Friday, June 26, 2009

'We thought it would disrupt people's commute too much."

This monday evening, shortly before 5:30, A Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Train crashed into a second train, parked at the station. Nine passengers were killed and many more injured. What caused the crash is still under investigation, but some facts seem clear. The computerized system that was supposed to control the train failed. The driver attempted to stop the train manually using the emergency braking system. That, too, failed. The cars on the train causing the crash were the oldest in the system. In 2006, the National Transportation Safety Board had recommended that they be removed from service. The Board has the authority to recommend, but no enforcement authority. According to news stories, the head of the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority declined to follow the recommendation. There were no funds available to replace the aging cars, he is reported to have said and removing them from service without replacement would be ‘too disruptive.‘ Unplanned disruption has now occurred, of course. For those who have lost their lives their families the ‘disruption’ has been catastrophic.

The crash occurred at a time when, just a few miles from the crash site, legislation to limit global warming and legislation to reform the America’s dysfunctional health care system are being debated in the halls of Congress. The proposals being offered have their flaws, no doubt, but the objections of opponents sound much like those with which the head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority responded to the NTSB in 2006. Fighting global warming will be ‘too disruptive’ of the economy. Addressing societal and economic problems created by more that 40 million uninsured Americans; by the most costly least effective health care system in the industrialized world disrupt our system of private health care. Not too long ago, the same voices were speaking out against and effectively lobbying against more rigorous regulatory oversight of America’s financial system. No doubt those arguments, too, attempted to stoke fears of ‘disruption.’

‘Crashes’ that are a consequence of global warming and a dysfunctional political culture in Washington lie ahead, and not too far in our future. They will be disruptive.

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Blogger Joshua_Kaplan said...

That's an incredible and timely analogy...

4:10 PM  

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