First: It's impossible to have a life without a car here when the weather gets bad for biking (I'm outside of Seattle so that's a pretty good % of the year). People without a car are basically prisoners in this town with no culture, where the last bus from town leaves at 6:45. I can't go to work on days I can't bike because I usually work crazy long hours, til 10 or 11pm so I have to work from home if the weather's going to be prohibitive (I didn't bring my waterproof gear with me).
Second: My mind was blown at the mental space driving in a car for a long period of time put me in. Weird stuff like traffic lights gave me this feeling of helplessness. It's a blueprint for a system of arbitrary, total control. The fact that no decisions are really based on the situation at hand but on these lights that mindlessly blink from green to red to green to red and you never interact with anyone or anything except through this sheets of glass. Call me crazy but I really think one of the big influences that's creating the massive societal problems we have in the USA can be traced to the fact that between work, home, school, and whatever destinations we get to we interact with one another in this alienated and antagonistic way.
 I know this rant is a little off topic, but it just highlights to me the need for a coherent public transportation network. It'd be interesting to look at this draconian regulation in relation to what was done to the rail network in the USA in the middle of the 20th century. GM and a bunch of other auto-related corporations formed a coalition, bought up and then dismantled lots of inner-city streetcar networks in order to replace them with buses that they would sell to the cities: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_streetcar_scanda... [/edit]
As opposed to within work, home, or school? Most of our public and private institutions seem to train people to be in abusive relationships.
These don't have to work on an abuse basis, that's a cultural deficiency rather than a built-in defect. With automobile transportation, the distance and antagonism are pretty much built-in.
Only if you expect them to be. A lot of people enjoy driving.
"Distance and antagonism" isn't about driving, it's about the relation to other drivers.
2. When one coalition of governments and bureaucracies don't work to one's advantage or agenda, create a new one.
3. If threatened w/ abolition, bureaucracy's main defense is counting d no. of bureaucrats who'll lose job, social tension.
4. Before the main mandate is accomplished, create new functions, prgrams and "needs" to perpetuate itself forever.
5. Create one admin or regulations order, monitor how ineffective it is, create a revised regulations order, monitor...
Certainly we can all see the results of this sort of behavior, which is a real thing.
You can't extract, from that observation, the general principle you propose, though. The boards, bureaus, and commissions that have allowed themselves to fade away are gone, of course. The ones that act to perpetuate themselves persist. When you observe the behavior of the organizations around you, you're not looking at a fair sample of the organizations that have existed.
And exactly the same is true of private clubs, charities, corporations and companies of every sort. This isn't a characteristic of governmental organizations, it's a property of organizations, period.
1) Both industries are intimately tied to the government in a variety of ways and so aren't particular good examples of 'private organizations'.
2) The notion that these entire sectors have no value is preposterous.
Debating this sort of thing in the aggregate ('banking sector', 'defense sector') just doesn't make sense. Lots of banks fail and go out of business even outside the fiscal mess of the last few years. Same with defense contractors.
Still waiting for an example of a private firm that provides no value and consumes funds indefinitely.
Palotta, Komen, Grassroots, and other professional charity/political fundraisers that sell hope and lies to donors and spend the proceeds on administration.
I guess my larger point is that 'value' is in the eye of the beholder. Someone is giving money to the organizations you listed and must have determined that there was value in that from their perspective.
This goes to the heart of the idea of liberty and freedom of action. Individuals are going to value different things in different amounts and should have the freedom to act upon their own judgement. Someone else may not come to the same conclusion but everyone's circumstances are different and so there isn't going to be any universal agreement on 'value', nor need there be.
To go back to the original point, a private organization can not force individuals to fund their endeavors, while the government can (raise taxes, establish regulations and fees with fines or imprisonment for violation, etc).
