Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Why don't Americans ride trains?
The Economist ^ | 29 Aug 2013 | Economist

Posted on 05/09/2014 9:49:39 PM PDT by Cronos

AMERICA has by far the largest rail network in the world, with more than twice as much track as China. But it lags far behind other first-world countries in ridership. Instead of passengers, most of America's massive rail network is used to carry freight. Why don't Americans ride trains?

..the Japanese, the Swiss, the French, the Danes, the Russians, the Austrians, the Ukrainians, the Belarussians and the Belgians all accounted for more than 1,000 passenger-kilometres by rail in 2011; Americans accounted for 80. Amtrak carries 31m passengers per year. Mozambique's railways carried 108m passengers in 2011.

There are many reasons why Americans don't ride the rails as often as their European cousins. Most obviously, America is bigger than most European countries. Outside the northeast corridor, the central Texas megalopolis, California and the eastern Midwest, density is sometimes too low to support intercity train travel. Underinvestment, and a preference for shiny new visions over boring upgrades, has not helped. Most American passenger trains travel on tracks that are owned by freight companies. That means most trains have to defer to freight services, leading to lengthy delays that scare off passengers who want to arrive on time.

(Excerpt) Read more at economist.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: carsstink; governmentstinks; planesstink; rail; trainsstink; trucksstink
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-100101-150151-200 ... 301-341 next last
Interesting article.

From the comments section

If I take a train from Dublin to Galway, I have within 20 minutes' walk of either terminus hundreds of bars, restaurants, offices, and other attractions at my disposal. If I take a train from say, Orange County to Phoenix, I have within 20 minutes' walk about 5 freeway overpasses and lots of parking lots.

Most of the US is a suburban hellscape, with anything worth doing at least 20 minutes' drive away. This is largely the result of ridiculous parking minimums (forcing business owners to subsidize private automobile storage) and NIMBYs fighting denser development because of parking concerns (forcing the government - i.e. all of us, to subsidize private automobile storage). The true irony of this is that it doesn't even ease traffic; people spend most of their time driving not through interesting things but.. automobile infrastructure (after all about 70% of LA's surface area is pavement or buildings dedicated to automobiles).
and
Most American cities are laid out differently than in Europe (other than older cities in the NE corridor). They are sprawling and spread out. Suburban areas have houses with huge lots. Stores are massive, like Walmart, and have huge parking lots. This makes mass transport within cities impractical. Mass transport only works in places with high population density. Therefore, people might we willing to take a train between nearby cities, like Dallas and Houston or LA and SF, but once they get to their destination, they'd have no way to get anywhere without a car. Alternatives could be taxi (expensive if you have more than a few limited destinations), shared ride van (slow), and car rental (again, rather expensive). Plus the train station itself may be far from your true destination within the city (driving across LA can take hours).

This is why trains are not practical in most US cities for most travelers.

1 posted on 05/09/2014 9:49:39 PM PDT by Cronos
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Cronos
Willie Green is disappointed.

Free travel is the ideal. Anything less is subject to getting there on time via a vehicle.

2 posted on 05/09/2014 9:54:01 PM PDT by Paladin2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Too expensive, too slow, too remote.


3 posted on 05/09/2014 9:54:47 PM PDT by Jim Robinson (Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: GeronL

Willie Green Memorial Ping.


4 posted on 05/09/2014 9:56:22 PM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos
The US railroad industry is one of the most onerously-regulated in the world. The federal government’s to blame. The requirements that the feds have for running passenger trains at any competitive speed are utterly ridiculous; not only “track classes” but also signaling requirements, “crashworthiness” regulations that are absurdly high and not even all that practical.

At railroad crossings, the Federal Railroad Administration even requires that if you intend to run passenger trains faster than 110 mph and up to 125 mph, you have to put up something called an “impenetrable barrier” now (and there is no such thing as yet) or eliminate the crossing altogether. For faster than 125 mph, all crossings have to go.
5 posted on 05/09/2014 9:56:26 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Because Hitler loved Trains. Next question.


6 posted on 05/09/2014 9:56:35 PM PDT by Kickass Conservative (Nobody owes you a living, so shut up and get back to work...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Because they tell you where you can go, and when you can go there. DONE!


7 posted on 05/09/2014 9:56:45 PM PDT by cdcdawg (Be seeing you...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Jim Robinson

Thanks to Washington DC.

Even freight trains hauled by steam locos used to be faster than the freights running today.


8 posted on 05/09/2014 9:57:33 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: cdcdawg

So do airlines. And the “Hound”.


9 posted on 05/09/2014 9:58:17 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Kickass Conservative

Heh. Now that’s someone who really hated trains, in fact. That’s why he built the Reichsautobahn.


10 posted on 05/09/2014 9:59:05 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Trains don’t go where my dog and I want to go.


11 posted on 05/09/2014 10:00:07 PM PDT by Paladin2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Olog-hai

The only reason we fly is because we cannot drive there on our own terms. Flying sucks, in case you didn’t notice, and riding the bus is the ultimate in suck. All sorts of awful delays, and dealing with .... folk.


12 posted on 05/09/2014 10:00:11 PM PDT by cdcdawg (Be seeing you...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Cronos
Driving cars and trucks represents FREEDOM for American. Also, because America is so vast, cars are more practical for transportation. Once Euro, who used to distain Americans for their love of Autos, realized that Cars are more practical for us because everything is so spread out here.

Another factor- driving in cars makes Americans less susceptible to terrorist attack AND Government control. When you can control the transit, the Government has its people in convenient, tight little boxes which can be coerced and/or terrorized. THIS is why Obama, Democrats, and other anti-American far-left extremist radical groups keep pushin for Public transportation.

13 posted on 05/09/2014 10:00:49 PM PDT by MuttTheHoople (Nothing is more savage and brutal than justifiably angry Americans. Don’t believe me? Ask the Germa)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Well, in the OLDEN DAYS, driving a car represented independence, freedom, romance, status, and well deserved white privilege, black privilege, Italian privilege, and any other ethnicity who worked hard in the American system and earned it. Trains are cool...but we used to be ‘exceptional’.


14 posted on 05/09/2014 10:02:35 PM PDT by LittleBillyInfidel (This tagline has been formatted to fit the screen. Some content has been edited.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Because I can get in my car when I want to and go places that trains can’t. I’m on my own schedule, that is the American way.


15 posted on 05/09/2014 10:03:12 PM PDT by doc1019
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos
This analysis is correct.

In Germany and Italy all the major cities are within two hours train time or less from another major city, and every city has a compact downtown with a centrally located train station and available public transportation.

16 posted on 05/09/2014 10:03:40 PM PDT by wideawake
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos
Takes me an hour to get to Penn Station or Grand Central, and then I'll have to get a cab to my final destination.

if I want to go to Atlantic city, the trains are twice as long as driving because there's no direct route -- you have to go through Philadelphia.

17 posted on 05/09/2014 10:03:43 PM PDT by Tanniker Smith (Rome didn't fall in a day, either.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: cdcdawg

I certainly did notice.

A true pity that the federal government shut the free market out of the highway and commercial aviation business, too. Things could have been a lot more interesting and versatile. (Ultralight helicopter taking off from your driveway?)


18 posted on 05/09/2014 10:03:49 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

I would ride the train everywhere if there was a car waiting for me when I got there.


19 posted on 05/09/2014 10:04:02 PM PDT by P-Marlowe (There can be no Victory without a fight and no battle without wounds)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Because we don’t have to.


20 posted on 05/09/2014 10:04:31 PM PDT by BykrBayb (Wagglebee please come home we miss you! ~ Þ)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tanniker Smith

Ain’t the government grand? Used to be a shorter rail route from New York to Atlantic City through the Pine Barrens. They let Conrail (the government-owned freight railroad) abandon that.


21 posted on 05/09/2014 10:04:47 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Paladin2

The infrastructure of roads has come at a tremendous... cost to the taxpayer. Nothing is free.


22 posted on 05/09/2014 10:05:07 PM PDT by Rodamala
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Olog-hai

I still want my flying car that Back to the Future said would be here by now! Actually, just gasoline at real market prices would be pretty cool, and just as imaginary.


23 posted on 05/09/2014 10:06:35 PM PDT by cdcdawg (Be seeing you...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Jim Robinson

I really want to spend three days on a train from SF to PHL at three times the price of a 4 hour air flight. Makes perfect sense to me.

Talk about DUH!!


24 posted on 05/09/2014 10:06:51 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Cars are freedom, and even very poor people in the US can avail themselves of the highway. and they can take their kids and their gear.

I love train rides, but I never want the roads, and cheap used cars, to go away. They are a leg up in the world, not just a means to a destination.


25 posted on 05/09/2014 10:08:10 PM PDT by married21 ( As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Trains are successful in certain corridors with the right distance and shape. Take St Louis to Chicago, for instance, or New York to DC.

Other regions, not so much.


26 posted on 05/09/2014 10:08:17 PM PDT by lurk
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Jim Robinson

True...and I also prefer to take the chopper to avoid ground-level traffic. Let’s face it: you have a much better chance of finding a helipad near your destination than a train station.


27 posted on 05/09/2014 10:09:47 PM PDT by Milton Miteybad (I am Jim Thompson. {Really.})
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: wideawake

Our cities also have something theirs don’t.


28 posted on 05/09/2014 10:10:19 PM PDT by ealgeone (obama, borderof)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Rodamala
"Nothing is free"

No doubt. The Eisenhower Interstates enhanced bidness.

29 posted on 05/09/2014 10:11:04 PM PDT by Paladin2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

30 posted on 05/09/2014 10:13:57 PM PDT by Wyrd bi ful ard (Pope Calvin the 1st, defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

They stink!


31 posted on 05/09/2014 10:15:34 PM PDT by Texicanus (Texas, it's a whole 'nother country.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Jim Robinson

“Too expensive, too slow, too remote.”

You forgot it doesn’t go where you want to go.


32 posted on 05/09/2014 10:17:58 PM PDT by dalereed
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Cronos
Trains are generally a PITA because of the points mentioned. I also live in a city where several commuters died recently an a stupid train wreck caused by a union engineer texting to his young wanna-be engineer groupies. He missed a signal and plowed into a freight head-on causing many deaths.

So first, I don't ride trains because I don't trust unions to run them safely.

Second, I don't ride trains because they're incredibly expensive for long trips.

Third, I don't ride trains because they're always late and never deliver me where I need to go. And because I don't trust unions.

33 posted on 05/09/2014 10:19:21 PM PDT by Bernard Marx
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

It’s because willie green was taken to the gulag on the last train


34 posted on 05/09/2014 10:19:47 PM PDT by mylife
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ealgeone

Bingo.


35 posted on 05/09/2014 10:21:20 PM PDT by Husker24
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: Jim Robinson

Exactly!


36 posted on 05/09/2014 10:27:49 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

The US currently moves 38% of freight by rail vs. 10% in Europe. Take over the freight railroads to move people and there could be a 4x increase of the number of Trucks on the road. I don’t think passenger rail would is the environmental panacea the commies seem to believe.


37 posted on 05/09/2014 10:32:54 PM PDT by sharkhawk (Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Jim Robinson

I rode trains as a 14 year old kid going to and from boarding school. They used to wind through the back woods of our nation, a path where you would see things you couldn’t from other vantage points. Talk about a lovely trip from Joplin, Missouri to Siloam Springs, Arkansas. It was about as beautful as you would ever want to see.

I’ve ridden them to Kansas City a few times.

If you have the shekels and the time, it’s a romantic way to travel.

Other than that, no thanks.

Some commuter trains are doing pretty good here in Los Angeles. I’m not sure they’re turning a profit, but it sure gives the local politicos something to brag about.

BTW, the cost of the California Super-Train just went up again. I know, I know, who could have believed it would? /s


38 posted on 05/09/2014 10:33:01 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

If it’s too far to drive (time constraints), we fly there and rent a car.


39 posted on 05/09/2014 10:33:44 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

The article answers its own question. Why don’t Americans ride trains more? Because the freight trains control most of the track.


40 posted on 05/09/2014 10:37:58 PM PDT by gunsequalfreedom (Conservative is not a label of convenience. It is a guide to your actions.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: dalereed; Jim Robinson

It doesn’t even go home?

/s


41 posted on 05/09/2014 10:40:03 PM PDT by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously-you won't live through it anyway-Enjoy Yourself ala Louis Prima)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: gunsequalfreedom

Used to be the other way around. And both freight and passenger were faster. Then the federal government came along and got into the transportation business in earnest.


42 posted on 05/09/2014 10:47:13 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

Because Americans don’t consider themselves freight?


43 posted on 05/09/2014 10:48:10 PM PDT by Gene Eric (Don't be a statist!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: married21

The interstate highway system was used as a means to grow government. Not what I’d call freedom.


44 posted on 05/09/2014 10:48:57 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: wideawake

European cities are largely walkable. Your job, your stores, your restaurants, your bars, your nightclubs and your green spaces are all within walking distance of your apartment. Anything you want to travel further in the city to, you can bike, take the bus or take the metro.

Inter-city travel - there’s the train.

Almost no one owns a car, its expensive and there’s usually no place to park. Its not worth the convenience.


45 posted on 05/09/2014 10:49:36 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Cronos
Nobody who's ever actually ridden Amtrak would ask this question.
46 posted on 05/09/2014 10:51:20 PM PDT by FredZarguna (Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Dagny Taggert is saddened...
47 posted on 05/09/2014 10:54:03 PM PDT by RandallFlagg (Uninstall Fascist Firefox. Get Pale Moon.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

Union Station in LA is a hub for local transit options. Plus it is a beautiful building. People don’t take the train because they don’t consider it. They’d be surprised to discover the advantages of train travel in the U.S.


48 posted on 05/09/2014 10:57:34 PM PDT by Lisbon1940
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: goldstategop
Intercity buses are starting to catch on in Germany because their fares are lower cost than the high-speed trains as well as having more flexible schedules. That’s what happens when the state owns too much. When there’s an alternative, people vote with their feet if it’s cheaper on their pockets and not state-run. (Even the state-owned rail company feared competition, which is sad.)
49 posted on 05/09/2014 11:00:16 PM PDT by Olog-hai
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: Lisbon1940

Not unless city space is reconfigured to allow mass transit to effectively replace the car.

In my neck of the woods, a cargo bike could effectively replace my car but its expensive.


50 posted on 05/09/2014 11:00:21 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 48 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-100101-150151-200 ... 301-341 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson