Why is there a push to restore train service NOW?

Many, many years ago… in the United States, there were literally dozens of train lines dotting the landscape of American cities. Most of those train lines are now gone, and depending on who you ask, car companies like GM are responsible for the disappearance of local public transit or cars are just a much better way to get around.

Whatever the reason is, many most US cities lack a comprehensive public transit system. Even major cities lack a full, comprehensive system like their European (and increasingly, Asian) counterparts have. Citizens’ livelihoods are tied to the car much like human life is tied to air and water.

There are pushes to restore train service now. One does not have to look further than NJTransit’s website for details on fantastic plans to restore service from the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania through the Lackawanna cutoff to Hoboken, where riders could connect to PATH or ferry service into Manhattan, (or to New York Penn Station) eliminating the need for the up to 4 hour bus trips one-way to/from the Poconos for commuters and tourists alike. Or, the proposal to use existing and new rail infrastructure to create a new heavy rail line through Middlesex, Ocean and Monmouth counties, connecting commuters with New York Penn Station via the Northeast Corridor or the North Jersey Coast Line. Or, restoring the train line torn up to build – what else? – condos!

People in the northeast are generally more open to transit than other places in the country, but even Phoenix is getting in on the demand for transit. Albeit, they only have one line in an area that is extremely low density, but it does have connecting bus service.

The push to restore train service (or build new service) seems to be correlated to gas prices. Last summer, we all remember gas prices approaching and surpassing $4/gallon in the United States. It seemed like everyone began using transit to save money. Prices went down, but ridership is still up in some areas. My guess is that riders realized transit is not that bad. I mean after all, being car free does rock, but what will happen when (if?) the prices go back down and stay down? Will the novelty wear off?

I really can’t think of any other reason to spur the interest in restoring train service now, so if you have some ideas, let’s hear it in the comments.

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