Because the government has the unique authority to force compliance we should be extremely circumspect about attempts to expand its scope and power to avoid creating a self-sustaining bureaucracy. For example, the notion that government agencies can't be reduced or eliminated because that would eliminate 'jobs' is a terrible reason to avoid the reduction or elimination. It is an acknowledgment that the government agency doesn't exist for any public purpose other than to cut paychecks. By that rationale we should simply tell the workers to stay at home and at least eliminate the props that support the charade (buildings, electric bills, maintenance expenses, and so on).
It's a beautiful theory.
The most obvious counter-example would be patent/copyright/trademark trolls.
Another might be financial services companies who sell worthless derivatives as AA grade. Or the analysts who provide those grades. Or the brokers who make the worthless loans the derivatives are based on.
And does it need pointing out that without the government's intervention, banks that give out irresponsible loans would simply go out of business?
Whether they're effective or not is another debate? The truth or falsity of your preceding "fact" is unimportant?
IP trolling is the patenting of obvious stuff (or buying out the rights to dumb patents) for the purpose of harassing other parties with legal threats. Whether IP law really does encourage innovation in general or not, that activity clearly does not encourage innovation, and it doesn't "produce value." It's called rent-seeking for a reason. They don't want to get paid for producing value, they want to own things. It's a return to the principles of feudalism.
Focusing on the banks alone is missing the forest for the trees. The whole mess involved a stack of businesses from mortgage brokers to banks to investment firms to financial services firms. And there was fraud, dereliction of duty, and malfeasance at every level.
Most of those businesses haven't had any "government interference," and are doing well enough, considering how badly home sales have stalled. Some have absolutely made out like bandits.
Moving the goalposts.
There are tons of various signalling systems, there are multiple electrification systems (even in a single country), there are different norms everywhere, various load gauges, available railway clearances… it's a HUGE mess. And it's expensive.
Some progress is being made, but of course, it doesn't get so easily through. ETCS (European Train Control System) is being developed and very slowly deployed, but only very slowly, it's expensive to equip a locomotive with it (more so than to put a multiple national signalling systems there) and you can use it on only very few lines. And you will never fix everything. Like, you are not going to rebuild every railway line in the UK to the continental clearance. Won't happen.
So, I don't think there is a problem in having a federal reguatory agency. The problem is that it's dysfunctional and nobody really cares. But not having anything like that is bad as well.
Much funnier example of a country with multiple railway gauges is Spain. There are three widely used gauges…
We shouldn’t be surprised that gov’t agencies are similar. The difference is that its funding is decoupled from its benefit to constituents.
It's normal human behavior, and has nothing to do with the "evils" of bureaucracy.
The problem as far government agencies are concerned is the informal corruption that allows for ever increasing amounts of money to flow into those agencies. This is very hard to fight, since it is almost impossible for even the most dedicated and upstanding elected representative to judge if the funds assigned are justified. Surely there is a need for something like the FRA, and surely there should be rules governing the safety of trains?
The funding isn't decoupled, but it isn't coupled to something as simple and transparent as a free market. There needs to be active democratic oversight, which is way, way harder.
Clearly the determining factor isn't regulation, it's subsidy. Countries that pay for fancy rail systems out of public funds ... have them.
This article is right to look at the costs of not updating regulation to meet reality.
It's just as much noise as reddit-style joke threads. Those don't seem to be tolerated here, and neither should comments like this.
1. "...the Long Island Commuter Railroad (LIRR) in New York City, which has no freight traffic" - Incorrect. The LIRR also is host to the New York & Atlantic railway, a freight line which does indeed operate on LIRR lines daily. Average train gross weight is about 1,200 tons for each freight on that line, not 100 tons.
2. "FRA staffers point out that it is unfair to compare US buffering standards with those in Europe because passenger rail in the US has to contend with more (and heavier) freight traffic." - They are quite right to do so. The US plays host to the highest density of freight rail traffic in the world with most trains exceeding 5,000 tons (some closer to 15,000).
3. "In both Europe and Japan, a competitive business exists in the DMU marketplace. But that market is off limits to US transit agencies because the FRA has effectively created a trade embargo." - Incorrect. In San Diego, the Sprinter lines use Siemens Desiro DMU's, a light design totally unadapted for the US Rail network as far as weight goes. The line also plays host to freight trains at night. How they got around the weight requirement, I do not know. Furthermore, the San Diego Trolley has the line from downtown to El Cajon by way of Lemon Grove. That line also plays host to freight at night - a streetcar line! The market is indeed open, but the trick agencies use to get around the requirement is a bigger question.
4. "The FRA proposed rule would only allow Quiet Zones exemptions at crossings that had been improved with "four-quadrant" gates and curb medians." - for good reason! Many fatalities happen at grade crossings and horns are one of the only really efficient ways to keep people off the tracks. Most other nations have few crossings, preferring grade-separated rights-of-way. However, in the US, drivers are often grossly idiotic and don't pay attention. Not how many grade crossing accidents you see on YouTube...
That said, it is indeed a major issue that the FRA rules apply to any rail line connected to the freight network that spans the nation. It would be far better if the regulations made clear exceptions for trains on passenger-only lines, hours of operation, etc.
For example, let's look at CalTrain. The main line up the peninsula only sees freight traffic at night. By setting operational rules that restrict speeds near freight trains, etc, this would allow much better equipment for CalTrain while continuing to let freight run at specific times.
The FRA very much needs to get with the program and allow better conditional standards.
The problem is that the waivers are arbitrary and one-offs. There's no standard for light passenger rail in the US, there's just a bunch of hyper-specific waivers for each case and operators must re-apply if their rolling stock changes. So if caltrain wanted to switch from UIC-compliant Siemens Desiro trains to a UIC-compliant hitachi train, they'd have to apply for another waiver.
To top it all off, the FRA's own studies showed that their "buff strength" standards are more dangerous than the more modern energy-absorbing crash structures mandated on European and Japanese lines.
The FRA really does need to be reformed.
Which country are you in?
And of course, there are more frequent accidents on the lines that are equipped with only basic signalling. This year, a DMU hit shunting freight and one elderly woman died. But not because the DMU was badly damaged (I even think it's already back in the service), but because she wasn't sitting (the train barely left the station). I don't think that being in a heavier unit would help her. (Now, the line is being equipped with something that looks like ERTMS Regional, but... it's not. Another national standard...)
And yes, there are quite frequent problems with signalling failures crippling whole lines for hours (not causing crashes, at least). Almost like we can't have a thunderstorm without some failure.
Thunderstorms crippling it sound like an issue with proper infrastructure maintenance/siting too.
(And we even got our own FRA-like nonsense: noise limits that demand to build a kilometre long, three meters high noise barriers for a single farm nearby the line in the forest…)
In doing some more research, Utah's FrontRunner has a completely disconnected network that allows them to get around the weight requirement. Apparently they went with standard US commuter equipment (MPI locomotives and Bombardier coaches) because of grade crossings and collision concerns. No sense in having a super-light train at high speed with grade crossing that carry many trucks.
/takes off conspiracy hat
Other main players are the freight railroads and the railroad-workers' unions, neither of which cares too much about passenger rail (freight is much bigger business, on both the corporations' and the unions' side).
"All is fair in LUV and war," I guess
(Honestly, I feel like this is one of those "cannot be avoided" situations.)
But I think it is a bit disingenuous not to mention critical factors like low-cost flight companies, huge facilities in the vicinity of airports and big net of inter-states buses. None of that is really true in France (there are low cost flight companies, but they go to airports which make it a non-starter for business).
Which I always find ironic because French sloppiness is as proverbial over here as German precision.
There are accidents pretty regularly (thought not frequently, it's about once every two years). Most accidents are not really mentioned because they're level-crossing (some truck barreled through the level crossing on low-speed regional tracks, got stuck and the train smashed into it at 100~150km/h). The result is usually that the truck or car gets annihilated and the train is due for repairs.
A more interesting incident type is the derailment (especially high-speed), and while that has happened several times the record of the TGV on these has been stellar: it was hinted at in the article, a TGV behaves very much like a solid object, it's a single coherent structure and the cars are very tightly bonded together (that's a major difference between TGV and ICE). As a result a TGV is extremely rigid, and in all derailments so far the derailment was partial (a bogie to a few cars) and the rigidity of the trainset is credited with keeping the train as a whole on the tracks even though some cars were not in contact.
FWIW, TGV has the (dubious) award of highest-speed derailment from 1993: a trainset hit an unsupported rail section (a sinkhole had opened under a track after days of heavy rains resulting in a hole 7 meters long by 4 wide and 1.5m high) at 294km/h (185mph). 4 cars and the rear power unit derailed (a TGV trainset is 2 power units and 8 to 10 cars, this was a "TGV Réseau" trainset so 2/8, meaning half the train was off the rails), the train remained upright and managed to stop (over 2.3km). One passenger injury and one passenger was treated for shock.
A design error led to a mechanical failure, which caused a derailment at the worst possible location...
This article keeps popping up on various geek sites over the years. In addition to the points kposehn brought up, I'll add the following: FRA isn't the reason why HSR sucks. The reason that HSR sucks is because we as a nation don't want to invest in the infrastructure to make a good HSR system. At a minimum that means exclusive ROW (grade-separated crossings) with relatively few stops and long straight sections where it can get up to speed.
As for the FTA buffering standards - it really doesn't matter. Yes, the Acela is heavier than the TGV. That extra weight isn't why Acela service sucks. The Acela is perfectly capable of maintaining 155+ mph speeds for extended periods (I witnessed this myself in Acela enduracing testing). The power cars are more than capable of handling the load - during the first few months of Acela operation, there was a problem with the network connection that linked the front and rear power cars. To get service running until the power could be sorted out, the trainsets were run with only one power car operating. Running with one power vs both power cars (and pulling the dead weight of the second power car) only increased DC to Boston run time by 5 minutes. As for cost, the price of an Acela trainset is within the range of most other popular HSR trainsets (TGV, ICE, Pendolino, etc) albiet at the higher end. The effect of the train weight on track wear is minimal as it's the unsprung mass of the train (essentially the wheels, axles, traction motors and brakes) that is proportional to wear, not the static train weight. And train weight has nothing to do with noise.
kposehn already commented on DMU but I'll add that the biggest impediment I saw to transit agencies adopting DMU's was that since no one else in the USA had them, transit agencies didn't know what to expect in terms of maintenance, operation, and environmental effects. In fact FRA and FTA were essentially begging transit agencies to try them, and it's only been recently that they've been operating in Vermont and other locations.
Finally, regarding FRA horn noise rules: first of all, the preemption of state horn rules originated with Congress who directed FRA to get involved with horn noise (Google "Swift Rail Development Act" for more information). But the reason those rules exist is because whenever there is a grade crossing fatality, inevitably the next of kin sue and all too ofter win in court. As a result, there is a tendency to do anything and everything in the name of "safety" on the part of RR operators, agencies and regulators. As long as this remains true, horns are going to be part of rail travel.
edit: btw we had this discussion at ArsTechnica back in 2008 (I'm Anechoic there as well): http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?p=2671067
I find this hard to accept. Just because there's a spring doesn't mean the weight isn't there, bearing down on the wheels, deforming the wheel and the track. Stand next to a train as it goes by, you can feel the ground move. All that bending/unbending of the track and bed contributes to fatigue damage, and fatigue damage goes up as the cube of the load.
As did I at first, but it's true. There are several papers that show the math behind this (including one I co-authored called "Performance of ballast mats on passenger railroads: Measurement vs. projections") - unfortunately they are all behind paywalls.
> Just because there's a spring doesn't mean the weight isn't there, bearing down on the wheels, deforming the wheel and the track.
At rest, sure. Once it's in motion, the static load is insignificant (by several orders of magnitude) compared to the dynamic forces, and the dynamic forces are driven by the unsprung mass (and other factors such as the primary suspension frequency).
