Garl Boyd Latham is a career Railroader, with almost 40 years of professional experience in both freight and passenger operations.Garl is the owner of Latham Railway Services, a Texas-based planning and consulting firm. Recent work has included the design of intermodal freight terminals, the evaluation and testing of Maintenance-of-Way construction materials, and a comprehensive study of potential intercity passenger train routes throughout Texas and the southwestern United States.Among notable past projects were feasibility and engineering studies for the proposed Dallas, Southeastern and Gulf Railway, and the Texas Boxcar Company (TexBox), as well as the design and development of various model and toy trains.His background includes 10 years with the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) and 5 years at Dallas Area Rapid Transit, where he received the "Golden Star" - DART's highest-level employee award.Garl has served on the boards of many professional and advocacy organizations, such as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, the Southwest Railroad Historical Society and MobilityDallas. In the course of his career, he has made numerous radio, television and personal appearances throughout North America. Garl is currently Vice President of the Texas Association of Railroad Passengers.
A respected railroad historian, Garl has written many articles on Post-World War II-era passenger train services, while assisting countless others in their quest for accurate and entertaining information regarding railroading's colourful past. He is considered one of the foremost authorities on classic Santa Fe Railway passenger operations - especially their famed flagship train, the Super Chief.
To date, he has traveled over 350,000 miles by train.
A native of Dallas and a fifth-generation Texan, Garl currently resides near San Antonio (Bexar County) with his wife Michele and their daughters Gracie and Phoebe.
In the business world, one of the classic "oops" moments of recent memory has to be the fact that, during MF Global's death throes, the financial giant seemingly "lost" (misplaced?) 1.2 billion dollars.
Yes, that's $1,200,000,000.00.
According to the verb du jour, those assets simply "vaporized."
Most of us can't even imagine seeing such a stash of money in the form of good ol' American greenbacks. We simply have to accept its existence by faith.
Granted, federal regulators are digging through reams of physical and electronic records (and, presumably, coat pockets and brief cases). So far, they've reportedly recovered approximately 72% of the money which existed in U.S. customer's accounts at the time of MF Global's bankruptcy filing. Still, as one trader recently said, even though he tries "to be optimistic, ...as it drags on longer, you become leery."
Former Governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine, erstwhile C.E.O. of MF Global, is not surviving unscathed; however, I'm wondering if his failures will eventually be attributed to ignorance rather than misconduct.
Does it really matter? I mean, from a purely business perspective, should it?!
Often, I've lamented how most folks who hold the power over federal transportation issues seem to be either idiots or liars - or both. Amongst those three choices, if any one is answered in the affirmative, that should be enough to cost them their job.
Today, Congressional Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica formally unveiled an anticipated measure to double the size of many controlled access roadways, begin charging tolls for express (H.O.T.) lanes and allow for longer, larger and heavier commercial trucks to operate along those routes. His proposed legislation, entitled the "American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act," is a five-year, $260 billion transportation bill - one which he says will fund "road, bridge, and rail improvements."
I guess that officially makes it "multi-modal"...although I'm not quite sure where the "rail" part comes in.
Mica's office pointed out that "transportation and engineering experts" (gotta love those experts) are saying "the United States is woefully behind on infrastructure spending, especially on [highway] bridge repair." Therefore, he has developed a proposition which would increase the size of the vehicles causing the majority of road damage while reducing the percentage those operators pay to cover maintenance costs.
At the same time, he's naturally refusing to address (or even consider) an increase in gasoline taxes.
According to Mica, individual states, which rely on federal reimbursements to satiate their thirst, have been "clamoring for direction from Washington on how to plan and pay for big-ticket projects."
Read: "big-ticket road projects."
This action seems to dovetail quite nicely with last week's State of the Union address by Barack Obama. The administration suggested that a portion of money which has been used for military spending be reallocated toward infrastructure development. Regrettably (but, sadly, not surprisingly), Obama made no specific mention of passenger train services of any kind, much less true H.S.R., during that speech.
It's both interesting and encouraging that Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois issued a statement following the release of Mica's proposal. "Unfortunately, the House of Representatives is pursuing a transportation bill that will cut passenger rail programs. These policies will make it harder for our nation to achieve a truly multimodal transportation network and I urge you to reject all House attempts to cut passenger, freight and multimodal programs."
So...is our national "infrastructure" still little more than concrete and asphalt?
Seemingly so. The future is still on hold; nothing has changed.
You know, the general public would like to trust its "leaders." They'd love to believe elected officials have the "common man's" best interests in mind.
When they observe these same "leaders" - time and time again - refusing to alter their approach regarding transportation issues, most citizens will think it's because those in power have considered the various alternatives and are still confident they've made the best overall choice.
And why wouldn't people make that conclusion? What reasonable options to the status quo might there be? How else would our society function?
All they've ever seen is America as an autocentric nation. What could be done differently?
All they're told is that our country's "infrastructure" needs can be adequately supported without raising taxes on gasoline. Why shouldn't they believe that?
All they witness is more sprawl and more pavement and more traffic. Why wouldn't they consider this normal?
And, all the while, they're indoctrinated from an early age with the claptrap concerning our "love affair" with the automobile and how "trains won't work here." What are they to think?!
After all, the people saying all these things wear impressive titles and are addressed as "honourable."
In their corner, we see all the "experts" who have long strings of initials after their names.
These are our wondrous "leaders." The ones who make the big bucks. Acting as if they're idiots or liars - or both.
Doing the same thing over and over and over again.
But, hey...this time, it'll work!
And that, my friends, is the definition of insanity.
I'll keep my comment on Garl's blog brief. Rep. Mica is a fraud. He has been promising this bill for more than a year. He has stated that his bill would have the level of spending that the program that expired more than two years ago. He has decreed no new taxes. Mica must believe in alchemy, the "science" of turning dross into gold. But relax. Considering the inability of Republicans to deal with Democrats on a collegial basis, we can count on yet another continuing resolution extending the life of the former program yet again. This time, the CR will extend until after the election, as though we might have intelligent discussion of transportation from either President Obama or whoever is the Republican nominee. Transportation is non-partisan in the context that neither party has a transportation platform on which to stand. Presidents of both parties have named people as Secretary of Transportation who arguably don't know a bus from an airplane -- but they can tap into money for the next campaign. So, we can count on endless rhetoric and no action. Ain't democracy grand?
Autocentrism is a contributing factor when it comes to 'Obesity'.
According to the American Medical Association, national obesity rates roughly parallel the rise in private vehicle registrations since 1946. The 'vaporization' of passenger railways followed the parallel in the negatory direction.
Drive-Thru-Eating = Exponential-Blubberific-Obesity!
To create an 'Auto-Centric' Transportation Nation. back in the late 40's & 50's the Sloab Foundation sponsored Manchurian Candidate/Stasi styled 'Rail-O-Botomies'.
It was a form of mild electroshock therapy performed on a mass scale at the big screen movie theatres of the day.
Subjects watched automobile TV ADDS non-stop for 4-hour intervals during a 'brain-sizzlin' 'eye-poppin' 12 hour session. Free snacks and opiated beverages were supplied.
After the 'Rail-O-Botomies' were completed, the treated subjects stopped riding streetcars or trains and promptly signed on the doted line for a new set of wheels...
Quickly. Run and see your doctor. You are in real trouble.