Crude oil rail shipments have exploded in recent years thanks to the North Dakota oil fields. Rail cars began moving oil from North Dakota in 2008, and now account for 71 percent of the crude transported from the Williston Oil Basin. Rail capacity this year is projected to hit 1.2 million barrels of oil a day — 38 times the volume handled six years ago.So what do we learn from such things? Mostly, things that we should know, but pretend not to know. A few examples:
The rash of associated delays on the Northstar Commuter Line this winter has forced some users to form impromptu car pools or drive solo to get to their jobs. Metro Transit handed out letters of apology Thursday, after one morning outbound train was canceled and passengers ended up taking a bus.
Heather Beyer showed up Thursday at the Elk River station in subzero weather to catch the 6:31 a.m. train only to find it delayed.
“They didn’t start announcing it until five to 10 minutes later and you are standing in this warming house that is not all that warm,” said Beyer, a Northstar rider since its 2009 inception. “We were just stuck waiting.”
- Trains don't always run on time, for a variety of reasons.
- If you depend on trains as your mode of transportation, sometimes you won't get to your destination in a timely manner. Of course, this problem won't happen with light rail, because light rail never has any issues.
- The primary business of those who own the rail lines is freight. Oil from Williston is more valuable to those who run the railroads than passenger trains. So while passenger trains are supposed to get priority; they don't.
- Oil that could be shipped to refineries via a pipeline ends up on rails because we won't build the pipeline. See, if we build the pipeline, it could theoretically benefit some evil gazillionaires like the Koch Brothers. It's far better that it be shipped on the rail lines, which are under the purview of a noble gazillionaire, Warren Buffett, who primarily supports Good People for public office. And if you are sitting out in the cold waiting for a train that might not show up, your discomfort is a secondary consideration. We need to make sure that noble gazillionaires are the ones who move our oil, even if there are a few, ahem, problems.