The Student News Organization for Rutherford B. Hayes High School

The Talisman

The Student News Organization for Rutherford B. Hayes High School

The Talisman

The Student News Organization for Rutherford B. Hayes High School

The Talisman

Polls
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
The new FAFSAs rollout issues caused more than headaches for both students and institutions.
Opinion: How the new FAFSA fumbled
Grace Metz, Editor-In-Chief • February 23, 2024
Read Here
Talisman Talks 23-24 #10 - Claire Artemus & Presley Christopher
Talisman Talks 23-24 #10 - Claire Artemus & Presley Christopher
Grant LaMar and Brady KaasaFebruary 21, 2024
Read Here
Senior Carter Sims manages the floor.
Boys' basketball creates historical senior night
Alec Ostapuck, Director of Visual Content • February 21, 2024
Read Here
Vanderwarker dunks the ball on a fast break.
Boys' basketball dominates in win at home
Zach Taylor, Photographer • February 16, 2024
Read Here
Third party candidates often receive less attention than other major players. Historically, only a few third party candidates have gained major attention.
Opinion: Roosevelt, Perot and Kennedy: Third Wheeling America
Brody Counts, Staff Writer • February 15, 2024
Read Here

Opinion: Columbus’s Derailment and How to Fix It

Rails+streak+towards+a+city+far+in+the+distance.+Columbus+is+now+the+largest+city+without+a+rail+service+in+the+US.
Brody Counts
Rails streak towards a city far in the distance. Columbus is now the largest city without a rail service in the US.

Opinion: Columbus’s derailment and how it can get back on track

From 1901 to 1933, travel between Columbus and Delaware couldn’t have been simpler. Travelers looking to traverse the 31 miles between the two towns would simply head down to the local interurban station, and then catch a tram operated by the Columbus, Marion and Delaware Railway (CD&M).
This interurban wasn’t unusual for the era. Railways accounted for the majority of all passenger services, and the sprawling nervous system of over 250,000 miles of track made sure that commuters and vacationers could get where they needed to both comfortably and swiftly. What had been a 16-hour journey by coach and buggy became a mere skip and a jump away.
After its second bankruptcy in 1933, the CD&M discontinued any further rail services and merged with the Reserve Power Company. Though its bankruptcy echoed a greater decline to come, being only 80 miles of the 16,000 miles lost during the Great Depression. Even during the postwar economic boom of the 1950’s, U.S. rail travel declined massively, with passenger services dropping 84%.
While this could be chalked up to increasing regulation, or general economic difficulties of the Depression Era, the beginning of the end can be chalked up to one city: Detroit, home of the Big Three automakers; Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.
Gasoline, Generals, and Goodbyes The city was the birthplace of American car culture, namely through the introduction of affordable automobiles such as the Ford Model T or the slightly more luxurious Cadillac Thirty. During the economic boom of the 1950’s, income for families had increased substantially. It had gotten to the point where it was possible to have more than one car in the garage and by 1960, 22% of the population had two vehicles per household.
The automakers alone weren’t at fault for this phenomenon, but they’d certainly capitalize on the appreciation of a U.S. General’s interest in large roadway projects.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, later the 34th President, came to love the concept of wide, far reaching highways. While serving as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he appreciated the ease the autobahn brought while moving troops deeper into Nazi Germany.
Decades earlier in 1919, he had traveled with an experimental U.S. Convoy across the country, a trip which took them 62 days. Driving across the Lincoln Highway, funded by automakers and automotive enthusiasts, was certainly not an easy experience for the young soldier. This earlier encounter with poor roadways, combined with the impression the autobahn had on him, pushed him to pass the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. With an approved fiscal budget of $25 billion from 1957 until 1969, the act propelled the construction of some 41,000 miles of roadway forward. Americans now had wheels, and in place of tracks laid thousands of miles of concrete.
American car ownership would only continue to climb in the years following the act, with the development of car culture and income continuing to grow, people continued buying automobiles. The trend was only further fueled by General Motors’ (GM) invention of planned obsolescence. GM’s ‘genius’ introduced the market for used, cheaper cars, again fueling accessibility. With this continuous rise of private transit came the death of passenger rail.
Rail service for purely passengers was simply unprofitable. The 1970’s introduced an era of rail company bankruptcies and when Penn Central went belly up, the panic started. Companies like Union Pacific, the Baltimore and Ohio, now CSX Transportation, began merging with underperforming companies. They created the modern big names in rail transportation: BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern.
These companies realized the exact same thing the companies they’d absorbed had, the majority of passengers weren’t profitable. Short interurban hops didn’t bring in large flow and, for companies set on profit, a foot in the red was a waste. In actions similar to that of Lord Beeching during the nationalization of British Rail, the US Government’s passing of the Staggers Railway Act allowed these companies to abandon track on a massive scale. The decline was substantial and, by the 1990’s, there were only about 200 planned passenger trips per day in the US, small in comparison to the 2,000 a day of the 1950’s.
Mass Transit and Metropolitans
While national rail decayed away and small interurban services turned into dust in the sands of history, the New York City Subway kept kicking. Under the management of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, overall ridership only has continued to swell. In 2022 alone, the total annual ridership peaked at over one billion people moved, just shy of 120 times more than the population of the entire city.
Similarly, the Chicago Transit Authority has only seen increased ridership since the end of the pandemic, with an additional 3.2 million riders on the subway system alone, raising the yearly annual to 9.9 million.
The story repeats with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, where in October 2023 alone 56% of all public transit ridership was by rail. Some 460,000 people moved via light overground and underground metro in a single month.
The difference between the failure of cross-country and greater intercity rail service compared to the continued success of metropolitans is based upon one thing: Willingness to lose money.
Most railways began abandoning their passenger services the moment they became less then profit positive, but the point of passenger rail isn’t to make money. In 2015 alone, the MTA was in over 30 billion dollars of debt, but yet as of 2023 it’s throwing 51.5 billion dollars into its Capital Program.
These metros move millions in a single day, millions of people who are vacationing, going to jobs, or working for the metro itself. It’s a financial loss designed to provide long term benefits. If a worker can avoid traffic, get to their job, work and then catch the train home, that’s more time spent working and more money ultimately entering the economy. The American Public Transportation Association values the time commuters save at 800 million dollars annually.
This reads like a drop in the bucket to the debt these lines run at, but foreign services display a similar trend. There’s perhaps no better example of this than from the rainy isles of Britannia. After the end of nationalization in Britain, government subsidies substantially lowered, but they weren’t eradicated.
From 2019-2020 alone, the UK Parliament provided 7.2 billion pounds, or 9.1 billion dollars, in government subsidy to passenger services. Through the Covid pandemic, this spiked to nearly 17 billion pounds (21 billion USD), as emergency subsidies were approved to avoid loss of service. This transferred the cost and financial burden to the government rather than the franchise operators.
Seldom does the British rail network actually run at a profit. From 2015 to 2020, the network only ran at a profit without government funding during the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and just barely at that. But that’s an accepted effect of continuous investment in public transportation.
Columbus is fully capable of having a metro service that isn’t a glorified play on their nickname. Examples both home and abroad show this.
Columbus needs to decide if they want to shunt this into a dark siding, or finally bite the bullet and get back on track.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Talisman
$1100
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Rutherford B. Hayes High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Brody Counts, Staff Writer
Brody Counts (he/him) is a junior at Hayes. This is his first year on staff. Brody can most commonly be found buying obscure research papers or with his head buried in a new book. Outside of school, he enjoys spending time with his pet dogs and dining downtown.
Donate to The Talisman
$1100
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Talisman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *