Anyway, back to what I had been blathering about in my draft copy.
The media here has been in a bit of a frenzy lately over the fact that the railways refuse to provide them a detailed list of all the hazardous commodities they ship through the city every day.
That is not to say that the railways do not provide a list, it's just that they only provide it to a city official who has signed a non-disclosure clause. In short, the city knows what is passing through the city every day, but the press and the public do not.
I am of two minds on this. On the one hand, I think people have a right to know what is passing through their town on a daily basis. It's like atara said, somebody could stand by the mainline and take a video of every car coming past, then look up the placards later. It would not tell them exactly what was in the car, but it would tell them how many flammable liquids, explosive gasses, corrosives and the like passed by going in or out.
On the other hand, I know (or can find out within minutes) exactly what passes through every day, or what is currently sitting idle in the city. It is a concerning mix of products like propane, butane, gasoline, fuel oil, anhydrous ammonia, styrene, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, chlorine - well, you get the idea. Having said that, I could have called up this same list fifty years ago, and though the volumes of which product we were carrying would shift around a bit, the numbers would be about the same.
The products that we carry are pretty common knowledge - it's the same products we've been hauling through this city for the past century for the most part, though with fewer carloads of cattle and far more containers of shoes and electronics.
Now while I agree that people have a right to know what we are hauling through the city on a given day, I also question what good would come from them having this knowledge. When I look at the recent Ebola scare, I am forced to conclude that no good can come from giving out the numbers. One's chances of catching Ebola are about on par with getting struck by lightning while simultaneously being gnawed on by a in the checkout line at Ikea, yet it has not stopped people from acting in a panicky, downright stupid manner about the disease.
Ebola is scary - there's no denying that the media has been milking it for that fear. I can't shake the feeling that they would do the same with a daily list of products being hauled through the city by rail.
And now, here is today's "cars full of things that can kill you that are rolling through your neighbourhood at this very moment".
I suppose that if there is a silver lining, it is that the panicked public might actually get after the city to move the rail yards outside of city limits. The railways would not object at all - in fact they would be quite happy to move their switching yards outside of the city since it would eliminate all sorts of slow areas and controlled crossings. The trick is that the cost would far outweigh the cost benefit of moving the rails. The city would have to get the province and federal government on-board to help fund the move. By law, such a move has to be revenue-neutral and nondistruptive for the railways.
So I am of two minds. As a taxpayer, I am all like, "Hell, no. Keep that shit secret. I don't want to spend good taxes on moving a switching yard that ain't hurt nobody in the last century and a half." As a shareholder, I'm all like, "Hell, ya. Get those yards out of here. It will make our trains cheaper to run and boost my share values."