Final Paper

Submitted By shonzz
Words: 2048
Pages: 9

In truth, the most energy-efficient motorized land transportation system known to man is the operation of trains on a railroad. While trains are less significant today than in the past, they still haul more ton-miles of freight than trucks do and hold great potential for the future. A train consists of a series of railroad cars with steel wheels running along the steel rails of a railroad track. The power to move a train usually comes from one or more locomotives at the head of the train pulling the cars behind it. Locomotives are usually powered by diesel engines but elsewhere many locomotives are electric and obtain electric power from an overhead wire strung above the track. Railroads are primarily used for hauling freight, especially lower valued bulk commodities such as coal, lumber, food, paper, chemicals, and metals. Higher valued manufactured consumer goods and small shipments of less than a carload are more likely to be moved by truck which usually provides faster but more costly service. New automobiles are shipped by train in special cars, and containers including truck trailers ride "piggyback" on railroad flat cars. (Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Expressions)

Additionally, the ability of trains to haul large quantities of goods and significant numbers of people over long distances is the mode’s primary asset. Once the cars have been assembled or the passengers have boarded, trains can offer a high capacity service at a reasonable speed. “With containerized unit trains, economies of scale can be readily been achieved while road accounts for no such advantage. Each additional container being carried by road involves the same marginal cost increase, while for rail there is a declining marginal cost per additional container until the unit train size is reached. Passenger service is effective where population densities are high. Freight traffic is dominated by bulk cargo shipments, agricultural and industrial raw materials in particular. Rail transport is a ‘green’ system, in that its consumption of energy per unit load per km is lower than road modes.” (Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Dept. of Global Studies & Geography, Hofstra University, New York, USA)

In addition, high profile terrorist attacks on rail systems in Madrid, London, and Mumbai provide troubling illustration to persistent warnings that the U.S. public transportation system is a vulnerable target for terrorists. But passenger rail is not the only, and perhaps not even the gravest concern. Much of the 160,000 miles of railroad track in the United States transports freight, including highly toxic chemicals. These shipments often have minimal security, even though they pass through populated areas, endangering thousands of live. Though security professionals see trains as some of the likeliest terrorist targets, (P.J. Crowley), a homeland security expert at the Center for American Progress, explains: “On passenger rail, there’s a limit to what can be done.” Some experts believe existing precautions on most railroads already approach that limit, but Crowley suggests increasing police presence in stations and on trains could further diminish the risk of attack. The problem, he says, is that local governments usually don’t have the money to sustain such a force.

More importantly, Al Shabaab (Arabic for “the youth”), is an Islamic militant group that seeks to create an Islamic state in Somalia, formed in 2004 as the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union. Although the group primarily targets Somali governmental officials and Ethiopian military forces, it has also conducted attacks against African Union Mission forces and international peacekeepers inside Somalia. Since the U.S. designated Al Shabaab a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 2008, the group has also stated its intent to target Western interests both inside and outside Somalia. In April 2009, Al Shabaab fired mortar shells at a U.S.…