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How Federal “Safety” Regulations Undermine Amtrak in California

Network blog Systemic Failure ought to write a book about how federal regulations undermine train travel in the U.S. It would be a long one.

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Today he cites the case of how TSA regulations inhibit California's large Hispanic population from riding Amtrak. Again, the federal transportation safety apparatus gets in the way of actual safety:

Hispanics make up half the population of California’s Central Valley. Los Angeles has 5 million Hispanics (9% of the nation’s population). And 23% of the Bay Area population is Hispanic. So why does Amtrak California struggle to attract Hispanic riders? Hispanic ridership on the San Joaquin service is only 20%.

Larry Miller, who served on the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee, says there are several reasons. First of all, Amtrak has not done much marketing of its services in Spanish. He notes a recent “Companions Ride Free” promotion that had coupons printed only in English.

But the really big problem is the TSA, and the legally-required ID checks.

This is yet another way that TSA security policies actually make us less safe. By discouraging train travel, it results in more car trips — and more road accidents. Larry Miller hopes that California’s new non-resident driver’s license law will help attract more Hispanic riders. That seems implausible. Travelers afraid of getting deported aren’t going to submit travel plans to a government-run train service. Not when they hear news stories of VIPR and ICE patrols on buses and trains.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Vibrant Bay Area explores "city repair" -- giving neighborhood residents more control over public rights of way. People for Bikes says that California cities and towns could fall far behind other urban areas in America when it comes to building protected bike lanes, because the state DOT, Caltrans, refuses to bring its engineering guidance into the 21st century. And the Bike League explains how bike advocates can begin to win over their local business communities.

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