Greater Greater Washington

Transit


The evolution of Amtrak, 1971-2011

Today, Amtrak turns 40. This slideshow shows how passenger rail service has evolved over the decades, using maps from Malcolm Kenton and the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

On May 1, 1971, Amtrak replaced a much more extensive private passenger rail network that was on the decline due to massive government investment in other modes of transportation. It has struggled at times throughout its 40-year history, and some routes have come and gone, but it's kept valuable rail service alive.

Slideshow image

What remains of the national passenger train network, albeit skeletal compared to what it was and what it should be, exists largely thanks to the efforts of grassroots advocates who understand trains' superior energy efficiency and the importance of having balance and choice in the American transportation system.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers organized in 1967 and built a broad coalition that lobbied successfully for the passage of the 1970 law that created Amtrak. NARP and its allies have successfully fought further contraction of the system ever since, and are now building support for long-term, dedicated federal funding for intercity passenger railsomething highways and aviation enjoy, while Amtrak has had to fight for its small share of general funds in every year's appropriations cycle.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 
Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC neighborhood of Bloomingdale. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation, and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGW are his own. 

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Evolution? Looks like stagnation to me. If real evolution had taken this path, we'd all still be various kinds of water bugs.

by Crispin on May 1, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

"What it should be"? Give me a break. If anything the system needs to be contracted further. The pre-Amtrak models are ridiculous - completely unsustainable. The system has not changed significantly since 1971. If anything it has gotten bigger since then, but it still has way too many lines covering huge stretches of sparsely populated land. Amtrak should be blown up into three companies, for Atlantic, Pacific, and Chicago hub. If the mountain states want to fund lines across them, they can fund it themselves.

by movement on May 1, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

...that was on the decline due to massive government investment in other modes of transportation.

This is only half the story. The other half is that ever since before the turn-of-the-century, the federal government (largely through the ICC) has been saddling them with absurd safety, labor, and price regulations. That is to say, even before the feds really started subsidizing the highways in earnest, the private rail companies were being clobbered by Progressive Era legislation against them.

It's an uncomfortable fact for those who have inherited the "progressive" mantle, but it's one you must nevertheless face up to – you can't blame it all on the roads!

by Stephen Smith on May 1, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

@movement

Amtrak should be blown up into three companies

Fixed that for you

by TGEoA on May 1, 2011 4:36 pm • linkreport

trains are great. with a fraction, say 1/20th of the federal cash going to airports and airways, and or highways, amtrak wold get us across the country in 2 days instead of 3. train travel is comfortable and civilized, air travel just gets worse and worse.

by doug biggert on May 1, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

@db
What a bizarre comment.

You can have two of the following:
* cheap
* fast
* civilized
The American public has chosen. Recreational travelers want cheap and fast. Business travelers and the wealthy want fast and civilized. I don't care how good your rail line is, you aren't going to have fast service over 500 miles. Taking Amtrak across the country is never going to be popular. It takes about 80 hours to get from DC to LA by rail. Even if you cut that time in half, it still isn't going to be popular when you can fly in much less than 10 hours.

by movement on May 1, 2011 5:45 pm • linkreport

The decline and abandonment of most passenger rail service should be attributed more to the loss of mail contacts with The United States Postal Service (USPS) and its predecessor The United States Post Office Department (USPO) then to the investment on other modes.

Virtually every passenger train carried presorted mail under contract with the USPO. The railroads also operated Railway Post Offices (RPO). Some of the RPO cars ran in regularly scheduled trains, others ran in stand alone trains. Much of the revenue generated by the contracts with USPO cover the costs of running passenger trains. The last RPO train ran on 07 30 1977. The last mail was carried aboard Amtrak on 10 01 2004.

The USPO and later USPS began upgrading their facilities to be based on a road system of transportation in the 1960s and 70s to increase the faster and more efficient delevery of the mail.

by Sand Box John on May 1, 2011 5:59 pm • linkreport

I don't think the loss of mail contracts had much impact at all. Snail Mail has its own issues to deal with.

The key changes were twofold - one, the government started directly financing competing modes of transportation. Two, since railroads were America's first massive industry and presented a large monopoly over much travel, they were regulated excessively and not deregulated until it was too late to save anything but their most obvious comparative advantages (e.g bulk freight).

An example - there was a WWII excise tax on rail travel explicitly designed to reduce unnecessary travel during wartime. It was effective. And it wasn't repealed until the mid 60s.

