Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Transportation is more than just moving people

This Sunday’s New York Times op-ed page was all about transit. One article that particularly caught my attention was a piece by Jeffrey Zupan about making transportation more appealing for riders. In the process he mentions the infamous Penn Station debacle, and suggests that centers of transportation should be places that citizens can take pride in.

And there are things that can be built to make us proud, like at Pennsylvania Station, the busiest intercity and commuter rail station in the nation, which, unlike the magnificent Grand Central Terminal, has not seen an awestruck tourist since the original station was torn down almost 50 years ago. A new Moynihan Station on Eighth Avenue would be a gateway that would attract rather than repel visitors and business travelers.

As our transit system improves, we could devote public space now consumed by moving and storing cars to uses like walking and biking. Our transit stations should be magnets for intelligent and environmentally sensitive land-use planning.

Unfortunately, this “civic pride” aspect of transportation planning has been neglected for years. For every Grand Central Terminal left in country, there’s a Penn Station. For every neighborhood transit station, there’s one that’s stuck in the median of a humoungous interstate. In the same vein, there’s a reason people dislike the dehumanizing experience they have to go through at the airport. This isn’t a “rail romance” blog, but as we look towards a less fuel-dependent future, we need to consider transportation’s effect on the community and indeed the traveler himself. Failing to do so fifty years ago was part of what brought us into this mess in the first place.

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Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, , ,

NYTimes: Cars still status symbols?

Today’s Sunday Times has a piece on how fuel prices are affecting how Americans perceive their own cars. Are they a mode of transportation? Or are they an important statement about a person? It seems like the idea of the “dream car” is being sacrificed to save money:

Can you love your Prius the way you once gave your heart to a 4Runner or a luxury sedan?

Increasingly, for many, the question is moot.

“I’m willing to not love it,” said Justin McCarthy, 43, a public relations executive from Long Beach, Calif., who is considering replacing his 10-year-old Volvo with a hybrid.

Americans have long seen cars as a fashion statement.. a reflection on the driver.

For many drivers, their cars are an extension of themselves, displayed as fashion or an accessory.

“You wear your car like you wear a Ralph Lauren suit,” said Clotaire Rapaille, an anthropologist and psychiatrist known as the car shrink, whose company, Archetype Discoveries Worldwide, studies consumer preferences.

While it’s certainly possible to be proud of a train as well, it’s a very different kind of pride. Americans are used to viewing their transportation as a matter of personal pride, whereas an amazing train elicits more of a feeling of civic pride. It’s that last quality that’s lacking when our government fails to allocate the necessary resources to our intercity and metropolitan rail serivces.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Travel Woes, , , ,

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