>Stand next to a train as it goes by, you can feel the ground move.
You're referring to ground-borne vibration (one of my areas of expertise). Again, that is a function of the dynamic forces, not the static forces. The FTA Transit Noise & Vibration Impact Assessment guidance manual (disclosure: I used to work for the firm that wrote the manual and I have a contract with FTA to teach cources based on material in the manual) touches upon this a little bit when it mentions that heavy rail and light rail trains have similar vibration levels (p 7-8, section 7.3, note that "heavy" and "light" in this context refers to train schedule not vehicle weight, but generally speaking heavy rail vehicles tend to be heavier than light rail vehicles) but again, all the good stuff is behind paywalls.
>All that bending/unbending of the track and bed contributes to fatigue damage, and fatigue damage goes up as the cube of the load.
That's a highway stat. Trains are different than roadway vehicles in that there is only one spring separating the vehicle weight from the unsprung mass. In trains, there are two suspension systems, the primary suspension with isolates the wheel/axle from the truck and the secondary suspension that isolates the vehicle body from the truck (and the wheels). When you look at the driving force behind ground vibration, the body weight has little correlation with the forces going into the ground (okay, there is a weak correlation in that heavier trains tend to have heftier axle sets, but the differences here between, say, the Acela and the TGV are minor).
I am talking about the dynamic load. A moving train generates a standing wave that is a function of the train's weight and its speed. I don't see how adding a spring changes that. This standing wave bends the track and the bed, resulting in fatigue damage.
I know about the standing wave because in the early days of trains, there were problems because the standing wave propagated at speeds the locomotives were able to reach, and this resulted in mysterious destruction of the tracks and a derailment. (The solution was to stiffen the tracks so the wave propagated faster than the locomotive.)
Feeling the ground move down as the wheel trucks pass is dynamic, yes, but it is not vibration, as its "frequency" would be the rate at which the wheels passed by, and its amplitude would be proportional to the static weight.
Furthermore, there will be more localized bending as the wheels and track must deform so the contact area is enlarged to support the entire weight. (Assuming the same elasticity of the track steel.) This local deformation is going to produce cracking and wear of the surface of the rails.
No, it's really not. It's a function of the unsprung mass, the roughness of the wheel, the roughness of the rails and other factors (fastener type, faster spacing, etc). Train weight never enters in to the equation (literally), only the combined weights of the train components south of the primary suspension.
>Feeling the ground move down as the wheel trucks pass is dynamic, yes, but it is not vibration
??? That is exactly what ground-borne vibration is!
>its "frequency" would be the rate at which the wheels passed by,
Among other factors (wavelength of roughness, spacing of supports, etc), yes, and you can see that in train vibration spectra. You can also see the primary suspension resonance and other components. I'll refer you to the report "Vibration Characteristics of the Transrapid TR08 Maglev System" - (yes, I was a coauthor) were we discussed these issues in the section about the TR08 force density. http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/rrdev/fra0206.pdf section 3.3. It's not a perfect analog with steel-wheeled trains but a lot of the same principles apply in terms of the different factors that go into the input force.
You mentioned "the early days of trains" - what era are you talking about? Specifically are you talking about the days before trains had suspensions, or had very stiff suspensions (which was common as late as the 1950's-1970's in transit vehicles until it's effect on vibration was well known - this was a huge issue with BART)? In that case I could very will see that vibration was proportional to gross weight since a stiff suspension is basically a short circuit to ground. That generally isn't true any more, the only exception being some types of freight cars.
edit: a quick Google search provided a paper that supports my thesis: http://library.witpress.com/pages/PaperInfo.asp?PaperID=1957...
Imagine you have a 2x4 wood beam suspended across two blocks, with a 200-lb man standing in the middle of the beam - the beam will clearly sag in the middle. But if you place a 50 lb girl jumping up and down on the beam next to the man, the beam will sag significantly more. If you are looking at the effects of forces on that beam so see how it bends or breaks, it's the dynamic forces from the jumping girl that will control things, not from the heavier guy.
