From the Editors

METRO editors blog about public transit issues, news and events. Join the conversation with your comments.

Back to the list

April 23, 2010

Could it happen here?

by Nicole Schlosser

Last week when the Icelandic volcano erupted, making the skies un-navigable and canceling flights all over Europe, many travelers were able to quickly shift gears and get on a train.


There were, of course, many inter-continental trip delays and some small inconveniences. A relative of mine from L.A., who is on vacation in London right now, had his flight to Paris canceled, so he ended up not going. Serves him right for not taking my suggestion to use the Eurostar. Still, he had the option to get there if he had changed his mind.


I couldn’t help thinking, as I listened to the news, how much more convenient it would be not only if we had a similar rail system in the U.S. but also if we were more conditioned to actually use it. A recent NPR story talked about how many Europeans are big train-takers anyway and automatically flocked to the rail stations. Maybe I am being cynical, but I don’t see Americans doing that, at least not in most parts of the country.


I know that the Northeastern region of the U.S. is more set up for high-speed rail than the rest of the country, and that there are already several alternative and public transportation options many Americans just don’t think to use. Living in L.A. the past few years has really driven that point home for me.


Obviously, a U.S. high-speed rail and the attendant feeder transit systems won’t be in place anytime soon. I just hope that by the time they are, we Americans can change our thinking and actually take advantage of the system we will have invested in so heavily.


Nicole Schlosser

Senior Editor

Write a letter to the editor digg it stumble upon newsvine

  • Jan van Eck[ April 23th, 2010 @ 10:02am ]

    What is being overlooked is that the Europeans have entirely separate rail networks exclusively for passenger rail. We "borrow" freight rail (and in some cases, commuter rail) platforms to operate Amtrak on. So we do not currently have the ability to put on extra consists to absorb crush loads on the system. Want to move forward with a new passenger rail network? Start with city-pairs. Obtain some tunnel boring machines, punch holes through the Appalachians, and build a nice 110-mph line between NY and Chicago, for a start. then you too can run overnight between major cities. except that nobody (in Washington) wants to spend the money.

  • Roger Hergenrader[ April 23th, 2010 @ 11:19am ]

    For us older folks, think back to WW2 and the passenger traffic we had all across the nation. The RR's were more than tickeled to get rid of the Passengers in favor of the more money making freight. However, running freight and high speed trains on the same tracks just does not work. High speed Passenger trains need a segregated ROW so that they can run at their designed speed which makes them highly competative with short haul airlines and auto traffic. By having their own ROW they also will be more safe than having shared trackage.

  • Mark A. Martin[ April 23th, 2010 @ 12:03pm ]

    I agree with you on both thoughts shared in your article. First, Americans generally do not think to take rail as a secondary, let alone primary, mode of transportation. Second, too many folks would miis the opportunity to utilize passenger rail, even in times of emergency. However, I do remember that on September 11-15, 2001 after the terrorist attacks, that Amtrak could not provide enough seats on their trains between major business centers, especially in Chicago after the AREMA rail conference was dismissed.

  • Howard Bingham[ April 23th, 2010 @ 7:16pm ]

    If air traffic were disabled here in the U.S.A., as it were in Europe, there is no way Amtrak could step up & fill the void, as simply put there are not enough rail cars & locomotives to move the hundreds of thousands travelers that would be inconvenienced. This due to Congress short changing the system since square one. As it was after 9/11, Amtrak was already at capacity & only a few lucky individuals thought of passenger rail as an alternative, as Amtrak is not in their vocabulary, as most in the current generation haven't been exposed to passenger rail & the few who have, have been subject to delays that Amtrak personnel could not adequately explain to those not familiar with rail terms.. NOW IF Congress were to subsidize Amtrak to $ 35 Billion per year, if there were a change in mindset at the Amtrak HQ in regard to expansion, then really something would be possible after the necessary 10 years needed to manufacture NEW cars & locomotives & to restore older equipment to useable service as new equipment came on line, RATHER than the current mindset to junk the older cars as the new cars came on line. Howard Bingham

  • Rodger James Sillars[ April 24th, 2010 @ 5:42pm ]

    In 1967 we had the last labor shut down of US air service and then we had many more buses and trains. I worked for the CB&Q at the time and we ran many trains with second sections (near duplicate train sets with older equipment) We met a lot of the demand, but not with equipment that encouraged coming back although in todays cattle car aircraft the train might have faired much better in comparison. 9/11 created a more recent crisis that Amtrak was less able to alleviate. With the airlines squeezing out capacity and parking planes, this crisis will be another mess to recover from..

  • James Bean[ April 28th, 2010 @ 9:18am ]

    Train are old school. The way to go is by the newer and more luxury equipped tour buses. Plus groups can get point to point service, not just to a train station where you still need a ride. You can find good companies on the UMA website.


Receive the latest Metro E-Newsletters in your inbox!

Join the Metro E-Newsletters and receive the latest news in your e-mail inbox once a week. SIGN UP NOW!

View the latest eNews
Express Tuesday | Express Thursday | University Transit

Author Bio

Janna Starcic

Executive Editor

Alex Roman

Managing Editor

White Papers

Factors in Transit Bus Ramp Slope and Wheelchair-Seated Passenger Safety Nearly 3 million U.S. adults are wheelchair or scooter users1, and as the population ages this number is expected to rise. Many wheelchair users rely upon public transportation to access work, medical care, school and social activities.

Mass Transit Capital Planning An overview of the world-class best practices for assessing, prioritizing, and funding capital projects to optimize resources and align with the organization’s most critical immediate and long-term goals.

The Benefits of Door-to-Door Service in ADA Complementary Paratransit Many U.S. transit agencies continue to struggle with the quality of ADA service, the costs, and the difficulties encountered in contracting the service, which is the method of choice for a significant majority of agencies. One of the most basic policy decisions an agency must make involves whether to provide door-to-door, or only curb-to-curb service.

More white papers


The full contents of Metro Magazine on your computer! The digital edition is an exact replica of the print magazine with enhanced search, multimedia and hyperlink features. View the current issue