Roanoke Moving Toward an “Economy 4.0” Economic Development Strategy

The Roanoke Valley Economic Development Partnership is stretching its definition of “economic development” in its updated plan for the region. Having raised nearly $6. 8 million, the Partnership has identified these uses for the money:

  1. Business Growth. Recruit new businesses, promote entrepreneurship, and foster the growth of existing businesses.
  2. Image Building. Deliver good news about the region to change current perceptions.
  3. Asset Development. Improve the region’s quality-of-life amenities in order to attract young professionals to the area.

Particularly noteworthy is the focus on recruiting “young professionals” to the area. The Roanoke region, unlike Northern Virginia, is not suffering from out-of-control growth. Indeed, population growth is stagnant. A modest increase in the population will not precipitate the negative results — congestion, unaffordable housing, loss of open space, higher taxes — experienced by Northern Virginia.

Said Dan Carson, vice president of Appalachian Power: “We are losing good people to other communities in Virginia that have figured out how to improve their offerings and how to market the whole package of what an area can offer. Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Richmond all are experiencing higher growth. There is no reason we can’t do the same in Roanoke. We have an aggressive plan to use these funds to create a better ‘package’ that will appeal to people and businesses.”

As I have stated repeatedly, there is no value in population growth for sake of population growth. If Roanoke had demonstrated the ability to climb the ladder of increasing value-added economic activity in such as way as to increase the income of the region’s inhabitants, it wouldn’t need to recruit outside business, much less outside people. Unless you’re a member of the local Growth Machine, who cares if the population is growing or not?

However, according to data I published in “Peak Performance in a Flat World,” the Roanoke region has increased its per capita income only marginally faster than the nation as a whole over the past four decades. Given the world-class research taking place in Virginia Tech only 30 miles away, Roanoke has tremendous potential to reinvent itself as a dynamic, knowledge-based community. The inability to recruit young professionals — could we be talking about Virginia Tech graduates here? — limits the ability of entrepreneurial start-ups to grow. That’s not exactly what Carson said, but that’s what I’m reading between the lines.

The essence of the “Economy 4.0” economic development paradigm is shifting the focus from recruiting business to creating an environment in which businesses can recruit and retain the creative-class knowledge workers they need to maintain a competitive edge. That’s the direction Roanoke is moving in. Bravo!


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44 responses to “Roanoke Moving Toward an “Economy 4.0” Economic Development Strategy”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “Unless you’re a member of the local Growth Machine, who cares if the population is growing or not?”

    Sometimes you can find a business that sits in a dark corner and consisently throws off cash, through thick and thin. We call these cash cows.

    But for most businesses, you either grow, or die. You can grow through market share or population growth, but market share is the hard way.

    Population growth does matter, all you have to do is look at some countries where population is stagnant and aging to see the problem.

    But, we can’t grow forever. The new static balancing act will be a lot harder to keep up than the old one, rushing ahead at full speed.

    RH

  2. Groveton Avatar

    Roanoke definitely has the right idea.

    Now, let’s test the idea….

    Go back and offer VW $9M in state financial support (vs the $6M already offered) if they will locate their NA HQ in Roanoke (vs. NoVA – where they decided to locate).

    What does VW say?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, the answer might be different if Roanoke had frequent commuter flights to Manassas or DCA.

    When I was working on the airline project I worked with several airport managers who had co-located industrial parks. They said that when trying to fill the parks, clients would fly in to Dulles and then drive to say, Winchester, and by the time they got there, the decision ws made.

    If only we had air sevice…..

    πŸ™‚

    RH

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Well.. they’re starting off with the rubrick of “Economic Development”.

    No matter… just semenatics.

    But if an area wants “more” of something .. jobs, businesses, services, young professionals..

    then what I find missing in most of these concepts is quite simple.

    How will “more” benefit the existing community, citizens and most important – taxpayers?

    So.. when I ask pro-growthers to list the benefits to taxpayers – often the response is generic blather.

    Enumerate.. the benefits.. one by one…

    And I’m not saying there are never any…

    a growing community can attract bigger employers…

    a growing community can attract better medical care even level 1 trauma centers

    partnering with a Community College to attract a satellite campus can be a boon.

    a new development might be the catalyst that is needed for a better water/sewer system.

    more liveable communities are possible if the growth is specifically limited to the kind of growth that does produce better communities.

    perhaps even better commuter rail and air service…

    there actually ARE developers out there that do care but not every development that comes down the pike is a winner for the community and in my mind there is absolutely nothing wrong with being picky about what developments are approved.

    but you need 3 things:

    1. – the naming of specific benefits that are sought

    2. – the plan for achieving those benfits

    3. – measuring performance on achieving those goals.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    “The inability to recruit young professionals — could we be talking about Virginia Tech graduates here? — limits the ability of entrepreneurial start-ups to grow.”

    Unfortunately this is only a small part of the problem for start-ups in Roanoke. The huge problem is access to capital is virtually non-existent outside of small bank loans that are in established business classes. With only minimal at best access to angel funding there just isn’t anyway to grow without moving to Tysons. If you want major equity investors that are necessary for growing a start-up business you have to go where they want to go not the other way around. They don’t go to places like Roanoke, period!

    “3. Asset Development. Improve the region’s quality-of-life amenities in order to attract young professionals to the area.”

    I’m not sure how places like Roanoke can do this when you have to compete with DC, NYC, Boston, etc. The big cities have done a phenomenal job of promoting themselves over small towns/cities through every media medium. Add in the ease of travel and you have an entire generation coming up that has little desire to live in small towns or even some of the suburban areas. A few places with some nostalgia like Charlottesville or Williamsburg do ok, but it’s a very difficult battle which may not be winnable.

    ZS

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    “more liveable communities are possible if the growth is specifically limited to the kind of growth that does produce better communities.”

    Who decides what is liveable, the Smart Growth Coalition, or the people who make a bet with their own money?

    RH

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with being picky about what developments are approved as long as you can show that your interests legitimately outweigh those of the development (and the future owners) being turned down.

    to do that you need to be able to name the specific costs of your interests

    Show that you have a bettter plan that either pays for or avoids those costs

    Be willing to provide some incentive so that others will prefer your plan to theirs.

    RH

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    is Roanoke’s circumstances dictated by things that are beyond their ability to affect or alter?

    Could we say the same thing about NoVa and Boston?

    Do places grow more by happenstance than strategy?

    the question is beyond the products and services that a city needs to self-service itself… why would any company want to be there – rather than someplace else?

    There has to be “something” there that benefits a company from being there.

    Obviously, the Dept of Navy is not going to find what it needs to be there nor is GOGGLE (I think).

    Norfolk Southern, yes.

    AIG? Roanoke rather than Richmond or Charlotte? why?

  9. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    “Obviously, the Dept of Navy is not going to find what it needs to be there nor is GOGGLE (I think).”

    Oh I don’t know, WVA has been getting quite a few tech deals from the Navy and others. There is starting to be a critical mass of employers up in the WVU area.

    You just need to figure out how to clone Robert Byrd.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray is absolutely correct about the commuter flights. Until and unless we solve the problem of not being able to get to and from SW VA/Roanoke except by car, it will be hard to attract a lot of economic development. I had to be in the DC area last Saturday, and it is a 5 hour drive each way.

    One thing that I have seen in Blacksburg since I moved here is that a surprising number of VT grads never leave. Some of them are working in jobs below what they could get in, say, NoVA, but they just love the area. I understand that fully.

    Deena Flinchum

  11. E M Risse Avatar

    Two Notes

    “One thing that I have seen in Blacksburg since I moved here is that a surprising number of VT grads never leave. Some of them are working in jobs below what they could get in, say, NoVA, but they just love the area. I understand that fully.”

    If Greater Roanoke makes a comprehensive effort to create a Balanced Community embracing all the economic, social and physical ramifications of what Balance entails, it will attract the people (from VA Tech and elsewhere) and capital needed.

    Quality air service will require more effort and more help from outside.

    “I had to be in the DC area last Saturday, and it is a 5 hour drive each way.”

    To overcome the inter-regional access problem for all the diverse needs of all the present and future citizens is going to be tough.

    To meet Deena’s travel demand requires 7 day a week service, several times a day each way. That is a lot of planes.

    The state might help but without a comprehensive state plan, instead of aid for everyone who has a runway, where do you put the subsidy money?

    There are 20 plus places that want better service. Charlottesville needs better air service but if it got it then United Land would sell more strip development on US Route 29.

    A place to start is to get the trucks off of I-81 onto rail so the trip is not so terrible. Then some shared vehicle system on road or rail to help evolve a critical mass that will support good air service.

    It will not be easy.

    EMR

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “It will not be easy.”

    True, EMR. In the meantime, I’d settle for passenger rail service. There are train tracks all over SW VA and a small depot in Christiansburg, which doesn’t seem to be being used for anything. I’d rather go by train, read or work on my laptop, get off in Alexandria, and be at my friends’ house in 10 minutes by cab.

    I don’t know what’s worse – the trucks on 81 or the early rush hour traffic around NoVA. We try to arrive around 2-3 PM and even then 395 is solid traffic out of DC.

    Deena Flinchum

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    What I am hearing is that there is a shortfall of mobility in both quality and quantity in Roanoke itself, the trip between Roanoke and NoVa and of course NoVa.

    It would appear that no matter how good a job that Roanoke does on becoming a more balanced community that if the mobility and access is not addressed/improved that Roanoke may remain forever “out there”.

    We live in a world where people do not live, work and play their entire lives within the boundaries of communities – dysfunctional or balanced.

    I can go along with the idea that not planning effectively leads to dysfunctional settlement patterns but I get a little queazy when I hear that the subsidy word is required for mobility and access.

    I don’t think I recall what the game plane is with regard to this issue and balanced communities.

  14. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Well if you want to go by train, Amtrak runs through Lynchburg.

    6Am departure to Union Station, arrives around 10am.

    6:30pm for the trip back.

    $116.00 round trip.

    At least the train goes to DC, unlike your air service to nowhere.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    To meet Deena’s travel demand requires 7 day a week service, several times a day each way. That is a lot of planes.

    The state might help but without a comprehensive state plan, instead of aid for everyone who has a runway, where do you put the subsidy money?

    Actually there are a number of airports that have already built major terminals in the hope of attracting scheduled service. Manassas, Winchester, and St. Mary’s come to mind.

    Our plan called for two airplanes running triangular routes among three cities in opposite directions, so that no flight would have more than one stop.

    Our plan called for at least three morning and evening flights and one mid-day flight. The planes can carry up to 14 passengers and fly 190 mph. It costs roughly $1.50 per mile to operate the plane includng maintenance and depreciation. You need four passengers each paying around $1.10 per mile to turn a profit. This assumes that the cities serviced are interested enough to have reasonable gate and landing fees.

    Roanoke to Richmond is about 50 minutes, then Richmond to DCA, Manassas or Dulles is 40 minutes. We planned to start with six planes serving nine cities. There 34 cities within 250 miles of the three major airports that presently have no scheduled air service.

    You could, for example have two planes that shuttle from DC to Roanoke and each plane would stop alternatlely at Harrisonburg or Charlottesville. Another Route would be DC to Newport News stopping alternately at Richmond or Pax river. You can serve a lot of cities reasonabley frequently with a few airplanes.
    But, the killer is that you need enough staying power to demonstrate reliability before enough people will accept the service. It took Metro years to get its ridership up to a reasonable level.

    A flight from Lynchburg to DC might cost slightly less than AMTRAK and take half the time. While a subsidy would be necessary to get past the startup phase, it would be a lot less than the AMTRAK subsidy.

    The subsidy wouldn’t even have to be to the airline: it could be direct to the passengers. The city served could gurantee a number of seats. Then if the airline didn’t sell enough seats the city could give them away in a lottery or EBAY style auction. this would familiarize passngers with the service, rather than paying the airline to fly empty until enough consistent passenger demand developed.

    Since our flights were planned to be very short, we intended to contract with charter bus services as bad weather backup.

    However, there will soon be a new class of smaller (6 seat) and faster (350 knot) aircraft that may be very inexpensive to operate. The current vision is that these will be inexpensive enough to operate as air taxis at rates much lower than are now common. This will mean that you can basically go to any airport and hire a plane direct to any other airport. Cooperative booking services will be able to keep the planes operating enough to make them profitable with a minimum amount of dead head repositioning.

    You can cover a lot of cities with a few airplanes because of their high speed.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    “I get a little queazy when I hear that the subsidy word is required for mobility and access.”

    Why?

    Every mode is subsidized now, one way or another. Even pedestrians.

    It is not as if you are subsidizing individual travelers. As long as the net result of the subsidy is enough additional commerce such that it raises more additional tax revenues than the subsidy costs, what’s the problem?

    RH

  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    why should every taxpayer in Virginia subsidize air service for Roanoke?

    If Roanoke gets that deal why not Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Fredericksburg, Farmville?

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    “To meet Deena’s travel demand requires 7 day a week service, several times a day each way. That is a lot of planes.”

    I find this funny because to meet “Deena’s” travel demands would require a plane from and to Roanoke/ RRNA about twice a year but I understand your point.

    There used to be such planes years ago and a oneway ticket cost a pretty penny. I know because I used to pay it but considered it worth the money. At first it was National Airport to Roanoke, then it became National Airport to Roanoke via PA or NC. Finally it ceased to exist.

    There is a small airport in Blacksburg that sees a fair amount of action, mostly private planes, I’d guess, on home game days. After home games, you can hear them take off for hours. VT is the main reason this little airport exists.

    It looks as if at least some infrastructure exists down here – airports and train tracks – but the airlines and passenger trains are missing.

    I’m still partial to trains; but I am retired and have time, which most biz folks don’t. The Lynchburg idea is fine but Lynchburg is nearly 100 miles away from Blacksburg. With Alexandria about 260 away, Lynchburg is just a few miles shy of halfway. Even if parking your car for an extended period of time isn’t a problem there, it hardly seems worth it.

    Deena Flinchum

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    It seems from this string that we can do one of two things. We can focus our efforts on growing a number of smaller cities by a few hundred jobs to sustain them into the future and in the process build a lot of expensive long distance infrastructure. Alternatively we can focus all those jobs into areas like Crystal City and Reston where a lot of infrastructure already exists, but supplementing it costs a lot.

    I tend to support the 2nd as it’s easier to evolve from one business to another whereas the smaller areas need more dedicated funding or revenues to be sustainable over time. Look how many old plant towns have closed down for example. I don’t know if the answer is that simple, as in 20 years the world could change and more rural areas could be strong.

    ZS

  20. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    Deena:

    β€œAt 6:27 AM, Anonymous said…
    I’d settle for passenger rail service.”

    Think of the railroad as a narrow escalator. You can walk when no one else is on it, but you have to go the same speed as the escalator if the person in front stands. Passenger trains will go the same speed as freight trains unless there is enough traffic to justify dedicated passenger tracks.

    Freight trains currently serve a market that has lots of travel time. Think containers from China. The Steel Interstate proposal to get trucks off I-81 would provide another set of tracks where trains can move at highway competitive speed. These tracks would also allow passenger trains to move at highway competitive speeds.

    One bonus, the tracks cost less then the added highway capacity needed to do the same job.

  21. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Yes but what is a knowledge based economy is supposed to be about?

    If all we are doing is building huge information factory cities that everyone is supposed to move to, then places like NoVa will never get out of the hole it’s in. All we have done is modify a 19th century business concept to modern industry requirements.

    I fail to see how we can benefit from all the wonders of distributed IT processing if all the workers must congregate in a centralized location. This model is obsolete, and will grow more so as boomers retire and we find ourselves with a workforce insufficient to cover all the tasks. Globalization, that great savior of low cost labor, is nothing more that cheap oil circa 1950. Eventually overhead outstrips the gain that is achievable.

    The codeword in worker philosophy these days is mobility. It’s a trait they learned from business itself. If a company is too agravating or not offering the ability to improve individual skillsets, the workers will move out. Business will more and more be forced to follow the herd of workers, no matter where they are located.

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “I fail to see how we can benefit from all the wonders of distributed IT processing”

    Darrell.. do you mean that VW headquarters in NoVa is unable to use the miracle of IT such that some of it’s HQ staff cannot live and “work” in Roanoke?

    And worker mobility… how many folks have moved to get another job verses how many that refuse?

    No axes to grind here.. just asking questions.

    Bonus Question – The VP of VW in NoVa asks to live and telecommute from Roanoke which is her favorite place to live. drum roll… and the answer is?

  23. E M Risse Avatar

    Following our post with :a lot of planes” I realized I should have said “a lot of seats to fill.”

    The bigger the plane, the cheaper per seat mile (within the parameters of serving small airports) and the higher the percentage of seats filled, the lower the price.

    EMR

  24. Anonymous Avatar

    “Darrell.. do you mean that VW headquarters in NoVa is unable to use the miracle of IT such that some of it’s HQ staff cannot live and “work” in Roanoke?”

    Unfortunately this is one of those ideas that looked good on paper and then basically the opposite happened. The whole IT revolution made networking, connecting, and communicating easier, but rather than decrease the need for travel and centralization it actually increased it pretty significantly. The promoters of this idea forgot that co-location is by far the best team and meeting based situation and is basic human nature.

    So now everyone has email, texting, and Blackberrys instead of a Rolodex which basically multiplied everyone’s network and ability to communicate with that network. Having to deal with that many contacts makes working out of places like Roanoke virtually impossible.

    “Bonus Question – The VP of VW in NoVa asks to live and telecommute from Roanoke which is her favorite place to live. drum roll… and the answer is?”

    NO, NO, and H*** NO!

    ZS

  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m STUNNED!

    It took computers and blackberries to replace rolodexes?

  26. E M Risse Avatar

    Larry:

    You will be even more stunned to learn that wireless lap tops, blackberries and cell phones cost more than

    land line phones, fax machines, desk tops and rolodexes but deliver less happiness and security.

    Some people are getting richer faster and the rest are getting poorer faster.

    EMR

  27. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    If I read this right, then we should just trade smokestacks for server farms. That’s what centrally locating really means isn’t it?

    But how do you explain the growth in once sleepy towns like Boise, Seattle, or Portland, all of which grew out of Silicon Valley? Or the countless articles concerning ideas to attract ‘the creative class’?

    I would say that a mindset of co-location is an outmoded concept. Human nature is much more adaptable than the existing business paradigm gives credit.

    For instance, I work for a tech services company. For the first three years, I never met any company employees. Not one. Now, as business has increased, I have a local manager who I see maybe once a month. Before this job, I worked a remote location that was about as far in the middle of nowhere as one can get in the world.

    All of my tasking arrives in one form or the other via the Internet. If there is a need for a meeting, then we have VTC and/or conference calls. No one has a burning desire to impose a cubical law or pay outrageous sums to get everyone together. Just get the job done on schedule.

    Which is why I seem to lack an understanding of why people must spend their lives in some huge monument to corporate power. And in the end hate what they do and regret what they have become. The Rat Race is alive and well. Just look at NoVa.

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    “All of my tasking arrives in one form or the other via the Internet. If there is a need for a meeting, then we have VTC and/or conference calls. No one has a burning desire to impose a cubical law or pay outrageous sums to get everyone together. Just get the job done on schedule.”

    This is good for you that you can do everything in your business this way, but not everything can be done this way. You can’t inspect facilities, make sales, do serious consulting work, accept deliveries, etc without being on location. The whole rolodex joke was to imply that 15 years ago it would take me 2-3hrs or more on the phone to contact 20 people plus time waiting for callbacks. Now it takes 5 minutes writing an email. Multiplying that out into other tasks you can see how the average person is dealing with far more contacts than they once did and correspondingly have to travel more. This happens on the buy side, sell side, production side, and nearly everywhere else.

    “But how do you explain the growth in once sleepy towns like Boise, Seattle, or Portland, all of which grew out of Silicon Valley? Or the countless articles concerning ideas to attract ‘the creative class’?”

    Seattle is a marine town first, then aerospace and IT. Shipping growth has been enormous in the last decade. As for the concern of the creative class, I find too many cities are worrying about that rather than worrying about what they already do well and how that fits in the current and prospective future economy. The creative class is looking for an underlying culture that just doesn’t exist in a lot of places that are trying to attract them.

    ZS

  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Companies that have a compelling reason to be in the Roanoke area will provide their own air service for the things that still cannot be accomplished with VTC, email, etc.

    The question is .. what is a reason for them to be there – as opposed to reasons to be in NoVa.

    Stafford County just built a “reliever” airport and get this, the Feds and State paid about 90% of the cost.

    I strongly suspect that if Stafford can get airport subsidies that Roanoke can also if not already.

    I’m not sure if EMR addresses this with Balanced Communities but it would seem clear that not only is Roanoke not NoVa but it’s hard to see it ever evolving to be like NoVa at least in the near Future.

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “why should every taxpayer in Virginia subsidize air service for Roanoke?”

    We proposed a plan that would open service in a few cities. If it worked, we figured we would have domonstrated the risk is small enough to allow private capital to step in to allow us to expand to the other 34 cities.

    It would have taken something like 150 airplanes in all. Our pilots would have more landing and takeoff experience than anybody, and we knew we would have a problem keeping them.

    Although the regs permitted single pilot operation, we planned on two pilots in order to keep enough experienced pilots in reserve. Co-pilots would assist in navigation, communication, and possibly (virtual) ticket sales, and they would be allowed to fly when no passengers were aboard untill they had sufficient experience.

    Part of the plan was to partner with Germanna Community college to provide internships in flight and mechanic training.

    Yes, Deena, I prefer trains too. I just couldn’t make a business plan work.

    RH

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    “There used to be such planes years ago and a oneway ticket cost a pretty penny.”

    Not the kind of planes we proposed. The old short haul planes, like the ones used by Southern Cropdusting Airways, were more than three times as expensive to fly as the ones we proposed.

    Many of those old routes were partially subsidized during the era of regulated airways. The way it worked was that in order to be allowed slots in a highly profitable route, you had to agree to also serve some markets that would not (yet) pay. Under regulation part of the price youpaid was to subsidize underused routes, just as EMR says about rural roads. There were also cash subsidies

    Similar to builders being allowed more density in exchange for some affordable housing.

    When regulation went away, so did service to unprofitable markets, which sort of guarantees they will remain unprofitable.

    RH

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    “It seems from this string that we can do one of two things. ……”

    ZS raises a good point.

    I don’t know the answer, but I would tend to gravitate towards the first. I think that supplementing existing infrastructure in developed areas is many times more expensive than supplementing infrastructure in less developed areas.

    And when you are done, you don’t have the same quality of life, even if you have a higher income, as JB has pointed out.

    But.

    I don’t have the numbers. I can’t prove the issue one way or another.

    RH

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    The nice thing about an airline is that if it doesn’t work out, you close up shop and sell the airplanes which go to work someplace else.

    It’s a little harder with a rialroad.

    If Virginia Aviation Administration decided to do something like this, they could issue a proposal and get competing offers from flight entrepreneurs all over the U.S.

    But if we trid to do it with trains we’d have to negotiate with whoever owned the tracks. The trcks might need a lot of upgrades to handle passengers effectively, and the owner would want guarantees: same as the ariline.

    There are some things that are too big and too risky for private enterprise to do, unless they are protected by a patent or some other protection. In adition, they know that their efforts have many spin offs that they don’t benefit from. If the spin offs are real, there is no reason why the state should not be interested.

    RH

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    “Following our post with :a lot of planes” I realized I should have said “a lot of seats to fill.””

    That is exactly correct. It took me a couple of years to figure out what that really means.

    RH

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    “One bonus, the tracks cost less then the added highway capacity needed to do the same job.”

    That simply isn’t true.

    To do the same job, you would have to run a railroad track to every house, or else move everyone who isn’t near a track and abandon the investment in their homes.

    You have to compare apples to apples, or provide a fair and complete comparison. The fact that a train can potentially carry more passengers per hour on less real estate isn’t it.

    I’m not even sure that rails are that much cheaper. They don’t do grades well, so they need a lot of grading. They use a lot of creosote. They need dedicated and secure right of way, and they need a tremendous amount of inspection and repair.

    I still like trains better, but I’m not stupid about it.