That said, re-iterating the errors of the past is important in order to understand how to best move forward, but that doesn't mean that Amtrak is a particularly good vessel to move forward with.

by Alex B. on May 1, 2011 6:15 pm • linkreport

To be honest, I almost always take Bolt Bus to NYC. $18 and under from Union Station with wi-fi is worth the extra couple hours. I did get a couple $29 tickets on Amtrak last week on the promo they were running.

I know they claim they're a "completely different market", but they must be feeling some competition.

by Tom Coumaris on May 1, 2011 6:24 pm • linkreport

Taking Amtrak across the country is never going to be popular. It takes about 80 hours to get from DC to LA by rail.

No, but a trip from New York City to Miami along the existing route would only take a little over 6 hours if the tracks were built to TGV standards.

Those kinds of speeds would completely destroy air travel for virtually any destination on the eastern seaboard. Chicago too.

by andrew on May 1, 2011 6:27 pm • linkreport

@Alex B

The vast majority of the mail contract disappeared along with the passenger trains that carried them long before the phrase 'snail mail' was coined. You will get no argument from me on the issues that the USPS is dealing with now.

by Sand Box John on May 1, 2011 7:29 pm • linkreport

@andrew
Those kinds of speeds would completely destroy air travel for virtually any destination on the eastern seaboard. Chicago too.

Uh, no.

1. You're talking about a $200 billion dollar investment to upgrade both the Crescent and Silver Star lines to bullet-train speeds. In case that doesn't jump out of the page, it is $200,000,000,000. Forget it. It isn't going to happen.

2. Since rail lines are linear and air routes are unconstrained, rail isn't going to completely destroy anything. Between Richmond and Florida, the biggest destinations for travelers are Atlanta and Charlotte, neither of which are along the Silver Star route. You might be able to fork the trains at Raleigh, but you'll never be able to service travelers along the Crescent line who are going to Florida.

3. There is no way your wealthy/business travelers are going to take a mode of travel that takes twice as long, regardless of any other benefits. That is where your operating revenues come from. In the Northeast, Amtrak is usually the fastest so it gets the big spenders. Once you go over about 250 miles, it is no longer the fastest. Even if you double the speeds, you're still not anywhere near Atlanta or Florida.

by movement on May 1, 2011 9:16 pm • linkreport

@movement

If you believe air routes are unconstrained, then you really don't understand commercial aviation. They're almost as constrained as the Beltway during rush hour. There are certain and fairly specific air corridors, complete with waypoints, that the commercial airliners are supposed to follow, complete with ATC (Air Traffic Control) direction. True, there are variances, i.e. for diversion around storms and whatnot, but that's at the direction of ATC, not at the discretion of the pilot unless ATC gives them that discretion.

by Froggie on May 1, 2011 9:44 pm • linkreport

You could theoretically build trains that could go much much faster than airplanes. NYC to LA in under an hour anyone?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vactrain

by Doug on May 1, 2011 9:52 pm • linkreport

Note to David/Malcolm: you need a 16th map, effective date August 28, 2005, to reflect that the Sunset Limited no longer runs east of New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. And to date, it still has not been reinstated.

by Froggie on May 1, 2011 9:53 pm • linkreport

@movement,

I don't think that was a serious proposal for TGV standards from Boston to Miami, but rather as an example of what the technology can do.

by Alex B. on May 1, 2011 10:19 pm • linkreport

What remains of the national passenger train network, albeit skeletal compared to what it was and what it should be

What should it be? Seems to me this is a wide-open question.

Most people here argue it should be more than what it is now...but how much more? At what cost? Who pays?

by WRD on May 1, 2011 11:05 pm • linkreport

@Froggie
Yeah, yeah, I get all that, but that wasn't my point. My point is that you have have to build lines to connect all of those destinations and if they are not colinear then it scales really badly. Once you build an airport, it can support any number of cities regardless of which direction they are.

by movement on May 1, 2011 11:13 pm • linkreport

The East Coast is pretty damn collinear. You could cover most of the lesser destinations with a series of branch routes off of the main trunk.

by andrew on May 1, 2011 11:25 pm • linkreport

Yeah, but planes run on dino juice and that is getting more expensive in a world of peaking oil. HSR can run on the greenest source of power a country is willing to support.

by NikolasM on May 1, 2011 11:28 pm • linkreport

"movement":

"The American public" of today has never been offered a true choice; a viable railway passenger option was eliminated (i.e., bludgeoned to death) by our blessed "leaders" a LONG time ago.

Therefore, you (and all the other rabidly anti-train types) have nothing to worry about. Your precious drive-or-fly society (the one those "wealthy/business travelers" presumably want) is perfectly safe - for the time being.

In fact, by the time it finally implodes, you and your ilk may already be dead.

Only your progeny will suffer.

Garl B. Latham
Dallas, Texas (apparently within "the mountain states")

by gblatham on May 1, 2011 11:37 pm • linkreport

To build a TGV type system it would seem better financially to do it from scratch than to try and improve the existing lines. Many of these old lines are from the mid-1800's and many were originally meant primarily for transporting livestock and crops more than passengers. Transportation of humans has changed a bit since then. Retrofitting or acquiring urban rights-of-way seems the most expensive and causes speed to slow down most.

The rejected Florida bullet line was only going to cost $2.4 Billion to build from scratch to cover 100 miles. That's because it was to go down the median of a freeway. We own medians in freeways everywhere and labor costs shouldn't be different since government-funded projects require union scale anywhere. If we could shoot a 200mph TGV up the median of 95 from around DC to NY for $4.8 B, I'd call that a bargain that would turn a profit easily if it made the trip in an hour. Plenty of private companies would line up to bid on that right.

I know it's not all that simple with every median, but it's a concept that just isn't explored. Cities have their own rapid transit systems now and connecting with them is almost as good as the prohibitively expensive and slower downtown-to-downtown old rail line retrofitting.

by Tom Coumaris on May 2, 2011 12:55 am • linkreport

It's interesting that those who question investing billions in rail never question the billions we've spent on promotion and construction of the airline industry or the billions spent on road construction.

Rail could be successful if we invest in it and treat it seriously. It's not about replacing air or road travel but providing another option that relieves the stress off of other transportation modes.

by Randall M. on May 2, 2011 7:43 am • linkreport

Some of you guys need a reality check. How about this.

Hypothesize that you can build a HSR network in the southeast US that makes sense. Pick a representative set of 10 southeastern cities from DC to Miami. Develop a cave drawing of what you believe a HSR network would look like and a skeleton timetable that would show the time of travel would be between any two cities in your mini-network. Then count up the miles of track you would need to get there at an optimistic $2.5B/100 miles). Then write a convincing argument that a) this option will be preferable to the traveler who prefers fast/cheap or the one who prefers fast/civilized and b) this is worth a 11-12 figure investment. I doubt you will get there on either front. Prove me wrong. Please!

(You don't even have to worry about the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak has done that work for you already. The vision costs around $100B, though I don't recall what they say the status quo would cost, just for maintenance.)

I'm not anti-rail. I'm anti-stupidity. If you guys show me a coherent plan that shows that rail works and makes more sense than the other options, I'll be happy to back it.

by movement on May 2, 2011 7:50 am • linkreport

The reality check might come in the form of a history book. The rail network laid out from the Civil War to WWI was the backbone to the continent's develpoment and consequentlly to the world power that defeated facism. If they built these new rail networks, money would gravitate to them as sure as it did back then and as sure as it did/does behind the publicly subsidized highway system. The main difference is the maintenance of the highway system is unsustainably high. Throw in all the war costs used to prop-up world oil production and delivery, road maintenance, wasted time, crashes, environmental costs, etc, and there's no comparison.

Keep your cars by all means (I'm keeping mine), but don't clog the roads for every silly purchase or need if there's a simpler, safer, and healthier way to plan your community.

by Thayer-D on May 2, 2011 8:20 am • linkreport

@movement: that depends on the size of the airport, the length of the runway, and the existing use of the airlanes in the vicinity. Not every airport can serve every other city within a given range.

@Tom: it's a bit murkier than you think. For starters, high speed rail requires a certain level of engineering that even Interstate medians can't accommodate (nevermind the number of bridges that would have to be replaced for such construction. Second, and this is especially true in urban/suburban areas...such medians either no longer exist (having been "paved over" for additional lanes without requiring additional right-of-way), or in many urban cases were never included to begin with.

by Froggie on May 2, 2011 9:56 am • linkreport

I would encourage everyone to read Amtrak's explanation of the realities facing the Northeast Corridor. In short: While improving the line would cost a lot, doing so is unavoidable. Some of the most congested airports in the country are along the line and by 2030, every highway in the general service area (except perhaps I-295 and I-84), will be well over capacity.

We will either have to invest in billions in new highways or in new transportation models. Clearly, HSR is a better model in the Northeast Corridor. Whether it makes sense nationwide is a question, but there is no doubt that it is needed dearly in the Northeast.

by thesixteenwords on May 2, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

We recently spent $7 Billion on the Springfield Interchange, another $7B on the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and the Silver Line will end up around that.

It's not like we're prone to sticker shock for significant(?) transit projects.

@Froggie- Thanks, I realize medians aren't perfect- but they are free. And they are faster for speed than downtown retrofit. The prohibitive cost comes going through downtowns. In 1860 cities were compact. Now it's all metros.

by Tom Coumaris on May 2, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

@Tom: $700 million on Springfield. $3B total if you include the Wilson Bridge. And one could make an argument that those were done in part due to much higher traffic on the Beltway as the result of the DC freeways being cancelled.

As for HSR, you still gotta get it close to downtown, let alone through downtown. Interstate medians won't help there either.

by Froggie on May 2, 2011 12:12 pm • linkreport

@Froggie- You're right, I should have Googled, only about $3 Billion for both. But the Silver line will be $6-$7 Billion.

Makes my point tho that around here multiple billions don't shock.

$100B for the entire Northeast seems a bargain. California's already issuing bonds and committed to their real TGV that's budgeted at $45 Billion. And they're broke.

by Tom Coumaris on May 2, 2011 3:17 pm • linkreport

$200 billion doesn't seem like such an insurmountable investment considering we bailed out the automobile industry for over $700 billion

by Dave Murphy on May 2, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

One year of our follies in the Middle East would pay for an unbelievable amount of HSR. Two or three years worth and we'd have an unreal transportation system.

by NikolasM on May 2, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

So sweet (and coming!):

http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/

by Tom Coumaris on May 2, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

One year of our follies in the Middle East would pay for an unbelievable amount of HSR. Two or three years worth and we'd have an unreal transportation system.

True, but our nation's government-private welfare system is arranged around a Military-Industrial Complex, not a Train-Industrial Complex.

That's not quite as pernicious, since you can't wrap yourself in the flag and accuse your political opponents of "aiding and comforting our enemies, and killing our young men and women in the fields of battle" if they won't fully fund a new right-of-way from NYC to Boston.

by oboe on May 2, 2011 4:31 pm • linkreport

Actually, that is one of the things that needs to happen. Shift some of the M-I Complex into the train-mass transit complex. Make our military budget $400 B a year, the T-I complex $200 B a year and voila, soon we are sitting pretty.

by NikolasM on May 2, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

"Nobody rides between Chicago and LA, what a waste"

Do people not understand what trains are and how they work...? There are many, MANY stops. People can take ANY station pairing they want.

Wow, you can ride the Chicago-LA train for 5 hours and not get anywhere near Chicago OR LA! Magic!

It really blows my mind that people don't get this concept. They see the line, and imagine only the two endpoints.

by JJJJJ on May 2, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

Actually, that is one of the things that needs to happen. Shift some of the M-I Complex into the train-mass transit complex. Make our military budget $400 B a year, the T-I complex $200 B a year and voila, soon we are sitting pretty.

Done and done. Let's get John Bohener on the phone.

:)

by oboe on May 2, 2011 5:51 pm • linkreport

@JJJJJ
Yeah, we do get it. These cross-country trains arrive infrequently and at inconvenient hours, making them almost useless to travelers even if the lines do happen to align with your destination. Sure, you can take the California Zephyr from Lincoln. The train arrives at midnight.

by movement on May 2, 2011 6:29 pm • linkreport

And what is amazing is that they are still used by people in those towns. Now if only we still had frequencies like the 1962 map...

by NikolasM on May 2, 2011 6:46 pm • linkreport

@Dave Murphy: There are many ways to tally the total cost of the auto industry bailout, but the highest estimates are in the $100 billion range, much of which has already been paid back to the Treasury. Where did you get the $700 billion figure from?

by jimble on May 2, 2011 8:18 pm • linkreport

California's HSR system projects a profit of $2.5B/yr. on a 800 mile system costing $45B.

It also estimates the fuel and pollution savings to be the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from California highways.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_High-Speed_Rail

by Tom Coumaris on May 2, 2011 10:51 pm • linkreport

movement:

So, with today's California Zephyr being a consistently popular train, year 'round (and often sold out), why wouldn't there be a call for a second route frequency in order that Lincoln might have at least one train passing through town during daylight hours?

