The Association of American Railroads’ Facebook thingie today marks the anniversary of the passage of the Staggers Act, signed in to law by President Jimmy Carter Oct. 14, 1980, which vastly de-regulated America’s transport industry and has, by many measures, been excellent for the industry.

From what I can tell, before this law, the railroad industry was stringently regulated in this country, since the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, later amended by the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, which extended regulation to buslines and airlines as public utilities.

Everywhere I look, from Brookings to anywhere else, this Staggers Act is hailed as a good thing. But there’s one thing I can’t help but wonder about.

See, one thing the Act did was to blow up the Interstate Commerce Commission and to replace it with the Surface Transportation Board. This is the same regulatory entity that has no enforcement powers over the D.C. Metro public transportation system, which killed nine people last summer. From what I read, this 1980 law doesn’t address safety. But I can’t help but wonder if this overall drive to de-fang regulatory agencies that hold sway over our public transportation infrastructure didn’t contribute to those deaths and to the overall sucktitude of the D.C. Metro system.

Not to mention, by the way, that there was a REASON that those stringent regulations went into place in the first place, no? Because the railroad industry at the time was a dirty monopolistic cesspool? No?

Just wonderin’.

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