A vision for U.S. passenger rail

With gasoline within sneezing distance of a United States average of $4 a gallon and continuing airline cutbacks and failures, let me return to domestic passenger rail.

I was looking at a list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas — this is what led me to the Micropolitan areas I mentioned last week — because the National Association of Railroad Passengers has a vision plan to bring passenger rail to many, many more Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical areas (and state capitols that don’t fit that category) than Amtrak currently serves. (The rest are reasonably close to lines to allow for bus connections.)

A lasting solution means, of course, more than adding new cars or even new lines. The national rail infrastructure has been undersupported for years and freight pressures on the current rail system are likely to be more pressing than the wildest possible increases in passenger service. And there’s no reason one should lose to the other.

Even though I’m a confirmed Eastern Time Zoner, I’ve added Midwest High Speed Rail, Improving Amtrak Incrementally to my Google Reader news feed list. (Some of the most interesting movements in passenger rail are found in the Midwestern states.)

Dan Johnson-Weinberger, its author, advocates rail supporters contact their federal representatives in support of HR 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which would increase “the amount of federal money to match state capital investments.”

I agree. See if your member is on the co-sponsor list (more about that next time) and if not call his or her office, ask of the legislative aide for rail or transportation affairs, and make your opinion known.

We can plan and prepare now, or suffer later.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for this link. I’ve been expecting some kind of rail bottleneck since the 1990s when the railroads finally figured out how to make rail profitable again — and now, shipping by rail is more fuel efficient than road, so the problem’s just going to get worse.

    But advocating for improvements to rail infrastructure can have negative consequences. Two years ago, here in New Bedford, we voted a new mayor in — the city had just built a new multi-million dollar rail freight yard, in anticipation of increased rail travel because we have a deep-water port — the new mayor didn’t like it, so he fired the port director who had pushed for the new rail link. And the new mayor keeps talking about how we have to improve the highway that leads to the port — clearly, he is clueless about the whole transportation issue, but he is not alone in his cluelessness.

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