Image Credit: Saad Khalaf / Los Angeles Times
Commuter Rail Returns to Baghdad
As a result of the significantly improved security situation in Iraq, the Ministration of Transportation has been able to provide a commuter rail service in Baghdad for the last month. According to the LA Times, "the Ministry of Transportation wanted to relieve Iraqis of the chaos of Baghdad's streets, where checkpoints, speeding convoys and almost daily bombings cause massive traffic tie-ups." However, ridership on the train--which " weaves about 15 miles through west and south Baghdad on just two round-trip journeys a day"--has been low, and taxis and scooters remain the most popular mode of transportation.
Still, the Baghdad Metro, as it is being called, may be a sign of urban renewal in Baghdad. At a minimum, a ride on the train reveals much about the state of the country and its infrastructure. Read on for more.In order to protect passengers and crew, "there are the armed guards, two per trip, each carrying a pistol and an AK-47, who fire into the air to chase off stone-throwers or any other threat they perceive." Because few trains pass through the city anymore, "crossing gates and guards are nonexistent, continually putting the train on a potential collision course with cars and military convoys." As in many developing countries, slums have sprung up right next to the tracks.
The LA Times does a brilliant job of explaining what a ride on the train is like. It reminded me a lot of train rides I've taken in Egypt, for example; the only difference is the threat of violence and the extent to which infrastructure is deteriorated or non-existent.
Time to Invest in American Infrastructure
So as commuter rail returns to Baghdad, and the Big Three beg for money to continue producing inefficient cars, one wonders when the United States will get back to investing in infrastructure at home--especially in bridges, roads, public transportation, and a smart grid. Fortunately, President-elect Obama is talking about doing just that.
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