At this point I don't know how to explain things without jumping into two degree-of-freedom mechanical models.
It sounds to me like we need a law saying that if a driver drives on to the tracks when a crossing arm is down or the red lights are flashing, that's prima facie evidence that any resulting crash is the fault of the driver. Don't play chicken with a train.
But it doesn't matter. You then get into questions like "were the lights flashing?" "Were the gates down?" "Did the train operator blow his horn? Was it loud enough? Was it long enough?" "Where there sight-line issues between the car and the gates/lights/trains?"
In essence the question is usually "did the railroad do absolutely everything in it's power to prevent the train from hitting something that is trespassing on the tracks" and the mere existence of the grade crossing is evidence that the answer is "no" since the railroad could have spent a million dollars and grade-separated the crossing. And there is your liability.
That's not the case at crossings.
"were the lights flashing?" "Were the gates down?"
Whoever bears legal responsibility for the crossing should be able to show that the systems were in working order.
"Did the train operator blow his horn? Was it loud enough? Was it long enough?"
This shouldn't matter any more than it should matter if I sounded the horn in my car when someone else ran a red light.
"Where there sight-line issues between the car and the gates/lights/trains?"
If you drive faster than you can see and react to hazards, you are negligent and at fault for any resulting collision.
With these things in mind, I'm in favor of a law that automatically holds the driver responsible as long as the flashing lights or gates were working properly. Nobody else should be held responsible when you do stupid things with your car.
This sort of limiting has been done in other circumstances.
You will never solve this problem by changing the regulations, lawyers can always think up new things you should have done when they are paid to :)
Good point as well about unsprung weight - hadn't thought about that. As the Acela is that powerful (it is based on the TGV Atlantique I believe), what in your opinion is the worst issue that set has faced? I really think that if we could buy off the shelf designs (Shinkansen N700 for example) with minimal adaptation, that would solve a large number of problems. (I'm also more a proponent of HSR with EMU's instead of power cars).
I do agree about our nation being unwilling to invest, but I also would add that it is a matter of density. Average travel distance via any HSR line in the US will be much longer than any other nation on the planet, making it much less attractive. There are some corridors which would see benefit, but because of the sprawl that most non-northeast cities have, a train doesn't provide you a realistic way to get from point A to point B outside station-to-station. You still have to get from the platform to your final destination.
Well the crappy infrastructure (shared ROW, lots of stops, lots of crossings, 100-year old catanary south of NYC, etc) is by far the most detrimental issue to Acela performance.
With regard to the actual Acela vehicles itself: from what the insiders have told me, the worst issue the set has faced was, frankly, the selection of Bombardier/Alstom in the first place. I was told that when FRA auditioned the various HSR vehicles on the NEC (they actually paid to bring over a bunch of European trainsets to the NEC for testing back in the late 80's or early 90's), Siemens told them that their vehicle (ICE) could meet most of FRA/Amtrak's spec with a little work but not everything. Bombardier/Alstom said they could meet all of the performance requirements with no problems. After getting the vehicle contract, Bombardier/Alstom started to agitate about not being able to meet large parts of the specs which led to compromises in the design and delays. By the time FRA/Amtrak realized they made the wrong choice, they were in too deep.
Again from what I've heard, if Amtrak/FRA had it to do over again, they would have gone with Siemens. It will be interesting to see what happens when it's time to replace the Acela.
That Australia has managed to not only grow but thrive despite this is a testament to the people there. One great example is the Pilbara ore mining operations (BHP, Fortesque, Rio Tinto), that run some of the heaviest trains in the world. Even more interesting is that while the national Australian network has a tighter loading gauge and stricter load requirements, the Pilbara railways have the heaviest axle-load in the world at 230+ tons per car. For reference, in the US most trains are limited to 120 tons and in China 80 tons.
