Good and Evil on the Rails
3. Is the cost of positive train control justified by the likely safety gains for passengers? The cost of positive train control is not justified by the likely safety gains for passengers. The costs of positive train controls over 20 years were estimated at between $10 billion and $14 billion. The safety benefits for society were only $608 million to $931 million. Under either assumption the cost of controls was more than 15 times the benefit. There is also the fact that most of railroad related fatalities are trespassers who ride trains or enter track corridors and many more are motorists hit at crossings. In fact there were only 85 passenger fatalities in the last decade. This expensive addition to the railroads will raise shipping rates, consumer prices and passenger fares. I believe it would be more effective to implement stricter guidelines on hiring engineers and placing restrictions on the activities allowed in the cabins. Monitoring what engineers are doing in the cabin and hiring more competent engineers will decrease the chances of a human error occurring. This will be a more cost effective option as opposed to forcing railroads to equip trains with positive train control that will cost them an upwards of $55,000 per locomotive.
4. Did the Federal Railroad Administration fairly value a statistical life at 6 million? I believe that the Federal Railroad Administration valued a statistical life at 6 million fairly. Public choices about safety require estimates of the willingness of people to trade off wealth for a reduction in the probability of death. Estimates of these trade-offs are used in evaluating public safety and in many other areas. Considering the average quality of life, the expected lifetime remaining, as well as the earning potential of a given person, 6 million is a reasonable number. In fact recently the EPA valued a human life at 7.4 million. They came up with this number when conducting a benefit-cost analysis of new environmental policies, the Agency used estimates of how much people are willing to pay for small reductions in their risks of dying from adverse health conditions that may be caused by environmental pollution.
5. Is money spent to regulate railroad safety being spent in the most efficient way to reduce risks of death and injury in society? Money is not spent in the most efficient way to regulate railroad safety and reduce risks of death and injury. It seems as though most of the funds are allocated to adding positive train control and not enough is spent on regulating the train crews and adding other safety measures to reduce human error. More of the funding could be dedicated to hiring supervisors to monitor engineers and perhaps hiring a larger staff of engineers so they would not have to work split shifts. I like the fact that all electronic devices have been banned from being used in the locomotive cabs. The proposal of adding a camera and a black box similar to the ones found in airplanes was a keen idea as well. The Rail Safety Improvement Act should include more cost efficient ways of making railroads safer instead of forcing a $10-14 billion safety addition that would make it hard for the railroad company’s implement. Once again, my proposal for a more efficient solution in making the railroads safer, is adding manpower in all areas of the company and stricter policies and procedures for the locomotive crew. More supervisors, managers and crewmembers will ensure everyone’s abiding by the stricter rules and regulations and there will be less human errors due to exhaustions from working too many hours.
6. Is the video recording in locomotive cabs an invasion of privacy? Should unions oppose it? I don’t think the video recording of locomotive cabs is an invasion of privacy and unions should not oppose to this obvious safety measure. The video recording will ensure that the engineer is not breaking any rules by using electronic devices, texting, or making calls while operating the locomotive. By having the cab monitored from a control center the engineer would feel further supervised and would be less likely to engage in distracting activity that could essentially lead to a human error. Actually, many forms of transportation now have a video monitoring device. For example LA Taxicabs have added cameras that monitor the driver and the passenger. This precautionary measure protects the driver from hostile passengers and ensures the driver does not do anything illegal. In reality we have already been deprived of our privacy in the age of video surveillance. Considering how we are constantly monitored in our daily lives, like at an ATM, a department store, or even at the office. Video recording inside a cab of a locomotive that carries passengers should not be a threat to the engineer operating the locomotive, it is just a safety measure put in place for the greater good.