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Jewish World Review August 30, 2002 / 22 Elul, 5762

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Consumer Reports

Bad trains, bad planes, and bad automobiles | When the snobs and recovering socialists who run the New Yorker turn their attention to cars, as they do this week, you'd better watch out.

They hate automobiles and the unwashed masses who adore them almost as much as they love trains and government mass-transit systems.

The New Yorker's big piece, about the horrible traffic congestion in and around New York City and the officials who try to untangle it, is not bad. It isn't even overtly anti-car.

"The Slow Lane" is irrelevant to non-New Yorkers. But at least it introduces the magazine's ideologically sheltered readers to "congestion pricing," a way to solve or mitigate traffic jams by charging motorists higher tolls during peak rush-hour times or on major commuter routes.

It'll sound scary and strange and new to many of the magazine's faithful subscribers. But Reason magazine has been pushing the idea for 20 years, it's old hat in Hong Kong, Singapore and California, and it's already being used in parts of the Big apple.

Another mode of transportation that has fallen out of favor with the elite is the airline industry, America's new form of mass transit.

If you read the August issue of Cigar Aficionado - which, don't choke, is really a decent magazine, even if you don't own a Maserati and smoke Montecristos - you'll see its editors whine about the good old days of air travel.

Cigar Aficionado editors are snobs who aren't kidding when they moan about wine on planes coming in screw-top bottles from wineries they've never heard of.

But it is true, as several of their solid articles about the troubles of the airline industry show, that the major airlines now treat humans more like cargo than customers - and still go bankrupt.

Cigar Aficionado's survey of the hells of air travel includes an article about how corporations and people with money like Tiger Woods increasingly are circumventing the industry.

Basically, they're buying timeshares in small jets the way people buy timeshares in beach condos. It's called "fractional aircraft ownership." It's not new. It's expensive. But it's more popular than ever, and Cigar Aficionado does an excellent job of explaining how it works.

And if we Gringos think we have transportation problems, look at poor Guatemala. It once had the largest and most important railroad network in Central America, but after the government nationalized it, trains stopped operating altogether in 1996.

That's when our local capitalist hero, Henry Posner III of Pittsburgh, came to the rescue. As explained in the August issue of Trains magazine, Posner and his small investment and managing company made a deal with Guatemala's government to take control of its 500-mile system and get it running again.

It hasn't been easy, thanks to killer bees, floods, hurricanes and squatters living two feet from the tracks. But Posner, an expert in privatizing formerly government-owned railroads in places such as Peru and Malawi, is doing his best.

Trains tells the story well. But unless you already know what an Alco MX620 is, or you like to study three-page foldout maps of the Texas & Pacific railroad's route, you probably should get your transportation stories from Cigar Aficionado.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

08/28/02: Baseball, broken, can be fixed: 15 minutes with George Will
08/16/02: 9-11 overload has already begun
08/13/02: Tell us what you really think, Ann Coulter
08/09/02: A funny take on a new kind of suburb
08/02/02: It's not the humidity, it's the (media) heat wave; the death of American cities
07/12/02: Colombia's drug lords are all business
07/09/02: If capitalism is 'soulless' then show me something better: 10 minutes with Alan Reynolds
06/25/02: Origins of a scandal: 10 minutes with Michael Rose
06/21/02: 9/11 report unearths good, bad and ugly
06/18/02: The FBI is rebounding 10 Minutes with Ronald Kessler
06/14/02: U.S. News opens closet of Secret Service
06/11/02: 10 minutes with William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world?
06/07/02: America, warts and all
05/30/02: FBI saga gets more depressing
05/13/02: The magazine industry's annual exercise in self-puffery
04/30/02: 10 Minutes with ... The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky
04/26/02: Will the American Taliban go free?
04/23/02: 10 minutes with ... Dinesh D'Souza
04/19/02: Saddam starting to show his age
04/12/02: Newsweek puts suicide bombing in perspective
04/09/02: How polls distort the news, change the outcome of elections and encourage legislation that undermines the foundations of the republic
04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
03/18/02: Suddenly, it's cool again to be a man
03/12/02: 10 minutes with Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald