Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Buffett bets on Burlington; WES can't Silence Horns

Normally we're all about bikes here, but two pieces of rail news this morning are worth extra attention. Because, of course, with better rail, we don't need to make as many car or truck trips.

The big news is Warren Buffett's intention to purchase of Burlington Northern. When the shrewdest investor in America bets on rail rather than roads and road expansion, others are sure to listen.

In other news, Portland and Western, which operates the Westside Express Service, is resisting Trimet's request for quieter horns. According to the Oregonian
"We believe public safety is our No. 1 challenge," said Ron Russ, general manager for the railroad company, which operates WES for TriMet. "We're putting public safety at risk here by allowing the differential."
Not that safety is unimportant, but one would think that things like moving goods and maintaining schedules would be more central to the core mission of the railroad.

Here in Salem the bugaboo of overcautious rail safety concerns creates disruption in the downtown core along 12th street, where residents would like less horn, and made the Boise Redevelopment Project choose to close State street at the Carousel.

Perhaps Warren Buffett and the minds at Berkshire Hathaway will examine "rail safety" and offer improved risk analysis and create some novel solutions. We are hardly alone here, and if we are not to let rail lines slice and dice our communities, we will need to figure out better ways to create connections across railroads as in the next 50 years they will again be used more and more.

Addendum: Streetsblog has an interesting note in which the writer mentions the possibility that Buffett's move is more about moving coal and coal-burning electric plants, than about shifting transportation infrastructure. Even if it is, the investment will still surely bring more attention and other investment to rail.

1 comment:

Pam said...

Warren bought his train set, and you make a good point. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, happens.