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Freeways killed the railroad star

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I wouldn't blame any highway system for the downfall of railroads so much as I'd blame the simple fact that in postwar America all the experts in urban planning firmly believed that trains were an obsolete thing of the past and that cars were the way of the future. Which was decidedly shortsighted, but the term "sustainability" wouldn't exist for another 40-50 years at that point.
It was also coupled with the utopian idea that you could cure the ills in society by demolishing slums and replacing them with highways or housing projects - something which we now know simply isn't true; doing that merely displaces the problem and does nothing to solve it.

Railroads hit a major decline in the 1970s due to outdated government regulation.  I can't remember which railroad tycoon coined the phrase, but "public be damned" became the battlecry that started the end of passenger service.  All the railroads wanted to do was haul freight, and were very happy to turn the passenger service to Amtrak in 1971 (except for a couple of holdouts, but they too eventually went to Amtrak). 

But, in the last few years, Amtrak's ridership has increased.  The federal gov't hasn't been giving Amtrak what it's needed to grow; just what it needed to survive.  If I understand correctly, the last budget of the Bush administration awarded Amtrak it's largest operating funds ever.  Hopefully that will get the ball rolling for a better Amtrak in years to come. :clap:

while a debatable point, with or without the heavy government regulation, i doubt that few railroads would have survived beyond the 70s anyway....

my favorite road, the New Haven, if stripped of its passenger service, was essentially one overgrown switching yard as its longest path was 250 miles...combine that with the declining New England industrial base that was its lifeblood, and the Connecticut Turnpike and airlines that started sapping away its passengers, and the New Haven was likely doomed anyway...

as to modern passenger trains, i have ridden Amtrak, and the on-time problem will never be solved as long as they are treated like the junior partner by NS, CSX, et. memory of Amtrak from 2005 was sitting for close to 30 minutes...supposedly, we had to defer to a slow CSX freight that took forever.   (also, it should be noted that if an Amtrak train is derailed on CXS or NS tracks, that commuters are to sue AMTRAK, not the host roads!)

As to Acela, it is one more lame revival of the Talgo train concept (every 20-30 years, some bright boy somewhere gets the idea of a pushme-pullyou high-speed passenger train).....The New Haven rails played host to the concept 4 times since the 1930s  and each time, the concept was found wanting for American travellers....

the 1930s saw the Comet which was fast, but lacked flexibility for any unplanned passengers (in that case, the NH had to run an extra train behind conventional steam, with the unplanned expense...and they were in bankruptcy at the time)

The 1950s saw THREE such trains attempted by NH management (who ran the road into the ground)...only one lasted for any length of time because it was essentially a gussied up RDC (Rail Deisel Car) setup....the others were off the rails in less than two years....

the 1960s saw the TurboTrain on the rails (which by that time were Penn Central rails) and that fiasco was an unreliable piece of junk, and gone within a few years

and now the people refuse to learn from the past..that is why it keeps getting repeated....

i think Bush's idea was that if Amtrak needed to learn to start paying its own bills....i dont think he was opposed to Amtrak per se, just opposed to the funding needed to keep it going....

aside from the Northeastern Corridor, many Amtrak trains are seldom more than half-full  and other trains operate at inconvenient hours....who the hell wants to be in Cleveland at 2-4AM waiting for a train in one of the scarier parts of town??


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