ohio Department of Transportation ought to go the way of the horse and buggy, if it wants to serve the citizenry of Ohio.
So what was Strickland thinking when he proposed the Bullshit Train? The governor made that clear last week. Confronted with criticism of the proposal from both Republicans and Democrats, Strickland actually said -- I swear I'm not making this up as I heard him on my car radio -- that the justification for the Slow Train is that Washington is willing to give $400 million for it. As if pawning off the stupidity onto the Democratic administration in DC somehow makes this sound better.
And this has been the perpetual problem with Ted Strickland. He treats the residents of his state as if we are imbeciles or rubes. Memo to Ted: Don't pull the wool over my eyes, and then expect me not to know you're peeing on my leg.
History will record one solid product of the Strickland Administration: Governor John Kasich.
Get off the ballot, Ted, so that a real Democrat can run. Not a saboteur.
NOTE ON TRAIN TIMES: In repeated comments, Mos1133 has challenged my estimate of train times between Columbus and the other cities. He cites an artcle at http://www.examiner.com/... which actually gives a pretty good critique of the Turtle Train proposal. That article, however, gives an estimate of 6 hours between Cincinnati and Cleveland, not between Columbus and those cities.
I believe that either the author or a source for that article made an error, which is easy to do given that the slow speeds anticipated are hard to fathom. Given the widely cited average speed of 37 MPH, I think the author simply divided that speed into the air distance between Cleveland and Cincinnati (216 miles) and came up with about 6 hours (5.8 to be exact).
But that's not how the train travels. The train will travel at 37 MPH over the existing track route that detours around many topographical features, and to the cities of Dayton and Springfield. Just taking the air distance of the segments Cincinnati-Dayton-Springfield-Columbus-Cleveland we get 235 miles, for a travel time of 6.35 hours. But the small published maps do not nearly display the twists and turns of the actual route, shown on detailed railroad maps, which is, all told, nearly twice the air-distance between Cincinnati and Columbus. Thus, I believe the estimate of 6 hours travel time, one-way, between Columbus and either end-point is closer to what the actual schedule will be, as planned.
It's hard to believe, but there it is. The unfathomableness pales in comparison to some other things that this Columbus administration has attempted.
NOTE ON TRANSIT OPTIONS: Many commenters seem caughtin the dilemma of how to get high-speed rail going in an affordable way, if we ditch the Turtle Train.
The problem with the Turtle Train is that it attempts to do three different things, and accomplishes none of them. It tries to be a stepping stone toward high-speed rail. It also tries to provide mass transit to many small cities along the route. It also tries to be an economic stimulus program that will help recovery from the current recession.
Any ultimate mass transit system will include two different components: a high-speed rail system that only travels between large city centers, AND a feeder system comprised of busses or light-rail in small cities and towns. The latter is necessary to feed riders to the former, and to eliminate the need for many stops on the high-speed line.
Ohio actually has a LOW degree of urbanization, which is to say that a large percentage of the population lives outside the major cities. The biggest transportation problem in Ohio is that bus service in rural and suburban areas has practically disappeared.
The real first step toward a working mass transit system is to provide restored bus service and/or light rail to small towns and rural areas. Only after that can an inter-city high-speed system work efficiently and profitably. People need to get to the train station.
And all of this takes time -- time for planning, review, public process, and building. It cannot be done to suit the exigencies of one election cycle or business cycle. If forced, it will backfire on those who seek a magic bullet for reelection. And that is what's happening in Ohio now.
This monstrosity needs to be killed. We need to take a deliberative approach to Ohio's transportation, and do it right. And I think Strickland's withdrawal from the gubernatorial race is a necessary step for all of that to happen.