As a response to the current US administration’s budgetary plan to end all long-distance Amtrak trains in America, nationwide rallies opposing the cuts are set for June 23rd and 24th. Led by the non-profit National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), the #Rally4Trains events will draw attention to the key role that long-distance passenger rail plays in the American society and economy. The rallies are part of the NARP-led Towns Without Trains campaign.
According to NARP, if the White House budget was to pass and become law, over 220 communities across 23 states would lose passenger service. Additionally, over 140 million Americans would no longer be able to connect to the national passenger rail network. Within the following NARP-created map, yellow pins represent towns & cities that would lose Amtrak trains, with the states in Red losing all Amtrak service.
The arguments for continuance and expansion of passenger rail in the US are many. Economically, for every $1 invested in passenger rail, there is a $3 spin-off in economic activity (NARP stat). Environmentally, Amtrak trains are 30.2% more energy-efficient than automobiles and 19.9% more efficient than airplanes (NARP stat). Trains also offer the most reliable form of year-round transportation. Trains are the last form of travel to be stopped by weather conditions – if you can’t take a train because of weather, you’re not travelling. As well, passenger trains are ten times safer than taking a car (NARP stat).
A move to cut long-distance passenger rail is in fact a failure to recognize emerging demographic trends. As the Baby Boomers age and move away from driving, that generation (with much disposable income) will seek the comfort of train travel, and in many cases will not be medically-able to fly. At the other end of the age spectrum, Millennials moving into the workforce are increasingly forsaking ownership of a car, opting instead to use public transportation. The following video, produced by NARP in late 2016, and featuring actor and passenger rail advocate Dan Aykroyd, gives further insights into the benefits of passenger trains:
In terms of the American West, one of the threatened Amtrak trains includes the iconic California Zephyr, a daily long-distance train that runs between Chicago, Illinois, and Emeryville, California. First launched in 1949 by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, the California Zephyr covers some 2,400 miles across iconic scenery that includes the Rocky Mountains. A favorite of tourists from around the world, the train is also the most reliable form of year-round transportation across rural regions known for harsh winters. In terms of ridership, ridership on the Zephyr is increasing, having gone up from 2015 to 2016.
Advocates for the California Zephyr and passenger rail in Colorado, led by the ColoRail advocacy group, will be holding a #Rally4Trains event at historic Denver Union Station on the 23rd and 24th. This writer will be in fact arriving in Denver on the Zephyr this Friday the 23rd for a six-week stay in the Mile High City, marking what will now be the tenth such return train trip in five years. Trains are the only way to fly! 😉
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)