The St. Louis Post-Dispatch hearkens back to the glorious days of one of their preferred future boondoggle’s past in this glowing look back to the days of commuter rail:
During World War II, its steam locomotives pulled seven coaches and 1,000 daily passengers. One-way fare cost a dime. Ridership fell to 600 by 1952, when cleaner diesel-electric locomotives took over. (They also made the train quieter. Old timers along the route used to set clocks to the rythmic racket of the local’s coal-burning steamers.)
The 34-mile, 85-minute morning run left Pacific at 6:05 a.m. and stopped 19 times at places like Jedburg and Barretts Station, in downtown Kirkwood, at the Webster Park and Tuxedo Park stations in Webster Groves and Tower Grove station on Vandeventer Avenue. Outbound trains did the same in reverse.
Dedicated commuters enjoyed the ride with endless card games. The Rattlers threw parties with the slightest provocation. Drinks all around, of course.
By 1961, with plans under way for Interstate 44, the one-way fares topping at $1.10 paid less than half of the $68,000 annual operating cost.
And then that blasted highway came along and gave people the freedom to travel to their homes when they wanted to, and without losing money! On rail lines built by private companies and in trains run by private companies.
You know what would return us to those swinging days? Government spending! Except then they would run empty trains until such time as the government runs up the cost of gasoline. Except that when the cost of energy goes up that high, there won’t be many commuters.
Gah, being an economic central planner is hard. Fortunately for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, being a cheerleader for central planning is still easy.
UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Ms. K.. Hey, if you’re in IT, check out my blog QA Hates You. If you’re a Missourian or a Tea Party kinda person, you might enjoy 24th State, a Missouri political blog to which I contribute.