We all need to be more involved in how our communities are run. Part of the reason for ORBTS is to encourage our citizens to dig down into the how our communities are governed. And learn how to ask for what we want.
One question in this survey was about policy. I had a lot to say as you well know. Here is it, “Many of our poorest communities have railroad tracks running through them. Let’s develop high speed passenger rail. In Germany it’s called InterCity Express or ICE trains. If we build that service throughout Arkansas we will revitalize communities and attract business. This will put financial capital to work in our communities and bring prosperity to many Arkansas small towns that are dying.”
To be specific I say we ask our State Government to create ArkRail Passenger Service. ArkRail will operate or hire a private company to operate ArkRail InterCity Express trains. Then we can have ArkRail ICE become part of the Amtrak network for greater value and efficency. If ORBTS’ emphasis is on NWA mass transit why advocate for ICE trains? Three reasons.
One, if there is a statewide passenger rail service it is easier to get state funds for local commuter rail. Indeed our Regional Transit Authority will also need to plan to interface with Amtrak, the national passenger rail service and the statewide ArkRail ICE service. Especially if these services are linked.
Two, economies of scale. We will spend less per unit if we order a greater number of train sets. Keep in mind we are not buying all the trains at once. We will receive them over several years. So our lower payments will be spread out too.
And three ArkRail ICE sounds cool. But I favor another name for the service; Arkansas Traveler Passenger Rail or TravelerRail. I like TravelerRail better myself. If the State creates ArkRail the passenger service can called TravelerRail. I can’t wait to download a TravelerRail Pass app onto my cell phone.
Some will oppose this idea because of the cost. However, we are putting that money to work in our communities. So many of these are very impoverished small towns. These towns have around 1,000 or 1200 population with a median income of under $10,000.00. That means the people are living in poverty. Building Traveler Rail ICE will create years of work at great wages. We will need to build new stations, new railroads, or rebuild railroads, install sliding gates at intersections with roads or highways among other necessary projects. Welders can make $60K a year. Electricians can make $80K, and construction managers make over $100K a year. Arkansas people working at those wages, spending their money in their town will support or create nine more jobs for every construction job. So if we create 10,000 construction jobs, we enjoy supporting or creating 90,000 more. That leads to real economic growth. And the permanent rail jobs; engineers, conductors, mechanics; that are created will have the same impact.
For too many people and businesses Arkansas may not be the kind of place they want to go. But with ICE we can be a major cross roads instead of a fly over state. That we offer fast dependable and low cost means to get where you are going will attract business investment that will lead to more growth. We suffer not only from economic poverty, but a poverty of ideas. With the new Biden Administration’s attention to rail development we have a chance to build something that will make our children proud. All aboard for TravelerRail ICE!