That's a rhetorical question, by the way. There would already BE additional frequencies along EVERY route in Amtrak's system...IF the company was actually designed to succeed.

I thought you "got it"?!

Garl, in Dallas

by gblatham on May 3, 2011 12:47 am • linkreport

Before becoming too concerned about the potential cost of expanded rail-based passenger service, we must realise that ANY productive investment in domestic transportation infrastructure will ultimately involve unimaginably large sums of money.

Example: according to AASHTO (the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials), the cost of bringing our federal highway system back into a state of good repair while addressing existing (not projected) congestion issues would be 155 BILLION dollars - in 2007 money - IN ADDITION TO the 40-plus BILLION dollars already budgeted ANNUALLY for roadway maintenance! [Sadly, all that cash would simply dig our autocentric hole even deeper.]

http://www.transportation1.org/tif3report/freight.html

GBL

by gblatham on May 3, 2011 1:29 am • linkreport

While reading over the comments so far, it seems that a sizeable number of participants presume the only future for U.S. passenger trains involves the true high-speed variety.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Although originally written for a railroad audience, I'd like to offer these two essays for perusal:

"High Speed Rail is not the starting point"

http://myprogressiverailroading.com/blogs/gblatham/archive/2010/06/30/high-speed-rail-is-not-the-starting-point.aspx

"The myth of 'Higher Speed Rail'"

http://myprogressiverailroading.com/blogs/gblatham/archive/2010/07/09/the-myth-of-quot-higher-speed-rail-quot.aspx

Thanks,
Garl

by gblatham on May 3, 2011 1:55 am • linkreport

What was that non-Amtrak passenger route through northern Maine in the 1990s?

by Eric Fidler on May 3, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

@Eric Fidler:
The train passing through northern Maine in the 1990s was Via Rail Canada's Atlantic, which ran between Halifax, NS and Montreal, QC.

It was the only intercity rail service in the state of Maine between the 1960s and its cancellation in 1994 (it also did not run from 1981-1985). Since that time, Amtrak has introduced the Downeaster.

The Atlantic made 6 stops in Maine - Jackman, Greenvile, Brownville Junction, Mattawamkeag, Danforth, and Vanceboro.

Passengers could connect to Amtrak at Montreal.

by Matt Johnson on May 3, 2011 9:28 am • linkreport

Why not just kill it off and get it over with already. The American people have already demonstrated that railroads are little needed in this country, no matter how high gasoline prices may attain.

by Harvey Henkelmann on May 4, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

Clearly the people hostile to passenger rail don't live in the places which actually have it.

In the Northeast Corridor, the Empire Corridor, the Main Line west of Philadelphia, the Southeast Corridor through VA and NC, the whole of the state of Illinois, everything in California from Sacramento and San Francisco through San Diego, and the Pacific Northwest (whew!) it's obvious that passenger rail service is intensely popular.

by Nathanael on May 4, 2011 11:19 pm • linkreport

@Crispin, "evolution" simply means "change over time". It does not imply progress.

by John on May 6, 2011 2:59 pm • linkreport

It is clear that the anti-rail people think all freight moves by trucks (which isn't true). The four remaining freight railroads run a good portion of freight through this country (including double-stack container trains). If the freight railroads were to disappear tomorrow the interstates would be clogged with trucks. Amtrak exists where it exists because people still want it there. If there were only high-priced driving and even higher-priced flying, then a lot of people may be forced to stay near home come vacation time.

by DEXTER WONG on May 7, 2011 3:58 am • linkreport

What remains of the national passenger train network, albeit skeletal compared to what it was and what it should be

While consistent funding is needed, the following also need to happen in order for passenger rail to return to its former glory:
1. Temporarily restrict HSR corridors to the NE, SE, Midwest, CA and the NW. The conventional rail system MUST be rebuilt before we can even ponder a national HSR system. (see http://myrailmusings.blogspot.com/2011/04/rational-passenger-rail-policy-before.html for what ought to be done instead)

2. The overnight long-distance network must have more frequencies. For many of these existing routes, that would mean that there should be no fewer than six or eight trains. If riders get used to the idea of catching a train 6-8 hours apart, then the routes will become popular due to them operating on "memory schedules."

