“Back to the Future” or “Goodbye to our Future”

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While we’ve been listening to a good game from our various leaders, Western New York’s best and brightest have been buying one way tickets to better 1261463_38725556_puffing_old_train_stock_xchng_royalty_free_300climes. According to a recent editorial (“The plight of upstate,” The Buffalo News, January 20, 2011), over the past twenty years, the job growth in our state as occurred mainly downstate. Indeed, a national magazine (“If You Need A Job, Move To New York!Forbes, January 10, 2011) lists New York City (the “New York” referred to in the title) as among the best places to go look for a job. This emphasis on the Big Apple isn’t lost on The Buffalo News editorial writer, who suggests state lawmakers “drive twice each year along the Thruway from Schenectady to Niagara Falls.” Maybe that’s the only way for them to see our plight.

Worse, this ignorance has mortgaged our future. We are losing our brightest young minds to sunnier shores. Recently, Rochester was named as the city with the second fastest rate of college-educated residents relocating away from (“Amid Downturn, Sunbelt Gains College Grads,” Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2011). Ironically, given the Forbes article above, New York City was ranked as the city with the fastest rate of loss of college-educated citizens – which perhaps says something about the quality of the jobs featured in the Forbes article.

Yet, despite the economic reality driving our future to warmer climes, the powers-that-be (or should that be the “parties”-that-be) have determined what we really need is high speed rail. Ignoring the fact this Federally sponsored initiative might be the first item sacrificed on the way to a balanced budget, what exactly would this fast train achieve? Maybe the eyes of those Albany officials taking this 100+ mph train would suffer less when traveling from through Western New York, making it easier to ignore the rotten fruits of their service over the generations.

It’s one thing for an octogenarian congressman to press the issue, after all, to her trains could arguably represent “modern” travel. But for us young, hip semi-centurions, we’ve sorta taken a liking to this new-fangled mode of transportation. It’s called a car. It runs on our own schedule. It stops anywhere we want. Mark my words, one day it’ll relegate that old Iron Horse to the ashbin of history.

Come to think of it, why don’t we put it to a vote? What would Western New Yorkers benefit most from – creating high-speed passenger rail or making the Thruway toll-free? Or even a high-speed fiber optic network?

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