Locomotives have a refrigerator, hot plate, coffee maker and stereo with CD player and iPod hookup for the crew member. There's one on YouTube who has done cab rides all the way from the mine to Port Hedland. I think he is rather bored :D
I think that http://data.gov and http://recovery.gov are a step in the right direction. Experts should analyze the data and blog about it, and the government agencies should be keeping an ear out to what experts are saying. Also the interested public can do the same.
The word "minimum" that I use is not accidental. The problem is that government rarely solves just the minimum set of problems. Once an agency exists, among the new employees there are always those who want to make their mark, and increase the amount of regulation. This is how government grows and grows. It's free for them to regulate but not free for those who have to implement it, and thus they don't feel the right incentives at the time. We need to figure out a way to incentivize government to stick as much as possible to only enforcing minimum regulations. Maybe it can be done by requiring them to get the citizenry to clamor for something before they implement it.
That seems like the purpose of a welfare state.
If you want a government that sticks to the 'minimums' you're asking for, I'd redefine that purpose statement to something like:
The purpose of government is to ensure the natural rights of its citizens, and nothing else.
Instead, I treat everything as "expectations". Thousands of years ago, most people expected to hunt or farm if they wanted to eat. 500 years ago you didn't expect almost every child to survive past childbirth and the early years. Now we expect all these things and more. Clean water. Food that doesn't contain killer bacteria. Buildings that don't have obvious structural problems.
Obviously we can't ensure things 100% but we as a society can work to set up organizations to regulate and oversee these things. A free market allows anyone to start cutting corners at any time, such as a new and inexperienced company that wants to make things cheaper. For example, a real estate developer can build a building that's not up to code. In theory, we could all walk around with our own subscriptions to private "auditing agencies" like Zagat for buildings, that would inspect buildings as they are built or whatever. But most of us outsource this kind of stuff to a centralized government. Which we vote for. Also, government could tax us to do unprofitable stuff such as the US Postal Service.
However, the problem is that our government lacks incentives to stop growing, and we need to introduce them.
But as you say, "rights" and "expectations" are slippery slopes.
> if "intellectual property" was a natural right
I don't believe this is a natural right. If anything, nature shows us that there is no such thing as intellectual property. Once an idea is "out in the open" it's out there for good.
> Also, government could tax us to do unprofitable stuff such as the US Postal Service.
But this is a terrible thing, is it not?
I'd guess at least 85% of mail is junk mail. This is only possible because mail is so cheap and the post office runs at an annual loss in the billions.
Eliminate the post office. Let UPS/FedEx/whoever compete to deliver your mail. Pay $3 to mail a letter. Save trees. Eliminate junk mail.
> However, the problem is that our government lacks incentives to stop growing, and we need to introduce them.
I'd start with not allowing the government to print its own money. As long as it can, it will never have an incentive to stop growing.
I am just observing what governments do and what their purpose is supposed to be. Once we can agree on what their purpose is, then we can decide on what they should be doing, and perhaps how to make them more efficient at doing it.
People today expect more from their governments than 2000 years ago. If we were talking about "rights", they would be the same throughout time. But it's more mundane than that.
Anyway, "ensuring that the minimum expectations of the citizens are met" is not just for welfare states. It is for ALL governments that serve their people.
However I believe implementation of this is on hold, because they want to coordinate any upgrades with the HSR project.
They've also discussed completely cutting it off from the national rail network at times. Unlike in many places, Caltrain actually owns the rails (rather than a freight network owning them), so that would be possible. There's strong lobbying against it from various landowners along the line, though; even though the line doesn't get a lot of freight usage, the possibility to receive at least an occasional freight shipment increases the value of the land.
Caltrain has so far, however, refused to go down that route. Apparently the one freight train per day is too much to lose.
I had heard something suggesting seat belts are not cost effective on trains and buses for the amount of lives saved. Perhaps that's what you're thinking of. Still, I would rather have them even if it cost an additional tenth of a cent per mile.