Going off the Rails

Iowa Independent notes dissatisfaction on the part of some Democratic state lawmakers who say the big federal stimulus bill doesn’t do enough to boost passenger rail service. They’re interested in extending passenger service from Iowa City to the Quad-Cities and from Dubuque to Chicago.

Krusty Konservative says it would be a waste of money because Americans won’t ride the slow, expensive rails.

Krusty focuses on long-distance train travel, and I tend to agree with him. It would take huge investments to create the kind of high-speed network that would make Americans abandon cars or planes.

But I think there is value in smaller commuter routes that could take some of the travel burden off crumbling interstates, offer commuters a safe, convenient alternative to driving and lessen demand for gasoline. Trouble is, I don’t hear lawmakers advocating for these less expensive projects.

Putting all our rail eggs in Amtrak’s basket isn’t going to fly. I think it”s a lot more feasible to run trains between West Des Moines and downtown Des Moines or to Ankeny, and between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, than it is to pour bucks into cross-country routes.

If we could do both, great. But the money’s not there. So let’s create routes people will actually use.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Going off the Rails

  1. anne

    I agree. I lived in New York for a summer and loved the convenience and efficiency of commuting on the subway. If we had an express train between downtown Cedar Rapids and downtown Iowa City, I’d use it every day.

  2. For what we’ve spent on the Iraq War we could have a high-speed rail network connecting most major American cities.

    I would absolutely take high-speed rail to Omaha, Kansas City, Chicago or the Twin Cities to avoid flying. I used to live in Europe and loved train travel.

    You are right that light commuter rail is a worthwhile investment. It also leads to economic redevelopment around the stations (see Denver for examples).

  3. JimD

    Interurban rail… I suppose you think it should be “electrified” as well. What do you think this is, 1915?

    http://www.ameshistoricalsociety.org/exhibits/fd_dm_s_rr.htm

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