The frequencies over time will set up corridor service along heavily concentrated segements because by then, the long-distance routes would be full around the affected areas (e.g., more frequencies added to Silver Service trains in Florida or two additional routes to the Texas Eagle would naturally lead to corridors in Florida and central Texas. Then, those corridors will lead to HSR routes serving Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami and the Texas Triangle respectively).

3. Create a track maintenace organization run by either the FRA or USDOT that will oversee the rails and repair deficient infrastructure. The right kind of balance between passenger and freight will need to be maintained, but it can be done. ALL companies would only be worried about paying track fees for access.

4. Replace current liability guidelines with something more reasonable. 'Nuff said.

5. Congress MUST enforce guidelines that were set by the 2008 law known as PRIIA. What this means is that competition has to be reintroduced. For the long-distance trains, Class I railroads would compete against Amtrak while independent operators would be selected by states to run conventional and HSR corridor services. (http://myrailmusings.blogspot.com/2011/03/thoughts-on-march-11-house-meeting-on.html for more on PRIIA)

With the right amount of funding, Amtrak could operate--and expand--routes in areas that are its strongest and allow other companies to run routes in other places. If anything, the NARP map of 2021 and 2026 SHOULD have a lot more red lines in the major metro areas and predominantly green ones nationwide.

by The Rail Enthusiast on May 7, 2011 6:40 pm • linkreport

Stagnation is right, Amtrak has existed for 40 years, And has done very litle on its own to expand its services.
Our cheering section for Amtrak and its passengers truely do not reflect who is riding Amtrak either.
The old guard of Amtrak suporters is strictly that the old guard. A over sixty group of white men who know all there is to know. Whom meet twice a year stay at expensive five star hotels and perhaps gloat they have lasted as long or longer than Amtrak has. But are they truely in touch with the nations and train riders and needs in 2011?
The truth is rail needs a new face with younger people involved who expect more from Amtrak than the status quo these last 40 years.

by kyraladv on May 8, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

@The Rail Enthusiast
You're on the right path. I'm not sure on some of the specifics (particularly funding approaches), but it is at least directionally correct.

by movement on May 8, 2011 9:00 pm • linkreport

In all of the above comments, I have seen no mention of any rail system outside of the US. I have visited Japan recently. Even as a New York City resident, the coverage, speed and frequency of the train networks there took me by surprise. On one end of the coverage, high speed Shinkansen service (the closest equivalent we have is Amtrak Express in NE Corridor) runs as often as every three minutes at rush hour for service 1/4 way across the country, which on some lines peak speeds are (IIRC)190mph. And on the other end there are smaller trains that run several times a day to the tiniest towns (3000 or so population). The population density of the NE Corridor is not that different from Japan. Yet compared to Japan's system, ours here in the Northeast almost feels like that of a developing country. When I traveled from one place to another in Japan, I could choose a train leaving within an hour of what seemed convenient to me, and after boarding I read books, had a beer, took a walk from one end of the train to another to stretch my legs, and conversed with my fellow travelers. In America, when I wish to go somewhere far away, I drive, drive, drive, and drive some more. At risk of severe injury or death it's all I am allowed to do while in a car. Or I fly, at a greater expense and arguably a great deal of hassle, and must rent a car anyways when I get to the area I need to be in.
By 1st world standards, we are at the sh*t end when it comes to mass transit. And oil won't be here forever. Eventually our sh*t end system will be all we have left.

Here's a global population density map:
http://www.urbanhybridization.net/massimotadi04.jpg

by parker on Jan 20, 2012 2:44 am • linkreport

If you like this article, see the North East Rail Map, a volunteer effort to map all US north east rail, commuter rail, Amtrak, subways lines, streetcars, and historic/scenic rail roads, from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Maine, covering New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Baltimore.

The map was launched in July, 2013, and will hopefully be updated.

There is currently a facebook page, and website. "Like" the facebook page for news and updates. Download the free map, JPG and PDF, at the Website.
https://www.facebook.com/northeastrailmap
http://www.northeastrailmap.com/

by Nathaniel P on Aug 6, 2013 11:25 pm • linkreport

Amtrak must expand and in the Midwest and Mid south must be looked at again Chicago - Miami- and Detroit New Orleans to needed routes A midwest Auto Train could be piggybacked on the Chicago to to Fla route has merit as well Dayton, Louisville, Nashville, Chattanooga,Montgomery, Mobile are deserving of service and all the small towns in between.

by john owen on Dec 6, 2013 12:17 am • linkreport

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