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Fri Aug 10, 2018, 10:58 AM

Essay: The Last Train To Grand Canyon: How Amtrak Fails The National Parks--And America

Last edited Mon Aug 13, 2018, 12:22 PM - Edit history (1)

Hat tip, Trainorders: Passenger Trains > How Amtrak Fails the Parks - and America (long)

Essay | The Last Train To Grand Canyon: How Amtrak Fails The National Parks—And America
By Alfred Runte on August 8th, 2018

Editor's note: National parks historian Alfred Runte has over the years closely watched how Congress has managed and funded Amtrak. Although funding for Fiscal Year 2019 is halfway to being assured -- the Senate has approved $50 million for the railroad, but the House of Representatives has yet to take up the measure -- he reminds us that only weeks ago Amtrak’s board approved the scenario here. A stay of execution for the Southwest Chief aside, Dr. Runte continues to lobby for the trains Americans deserve—and notes how to make that possible.

Anticipated by fall, planned cutbacks approved by the Amtrak board would truncate the Southwest Chief.

{snip}

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Reply Essay: The Last Train To Grand Canyon: How Amtrak Fails The National Parks--And America (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Friday OP
ghostsinthemachine Friday #1
lunasun Friday #2
PoindexterOglethorpe Friday #3
Vogon_Glory Saturday #4
PoindexterOglethorpe Saturday #5
Vogon_Glory Sunday #6
PoindexterOglethorpe Sunday #7

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Fri Aug 10, 2018, 11:17 AM

1. Interesting. I love the train

Author contradicts everything I thought I knew.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Fri Aug 10, 2018, 11:48 AM

2. I can't believe they already closed the station in Williams near the Grand Canyon

This is even worse now of course

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Fri Aug 10, 2018, 12:27 PM

3. I recently read the book "Waiting on a Train"

by James McCommons, who spent an entire year riding Amtrak. In that time I believe he rode every single segment then in service.

It's beyond criminal that we don't have better and more frequent service everywhere in this country. Other than along the east coast and the west coast there is no major north-south service in this country. Which means, for instance, if I want to take the train from New Mexico to Denver, I'd have to travel via Chicago or Los Angeles.

Several years ago I good Amtrak from New Mexico to Portland, OR, and it was one of the best trips ever. I arrived relaxed and not tired at all, unlike the times I've flown between those two places. I did book a sleeper car, which was well worth it.

I would love to take the train more often, to more places.

Oh, and one of the reasons that a section of the Southwest Chief might become bus travel is that the governor of this state doesn't want to help fund the repair and maintenance needed to maintain the tracks.

Joe Biden, who took the train daily when he was Senator, ought to be out there stumping on behalf of train traffic everywhere.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #3)

Sat Aug 11, 2018, 08:00 AM

4. Infrastructure again

Last edited Sat Aug 11, 2018, 09:22 AM - Edit history (1)

You hit a major part of the Southwest Chief’s problem: the Governor Of New Mexico doesn’t want to pay for the upkeep of the former Santa Fe passenger main.

Grand Canyon National Park isn’t the only park that got cocked by right-wing train slayers. Bryce Canyon and the Canyonlands parks in Utah lost rail access when the Reaganites killed the Desert Wind in the 1980’s.

IMO, the Chief got hit by another whammy: the lack of decent connecting North-South rail passenger service in Colorado. Colorado would do well to inaugurate a Centennial State version of New Mexico’s Rail Runner between Fort Collins and Trinidad.

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Response to Vogon_Glory (Reply #4)

Sat Aug 11, 2018, 11:43 AM

5. Exactly.

This country is so large (and that's only the 48 continental states) that it's never a good idea to compare trains, or possible train routes, here to those in western Europe, or Japan, unless you are only speaking about the northeast corridor. That part of the country has decent train service.

In 2001 I was on a driving trip through Colorado and South Dakota, and somewhere in SD stopped in a small town that had turned its train station into a local museum. The date of the last passenger train to stop there was noted prominently. It struck me as both sad and criminal that they'd been without train service for some 20 plus years at that point. Not to mention, that if you're talking about small towns and rural areas of those places: South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, and various other large states out west, you can easily live several hours from the nearest airport. That actually has commercial airline service.

Until deregulation took hold, the airlines did a good job of serving small cities across the country. There was an entire system of local airlines -- you may remember some of the names: Mohawk, Piedmont, North Central, Bonanza, and others -- that flew smaller, older aircraft into such smaller cities as (just to name one state that I happen to be familiar with): Watertown, Ogdensburg, Massena, Elmira, Ithaca, Jamestown, Olean, Binghamton, Saranac Lake, Utica, Glens Falls, Plattsburgh, all in New York State. I don't believe any of those cities have air service any more.

I currently live in Santa Fe, NM. When I first moved here in 2008 the local airport had no commercial flights. A few years ago American and Delta resumed service, flying regional jets from here to Dallas and Denver. For a while American had a flight to Los Angeles, which they unaccountably discontinued. Unaccountably as there is a lot of film and television production in this part of the state, and the only times I took that flight it was completely full. Nowadays there is one flight a day to Phoenix, as well as DFW and DIA.

That's just one small example of a small city (and the state capital) that is grievously underserved.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 12, 2018, 09:26 AM

6. Compared to most western towns, Santa Fe is the City Different

Santa Fe’s different from most smaller western cities when it comes to regional transportation. They’ve got rail commuter service to Albuquerque and relatively frequent bus service to Albuquerque’s airport.

Now compare this to places like La Junta, Trinidad, Raton, Winslow, Gallup, not to mention the plight of places that lost their passenger rail earlier like Tucumcari, Clovis, etc. I don’t see the Fibber-Tarian Tooth Fairy jumping in to fill the transportation gap.

That’s just New Mexico. Republican voters in small cities in Idaho and Montana did themselves worse.

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Response to Vogon_Glory (Reply #6)

Sun Aug 12, 2018, 12:17 PM

7. Keep in mind that we were without air service for about four years,

and the RailRunner is barely adequate for the commuters who use it. The abysmal frequency makes going to Albuquerque for dinner not possible, as the last train leaves downtown ABQ at 6:48pm. Those who want to come to Santa Fe are better off, as the last train leaves here at 9pm. There's no mid morning or mid afternoon train going south. The schedule was designed strictly for commuters, and not by anyone who understands the point of public transportation.

Among the reasons the small cities are dying everywhere is exactly that lack of passenger rail or passenger air service.

In the ten years I've lived here, I've flown in and out a handful of times. The first time I went to ABQ, which is a huge hassle in my opinion. All my other trips have been in and out of SAF, which I could just about walk to. I'm about three miles away. Earlier this year when my son came to visit I told him not to even look at air fares to ABQ, just book himself in and out of SAF. The previous time he'd come he'd used ABQ, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy and convenient this airport is.

The one time I looked into the bus to the ABQ airport it was something like $50, and didn't run after 5pm, or some such. My arrival there was at 7pm.

My essential point, as is yours, is that public transportation of any kind is sadly lacking in too many places.

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