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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Washington D.C. Train Crash

There was a commuter train crash in Washington D.C. recently.

As usual, the people overseeing the train system are protected by sovereign immunity. There will probably be damages paid to the victims of the accident. However, this will come from the Washington D.C. government's budget. People will pay the cost via higher taxes or higher train fares. The officials responsible for the accident get to keep their cushy jobs. They have no personal liability for their negligence.

Train systems are designed to prevent crashes. The train is supposed to automatically stop if they get too close. The D.C. system had 100% electronic signals and was computer-driven. As a backup, there was also a human operator. The operator pressed the emergency brake button, but there's no evidence of whether he pressed it before or after the accident. That's faulty design, because there should be automatic logging of the train's speed at regular intervals. For a computer-driven train, I'd expect the train's speed and location to be recorded once a second.

The system is supposed to be designed so that even if one component fails, there is no accident. That's a relatively straightforward engineering problem.

There also was a report that the type of train cars were susceptible to an accident. The transit officials in Washington D.C. said that they didn't have the budget to replace the trains. Of course, a serious accident is also expensive. Via sovereign immunity, the transit officials don't have to suffer any negative consequences after the accident.

Even if there was someone responsible for conducting safety inspections, you can't prove he was negligent. There may have been an equipment failure after the last safety inspection. Some low-ranking State bureaucrat might be scapegoated for the accident. The rest of the parasites controlling the transit monopoly will keep their cushy jobs.

The train system has a State-licensed monopoly. Even if there is a problem, the cost is passed on to customers as higher prices. Via sovereign immunity, the officials running the train system are protected, even when their negligence causes an accident.

I saw a comedian say "Federal government inspectors are trying to determine the true cause of the accident." The true cause of the accident is the State transportation monopoly, combined with a system where people are protected from negative consequences of failure. If you suffer no negative consequences when there's an accident, then why bother taking proper safety precautions? Accidents are inevitable. However, due to State monopolies, accidents happen far more often than they should.

You'll never hear a mainstream media outlet say "Is having a State transportation monopoly a good idea?"

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