    RH

  36. Anonymous Avatar

    The feds paid ninety percent of the cost for dozens of airport terminals and airport expansions figuring that infrastructure would bring the airlines. It wasn’t nearly enough. They solved the wrong problem.

    As a county administrator you had to be crazy not to take the money. The terminal in St. Mary’s County is now a police substation, the one in Manassas is the freedom museum. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    BARF.

    RH

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    “”Our country, Tim, Must make certain concessions.”

    “Concessions?”

    “We cannot be what we once were. In the interests of prosperity, there must be less of it. Too much freedom assures less peace.”

    “Try selling that at the ballot box.”

    “We do sell it, Tim, By inciting fals fears in the people. Remember Y2K? All computers would crash at the stroke of midnight! The colapse of hihg-tech civilizations! Nuclear missiles wopuld launch uncontrollably! Thousands of hours of TV news an uncounted miles of newsprint sold the Y2K terror.”

    “It didn’t happen.”

    “That’s the point. For a long time now has not the news been nothing but doom? Do you think tha tjust happens? Electric power lines cause cancer! But of course they don’t. Most everything you eat will kill you, and this pesticide and that chemical! But of course people lead longer and healthier lives, decade by decade, and when the people are beaten finally to the convicition that their existence hangs by a frayed thread, they will be lead where they need to go.”

    Which is where?”

    To a responsible future in a properly managed world.” ….

    “The people elect mostly fools and frauds. When the politicians make policy that leads this country toward the needed reconstruction of its sytems, they can be supported, but when they make bad policy they must be sabotaged at every turn from within.”…..

    “Just wait till – oh, say – , the threat of asteroid impact builds in the years ahead. You would see unthinkable sacrifices quickly embraced by the people as we united the planet to establish a massive asteroid-deflection system in deep space.”

    EMR

    Oops, sorry, that was actually Dean Koontz, Describing the words of a natonal anarchist.

    RH

  38. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    “You are in a very fortunate position. Can I send you a resume?”

    heh… I’m used to being independent, and making due with the assets at hand. There is nothing like a months long supply chain or an unreleased budget to make anyone a member of the “creative” class.

    In my past life I learned that fixing airplanes really does rely on pop riveted Coke cans and wire bundles duct taped to the side of the fusulage. What’s amazing is there are still employers looking for workers with the ability to apply such skills to other tasks.

    Here’s a drop box, if you are so inclined. freestuff23456@yahoo.com

    The company has tons of positions up north, just none I could put up with for long. It’s a Hillbilly thing I guess.

  39. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    RH missed something.

    β€œ β€˜One bonus, the tracks cost less then the added highway capacity needed to do the same job.’

    That simply isn’t true.

    To do the same job, you would have to run a railroad track to every house, or else move everyone who isn’t near a track and abandon the investment in their homes.”

    We have to agree on β€œthe same job.”

    I define the β€œjob” as getting a truck from a rail yard to a rail yard. I define the same job as getting a truck from the corresponding interstate interchanges.

    Where you have enough trucks on the interstate to justify more lanes, you have enough to trucks justify the rail alternative.

  40. Anonymous Avatar

    We have to agree on β€œthe same job.”

    I agree. I concede to having deliberately overstated the case to make a point. You are right, freight is diiferent than people.
    even so we can’t say that the ability to move more people is equivalent to doing the same job.

    Likewise with freight. Trucks can do some jobs faster and cheaper than trains. As long as there are enough of those jobs to keep the trucks busy, no amount of increased emphasis on trains will make a difference.

    My understanding is that if you are shipping less than around 600 miles, you’d have to be crazy to get on a train. If you have enough trucks on the interstate to justify more lanes, it might have nothing to do with whether the rail alternative makes sense.

    Finally, that stuff is going to have to get off the train somewhere and get on a truck, so you will still need almost the same number of trucks. To the extent that you can increase the use of rail you will reduce the number of long haul trucks and increase the number of short haul trucks. So a truck that was formerly driving 600 miles might make 6 or 8 fifty mile trips instead. You need a short haul truck at both ends of the rail trip, so you wind up not getting a one for one reduction in trucks for each truckload you put on the train.

    I think if you are going to count the same job, you need to count the same job door to door, including time and cost as part of the job description.

    RH

  41. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    Ray:
    You still are talking about a different job.

    β€œI [Jim W.] define the β€œjob” as getting a truck from a rail yard to a rail yard. I define the same job as getting a truck from the corresponding interstate interchanges.”

    You instead start from β€œ. If you have enough trucks on the interstate to justify more lanes, it might have nothing to do with whether the rail alternative makes sense.” And then ignore the fact that there are trucks on I-81 moving more then 600 miles.

    I say count them and put in the rail for them. You say ignor them, they are not the whole market. Again you overstate your case.

    tawhrzlw

  42. Anonymous Avatar

    “And then ignore the fact that there are trucks on I-81 moving more then 600 miles. “

    Sorry, that didn’t come off right.

    I do recognize that there are trucks moving more than 600 miles, and for them moving to rail does make sense (or at least it might.)

    As far as that goes, you are correct.

    For high value or speed sensitive cargos, rail still might not make sense.

    But even after you take those (600 plus trucks) off the road you could still have enough trucks traveling less than 600 miles to create demand for a new lane. If that is the case, then, the new lane problem might have nothing to do with whether the rail alternative makes sense.

    To simply say that if you have enough trucks on the road to justify a new lane, then you should have rail oversimplifies the problem exactly because there are different jobs at hand.

    But, even for the trucks traveling over 600 miles that you do get off the interstate, you are still going to need two trucks traveing shorter distances to complete the job.

    You could successfully promote additional rail shipments and still need the extra highway lane, and also not get all the truck reduction you would like.

    I agree that rail is preferable for some jobs, but let’s not oversell it.

    RH

  43. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ve been thinking on this.

    I cannot recall what the data showed on I-81 so please correct me if I’m wrong but I thought I recalled that quite a bit of the truck traffic on I-81 originated within Virgina.

    Let me use Fredericksburg as an example.

    CVS has a large distribution center in Spotsylvania. It sits right beside the CSX tracks that deliver and disgorge giant loads of stuff .. that if fed through conveyor belts to dozens, if not hundreds of 18-wheelers.. who leave every day and head out on I-95 and other roads to deliver their “just-in-time” inventory replishments in their one-day round-trip service area.

    The point I’m trying to make is that CVS is not delivering goods to it’s distribution center via long-haul trucks (I don’t think). It appears to me that much if not most of it comes down a rail siding.

    All of this goes back to whether we believe that I-81 and CSX/Norfolk Southern already operate per the market and attempts to DEFINE different transportation modes is, in fact, interfering with the unfettered markets.

    That is, unless of course, one believes that the existing subsidies actually distort the market and if those subsidies were removed then more goods would go by rail if there was a “true” unfettered market.

    I notice both NS and CSX are running ADs on TV promoting multi-modal rail transport. NS is actually running a commercial that shows truck loads being transported to NS flat cars that results in a truck-free driving experience for the cars remaining.

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    “All of this goes back to whether we believe that I-81 and CSX/Norfolk Southern already operate per the market and attempts to DEFINE different transportation modes is, in fact, interfering with the unfettered markets.

    That is, unless of course, one believes that the existing subsidies actually distort the market and if those subsidies were removed then more goods would go by rail if there was a “true” unfettered market.”

    BINGO

    Now, how do you find out what the effects of those subsidies really are, or are not? How do you prevent one advocacy or another from overselling their position?

    You make a habit of dissing those that show only half of the benefits and/or half of the costs, until they get smart enough to show a proposal that makes sense for everyone, not just the special interest group. THEN you have a true win/win situation that everbody can get behind.

    You go out and find (hire) someone (preferably politically neutral, if such a thing is possible) and do cost benefits sutdies and cost effectivenessstudies – at the system level. You put ranges of uncertainty on them, and you estimate what future changes would make the study invalid.

    One of the problems we have is that we incentivize something when it is necessary to(if we are lucky), but later when it is no longer necessary, or even worse counterproductive, we have no way of knowing.

    Or it may be politically impossible to stop the incentives. You need to protect yourself by knowing when to pull the plug. Preferably you will write that into the legislation.

    RH

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