Envisioning civil liberties in the coming era of mass transit
By Guy Page
What a bummer! Last week I was scheduled to appear on one of those ‘week in the review’ panels of Vermont journalists. Liam Madden’s surprise election was deemed a hot topic and the Pickers and Choosers picked me to lead that particular conversation.
Okay, it wasn’t exactly a Tucker Carlson invite. But still, I was pumped.
Until I learned that entering the studio requires proof of vaccination – no exceptions.
To their credit, the studio tried to accommodate me via Zoom, but miscommunication between me and the engineer eventually led the producers to find another talking head. No worries from me, and I hope there will be a next time.
Apparently that’s how many of our Vermont media centers roll. A prominent member of the Vermont Broadcasters Hall of Fame told me last week he can’t step foot inside his workplace without waving his vax passport at security. Them’s the rules.
But the incident reminded me that the Quarantine Mentality is still with us. And that could become a serious problem for our civil liberties if Sen. Bernie Sanders gets his way about public transportation.
In an August 17 statement praising the restoration of Amtrak service to Burlington, Bernie revealed his #1 reason for backing public transit: climate change.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly: In Vermont, we understand that climate change is an existential threat to our planet….Improving the quality and efficiency of mass transit – including expanding it to more rural parts of our country – is a crucial step in cutting carbon emissions.”
Many Climate Changers fear electric cars won’t deliver real emissions reductions. In their ideal future, the masses simply must transit on trains and buses. It is to be hoped they will do so agreeably. But if not, they must do so regardless – because existential threat. Sales of new internal combustion vehicles by law will be banned in many states (including Vermont) in 13 years. Road salt will remove almost all gas-powered cars from the road within a decade after that. Meanwhile, supply chain shortages and rolling blackouts could make EVs problematic. Already, Vermont utilities are urging car-charging conservation during peak hours.
By mid-century, then, the seven-score-years Era of the Passenger Car could be over. Leaving trains and buses as the only option for trans-neighborhood travel.
The bus and train rider surrenders privacy and freedom of assembly. The schedulers at the local transit authority inform his work, social and recreational schedule. Gone is her individual freedom of the open road.
But there’s an even bigger problem for Americans still hung up on the notion of civil liberties. The State not only determines when and where the masses may transit. It also decides who rides and who doesn’t.
Masking – Nine days after Joe Biden was inaugurated, the CDC announced Americans couldn’t ride mass transit anywhere without wearing a mask. So if you wouldn’t or couldn’t mask up – no bus for you.
Testing – In October 2021, as Covid-19 spread despite mass vaccination, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation announced that all international air travelers, regardless of citizenship, would be required to show a recent negative Covid-19 test. It stopped short of similar requirements for domestic mass transit. Unwilling to tell the government your health history? Europe will still be there next year (hopefully).
Vaccination – There was some mainstream media buzz that the feds would require vaccination to cross state lines on buses and trains. No great public expressions of outrage resulted. No action was taken. North of the border, however, Canada required a vax passport to ride trains and buses. That rule was rescinded June 20. Until then, Canadians faced a stark choice: vax up or make your own way out of the neighborhood.
At present, the political forces controlling the White House, U.S. Senate and U.S. House all agree with Bernie that climate change is an ‘existential threat.’ Will state or federal governments decide in some not-too-far-off future that public transit is the approved way to get to work, the store, and to visit Aunt Tilly? And if so – will they decide (for the good of all, of course) who will ride and who won’t?
Categories: News Analysis