Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Friday, March 09, 2007

Come Blow Your Horn (not)...

Bismarck, North Dakota, where I currently live, is what you might call a railroad town. The Burlington Northern freight line cuts the city in half and diesel locomotives towing strings of loaded-down coal cars run through the town’s half dozen or so grade crossings several times a day, around the clock.

Now developers (along with some of the city fathers) here in my adopted home town want to enhance the Quality Of Living and bring more tenants and businesses into the downtown area by adopting a “Quiet Rail” plan, whereby “In place of the trains blowing their horns, several supplemental safety measures could be installed to warn pedestrians and vehicles of incoming trains…”

Bad, bad idea. It’s a safety thing; do you really want train engineers to stop blowing their horns near grade crossings? (They tried something similar in Madison, Wisconsin and the reaction of the suits at Conrail was to largely ignore the Quiet Rail ordinance, keep blowing their horns and jus pay the fines. As one Conrail exec said off the record, “No way do I want a fatal accident happening on my watch.”

Can you blame him?

Let the market work. If the developers want to building condos and office buildings near the tracks, chances are they may have to drop the rent a bit below the going rate to get potential tenants and businesses to move in. Nothing wrong with that; it’s how the market works. I’m sure there are folks out there who will gladly pay the lower rent and put up with the trains. Everything in life is a tradeoff, right?

Of course the developers don’t wanna do that – they’d rather have the local government step in and enact pointless, dangerous “Quiet Rail” legislation so they can charge top dollar to folks who wanna live and work there.

Frankly, I don’t see what the problem is living with train horns. If those folks along Third Avenue in New York could get used to the El…


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