#rsrh High-speed rail.

The Left is whining about it again [Link fixed.].  Speaking as somebody who’s actually used Amtrak in the past, let’s just establish this once and for all: it’s great for going from Manhattan to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and/or Washington DC… if you’re having work pay the several hundred dollars in fares that you need for a round trip.  If you’re don’t, it’s expensive.  If you need to go somewhere else than from city-to-city, you’re stuck.  If you rely on Amtrak for a daily commute, you are smoking crack.  If you have kids, then an Amtrak trip is excellent practice for dealing with the fires of Hell.

Bottom line, folks: urban types love high-speed rail because it more or less conveniently links the roughly .5% of the country that they actually care about.  The rest of us use this thing called an “automobile,” which is a marvelous device that likewise goes from city to city; plus, you can use it to do such different activities as facilitate shopping, explore rural and suburban areas, and engage in emergency transportation.  In a pinch, it even makes for an impromptu locale for fornication.

Try doing that on the Acela.


  • Laura says:

    I love trains. I do not like Amtrak. I once had the brilliant idea to take the train from Chicago to St Louis. The trip was advertised as a five hour jaunt. It took seven hours. What most of us don’t know (at least, I HOPE it’s most of us … I’d hate to think I’m the only one this uninformed) is Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks outside it’s NE routes. So anytime a freight train comes through the other way, the Amtrak train is sent to a siding to wait … and wait … and wait. Also, if you’re thinking a train trip is a great way to see the countryside … there’s a REASON people don’t want trains running through their neighborhoods! Can you say right-of-way trash disposal??? Ewww.

  • DanB says:

    Your link…To quote Inego Montoyo, “I do not think it means what you think it means…”

  • DanB says:

    Why do I feel like I’m living in a Simpsons episode. I wonder if these folks would still think this was a good idea if it were presented, for the same cost and the same benefits, as a monorail.

    I can also think of a lot of good uses for $197 (per person). Heck, out in flyover country, I can get a round trip ticket from Tulsa to Houston for that, and still have enough leftover to go out to eat. Are things in the North East so out of whack that $197 is not considered a fairly serious amount of money?

  • Laura, were you on the same train as me? That trip sucked. The high point in the trip was seeing an entire group of 82nd Airborne troopers for WWII walk past me through the Chicago train station. It was all downhill from there.

    Amtrak. For when you have enough money to fly, and enough time to walk.

  • Brad S says:

    Laura, you just described why a lot of Denver residents like me REFUSE to use the California Zephyr, despite going through gorgeous scenery on the way to the Bay Area. Too much waiting outside Salt Lake City in the middle of the night for UP’s freight to pass by tends to kill off the romance of long-distance trains.

    And of course, our local transit district is spending hundreds of millions of dollars renovating that pile of bricks known as Union Station.

  • Finrod says:

    I had fun going through the comments and clicking Recommend on all the ones which were slamming the article and high-speed rail in the US in general, which were at least 3/4ths of them.

  • Cameron says:

    I use the Amtrak line to get from D.C. to Fayeteville every Thanksgiving and I’ve been relatively happy with the whole thing. We avoid the Beltway traffic during that holiday and we can bring a bottle of wine and kick back during the trip.

    Sure, an expanded high speed rail service would be nice, but there’s this nagging problem of having to live in the real world that keeps getting in the way.

  • Michael N. says:

    DanB, I won’t speak for everyone else in this part of the country, but for me and my family, ~$200 per head is pretty good for airfare, but is definitely into the “pricey” range for anything else. We’ve gotten used to expensive gas and frequent tolls, but things are generally closer up here than they are when you live in Tennessee or Iowa (the only other places I’ve lived besides MD). I’ll happily concede Moe’s basic point about Amtrak only being really useful for city-to-city… but up here, that’s a goodly chunk of the traveling that people do.

    I used Amtrak last Thanksgiving to go from Baltimore to Williamsburg, VA at Thanksgiving. Not only did I avoid the hellish traffic on I-95 (estimated trip time based on past years: 5 or 6 hours down, 8 or 9 hours for return) with about 5 hours each way on the train, coupled with avoiding the stress of dealing with the crazy-ass drivers on said highway, but I didn’t have all the joys of car travel with two small children to deal with.

    “Dad, I need to pee!!!”

    (in the car) “OK, OK, I’ll pull off at the next exit if the insane drivers don’t kill us all first; thanks for telling me 30 seconds after we passed an exit. Can you hold it another 15 minutes?”

    (on the train) “OK, honey, bathroom is up there at the end of the car. Do you need me to put down my book and walk with you?”

    “Dad, I’m feeling wiggly!”

    (in the car) “Tough break, kid. We’ll pull over at the next rest area, maybe in a half-hour, and extend our trip by however long it takes to have you walk around.”

    (on the train) “OK, honey. Would you like me to walk to the snack car with you? It would be a good time to get a bite to eat, and I can leave my laptop here with Mom.”

    About your last point… I have a great many fond memories of spaces less comfortable than an Amtrak bathroom, and if you can’t be creative enough to find possibilities in such spaces, you need to broaden your horizons. ‘Nuff said on that point, I think.

    It’s really important to not conflate the virtues of passenger rail with “high-speed rail”. As a Marylander, I appreciate having Amtrak available, but I also know that when I lived other places, it was significantly less useful, and that HAS to be factored into the question of funding. I like having Amtrak available (and BoltBus, and Delta Shuttle, just to start with), because there are some situations in which I will happily pay a premium for not having to deal with some of the hassles that come with driving in a dense urban environment. I recognize that others might make different choices, and I support their right to do so. I want us to preserve a varied mix of options, but I work for a transportation engineering firm, so I understand about the tradeoffs required to keep that mix viable. I’m not sure keeping that mix is a political winner, especially the way this country is set up. I’ll miss it if we lose it, that’s for sure.

    Then again, we shouldn’t be blind to the shortcomings of auto travel, either.

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