This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Michael Dukakis (yes, he) makes the case for reviving it:

If you were in Obama’s position, how would you do that?
The first thing you do is give the automobile makers a $5 billion contract to manufacture transit equipment. This would be far more stimulative, plus you’d get something for it. And then you distribute the equipment to transit systems all over the country. Let’s see if we can’t get them to make a streetcar. I mean, if you can make a bus, why not a streetcar? There are 100 cities in this country that want to do light rail–that’s a market for you. Did I ever tell you the story about Jack Welch and me?

No, please do.
This is after the Cold War. GE was closing some plants. I said, “Instead of closing these plants, why not get into the transit business? As governor, I’m spending hundreds of millions on transit equipment and I’m not buying a stick of it in this country.” I’ll never forget it. He said, “I’m a railroad guy”–his father was a conductor on the Boston & Maine railroad–”I love trains, but we go where the money is. As long as this country is spending billions on missiles, we’ll make missiles. When–and if–they decide to spend billions on rail, we’ll start making transit again.” So here we are. We have an administration that seems to want to do it. We have a Congress that’s strongly rail supportive. I think this might well be a time to act. And I’m serious about these bus contracts* for Detroit. Why not?

I love Jack Welch’s response there. No illusions about the invisible hand of the market. GE exists to build whatever the government decides it wants.

What is the state of the domestic passenger rail industry? I know there’s United Streetcar (which basically exists to bring Skoda’s European designs in line with “Buy American” laws) and the ill-fated Colorado Railcar . GE is building some hybrid diesels for freight, but that’s about all I can think of.

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