Envy is a perfectly serviceable starting point for developing national transportation policy. Our new high-speed rail program is an apt example. It’s a Euro-inspired, greenish gleam in a candidate’s eye made billion-dollar real by our new president and the stimulus package. While we wait for our first bullet-ride to Disney World or Albany let’s consider what the national transportation policies of other countries are accomplishing. We will start with our friends to the north who want Canada to be the continent’s gateway. To Memphis.
The Canada’s Gateways program is impressive. Watching a visiting transportation official give a presentation on it is like listening to a nice kid tell of his elegant plan to steal your lunch. As he speaks it sinks in that you will go hungry that day; you slowly grasp your trumpet case to make sure he doesn’t walk away with it also. The adult response is to admire the strategic thinking and implementation…while watching one’s lunch walk away.
The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative is especially impressive. Short Pacific crossings by Asian cargo to new and expanded ports. Then double stacked boxes onto improved CN and CP freight lines that run down to the American Midwest and Mississippi corridor. Public and private money. Public and private roles. One national strategy.
And here’s something to make you reach for the pink stuff: the still young Port of Prince Rupert just posted a 124% increase in containers (1st half 2009 over 1st half 2008) in one of the worst global economies ever. That it only handled under 100,000 TEUs in these 6 months is of little consolation to US Pacific ports who face an efficient rail corridor to the north and a new canal corridor to open in Panama.
Freight stakeholders in the U.S. are pressing decision makers in Washington and gateway states to adopt favorable gateways and corridors policies to address national goods movement needs on all coasts. Lucky for them inspiration is just a mouse click away in the federal role discussion on the “Canada’s Gateways” website.
“Coherent action requires a systems-based approach, and real partnerships with provincial governments and the private sector. Success will depend upon how well the key players — public and private — coalesce around a coherent vision. A key factor in the successful development of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative was the extent to which a stakeholder- driven consensus had taken shape over a number of years. …. Actions should complement current market-oriented transportation policies, with governments creating a positive climate for private investment in gateway infrastructure, while safeguarding the public interest.”