Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

David Bear: We must act now to save U.S. train transportation from extinction

The Pittsburgh runs a good analysis piece on the deplorable condition of America’s transportation system, and the obvious solution.

Passenger rail has long been dismissed in this country as a transportation dinosaur.

But with oil at $100 a barrel, increasing gridlock at airports and highways, and growing concern about greenhouse gases, rail service deserves new attention.

In the United States, Pittsburgh ranks among the fortunate few cities that have any daily trains at all. We have three. There’s the eastern Capitol Limited to Washington, D.C., via Cumberland, Md., which departs at 5:45 a.m. and arrives at 1:45 p.m., a seven-hour, 45-minute trip; the western Capitol Limited to Chicago via Cleveland, which departs at 11:55 p.m. and arrives at 8:40 a.m., a nine-hour, 45-minute trip; and the Pennsylvanian to Philadelphia via Harrisburg. It departs at 7:20 a.m., and arrives in Philadelphia at 2:50 p.m., a seven-hour, 30-minute trip.

Want to take a train to any other destination or another time of day? Too bad.

Couple this pitiful paucity of convenience and relatively time-consuming trips with a rollicking ride and reputation for unreliability and indifferent service, and it’s no wonder so few travelers think of taking a train, even to Philadelphia, Washington or Chicago, let alone Buffalo, N.Y., Charleston, W.Va., Columbus, Ohio, or Cincinnati.

Besides everybody knows it’s faster to fly and cheaper (and faster) to drive. But the calculations underlying those anti-rail assumptions must be refigured.

Factor in the time to get to and from airports, to comply with 9/11 security procedures, along with the possibility of schedule delays, and it’s clear air travel is not as expeditious as it once was.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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