A vision for U.S. passenger rail

With gasoline within sneezing distance of a United States average of $4 a gallon and continuing airline cutbacks and failures, let me return to domestic passenger rail.

I was looking at a list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas — this is what led me to the Micropolitan areas I mentioned last week — because the National Association of Railroad Passengers has a vision plan to bring passenger rail to many, many more Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical areas (and state capitols that don’t fit that category) than Amtrak currently serves. (The rest are reasonably close to lines to allow for bus connections.)

A lasting solution means, of course, more than adding new cars or even new lines. The national rail infrastructure has been undersupported for years and freight pressures on the current rail system are likely to be more pressing than the wildest possible increases in passenger service. And there’s no reason one should lose to the other.

Even though I’m a confirmed Eastern Time Zoner, I’ve added Midwest High Speed Rail, Improving Amtrak Incrementally to my Google Reader news feed list. (Some of the most interesting movements in passenger rail are found in the Midwestern states.)

Dan Johnson-Weinberger, its author, advocates rail supporters contact their federal representatives in support of HR 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which would increase “the amount of federal money to match state capital investments.”

I agree. See if your member is on the co-sponsor list (more about that next time) and if not call his or her office, ask of the legislative aide for rail or transportation affairs, and make your opinion known.

We can plan and prepare now, or suffer later.