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Old 06-15-2009, 09:14 AM
22,769 posts, read 26,219,013 times
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Originally Posted by johnatl View Post
Call Enterprise. They'll pick you up!
In all seriousness, though, renting a car costs a small fortune in some places, especially if you're young.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:59 AM
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Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was part of the main line of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad. The Pennsy was the only RR wealthy enough to build a tunnel under the Hudson River and a big railroad station in Manhattan; the other lines had their terminals on the New Jersey shore of the Hudson and ferried their passengers across to the big city. Anyway, we had a huge transcontinental and regional railroad system in the US 100 years ago that comprised many profitable railroad companies, not unlike the airline system today. Car and plane travel eroded the business after 1920; by the '60s the railroads were on life support. Congress created Amtrak around 1970 to preserve what was left of the passenger business with federal support, and it's been limping along ever since. Other wealthy countries have put lots of public money into passenger railways--as everyone knows, railway travel in Europe is fun, convenient, and sometimes very, very fast. Reasonable people have disagreed over whether that makes sense in the US, as it's so much bigger and more spread out than the countries known for good railways, like Japan, Germany, and France. And, as someone here pointed out, when you get where you're going in the US you're handicapped without a car because the towns and cities are so spread out. That wasn't so true in the railroad era but it surely is today.
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Old 06-15-2009, 11:07 AM
Location: St. Louis, MO
3,742 posts, read 6,905,824 times
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Quite simple: air travel and car travel. Train travel doesn't have the flexibility of either. The passenger trains of the earlier 20th century were killed off as cars became more efficient and air travel become far cheaper and affordable. not to mention faster for the average person with the introduction of jets.
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Old 06-15-2009, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by pw72 View Post
Yes, this is an interesting issue. I have studied this for years and the fact of the matter is, U.S. residents in general do not want to ride trains to get long distances. (The exception, as pointed out above, is the NE corridor, due to many large cities relatively close togehter).

There has been some talk of restoring some old routes in the west and midwest because of high gas prices. Whether or not this comes to fruition remains to be seen.

But, yes, this country had a coast-to-coast passenger rail system that was probably at its peak in the 1930's and 40's. The 50's started to see decline, and then with the advent of jet aircraft and the Interstate system, declined greatly in the 60's. The result was the invention of the government controlled Amtrak in 1971. Since then, (with the exception of certain routes), the decline has continued.

I'm all for expanding the system, but there are many hurdles. First, the tracks are now all controlled by the freight companies, and they have priority. Second, it still is a very slow way to go compared to air, and even highway in many cases. (An investment in high-speed rail is sorely needed). Third, the route system is very inconvenient for many Americans.

I'm afraid the price of gasoline will have to go through the roof before we invest in a convenient, modern passenger railroad system.
Excellent answer. Basically it comes down to: Prohibitively high costs (like in the 10's of billions, just to get started in any one region) and, at best, questionable demand.
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Old 06-15-2009, 12:25 PM
Location: New York City
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It's such an enormous country that transcontinental, or even long distance, train travel will never be a viable option, no matter how high-speed the trains. France has great high-speed trains, but France is approximately the size of Texas. A large state, but still only one state.

In Europe and Japan, please who take trains go a few hundred miles, not several thousand.

I think, however, a regional high speed rail network would be a great addition.
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Old 06-15-2009, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by censusdata View Post
Moderator cut: orphaned

If you mean a RR for passengers it is simply a matter of economics: why build rail lines were very few will use them? In most rural areas of America everyone gets around by car, so why get driven to rail station to ride a train to another town where you will have to be driven everyway anyway? By comparison riding a train from the suburbs into Chicago, where mass transit is everywhere, is used enough to be profitable
Just because the line may run thousands of miles, it doesn't mean everyone rides the whole length. I've ridden the Amtrak's Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle/Portland) many times but never the whole length. I live in the Twin Cities and have ridden eastward to Chicago, Milwaukee and Glenview, and have ridden west to Montana (where I rented a car to get to my final destination). MANY passengers boarding at the Twn Cities are just going to small towns in WI, or elsewhere in MN. And I am always amazed at how many people board in places like Wolf Point, MT and ride to places like Minot, ND, Sandpoint, ID, Staples, MN or Spokane, WA. It may traverse long stretches of rural areas with low populations, but the people in those little towns use it enthusiastically.
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:29 PM
Location: Greater PDX
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Why spend 5 hours flying cross-country when you can do it by train in 2 days?
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:43 PM
Location: Jackson, MS
1,008 posts, read 3,030,466 times
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Another reason trains do not do as well in the US is because most of our cities are not setup well for public transit once the visitor gets to the destination. Taxis and rental cars are more common than public buses and subways (this obviously excluded the big cities like NYC, Chicago, etc). There are far more cities with inadequate public transit than there are cities with it. Poor city planning coupled with abundance of land lead to this problem. The US takes for granted the amount of land that is available, and we are quickly consuming more and more each day.

That being said, high speed rail would be better than what we have today and would benefit the more urban areas more so than the rest of the country, ie Chicago, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, DC, etc.
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Old 06-16-2009, 10:04 AM
Location: Sarasota, Florida
15,400 posts, read 19,574,384 times
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I think with Government help a high speed rail system between major cities and/or in certain urban corridors is entirely feasible and desireable; our country's attitudes and priorities would also need to change, but eventually it will happen as the skies become congested for air travel.Replacing our hub and spoke air system with point to point regional jets would also help to alleviate congestion at major airport hubs.
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Old 06-16-2009, 12:22 PM
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We do have a system, it's just bare bones. I could be at the Emeryville station within a 1/2 hour and have my way to the East Coast booked. Of course, that would be a very slowwwwwwwwww journey.
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