“Our country’s future prosperity depends on its having an efficient and well-maintained rail system.”
- Warren Buffett.
Today is the fourth annual National Train day in honor of
- the Transcontinental Railroad, which in May 1839, connected the East and West coasts of the United States.
- the 40th birthday of Amtrak (which serves about 28.7 million passengers a year)
- and to highlight the environmental benefits of rail transportation.
Amtrak has sponsored events in Washington D.C, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Rail museums and civic groups will host events in other cities.
Traveling by train uses less fuel per rider than auto travel. Check ✔
AAA quoted a study by Oak Ridge National Labs that says passenger rail travel uses an average of 26% less fuel per rider than car travel.
Trains are more fuel efficient. Check.✔
The Association of American Railroads claims long-haul freight trains are four more times more energy efficient than long-haul trucks,.
Trains are a stress free way to travel. Check.✔
As train stations are closer to downtown we don’t need to arrive two hours ahead of time to have our luggage searched, so the trip by train can end up being shorter than flying. Check.✔
A few train trips I’ve taken:
- from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Calgary, Alberta through the Rocky Mountains.
- from Toronto to Montreal.
- from Los Angeles to San Diego, the train goes right along the coast.
- around Cape Town
Photos of Cape Town train trips:
When we went to Robben Island we took the train from the suburb where we were staying to Cape Town’s main downtown station, and were able to walk the short distance to catch the ferry at the V and A docks.
We also took the train from Cape Town south to Simonstown (near Cape Point). The train tracks hug the coast, so at times it felt almost as if we were on a boat.
Besides being a great way to sit back back and enjoy the scenery, the train was one of the best places for experiencing the multi-cultural country. If we were driving in a car we would have missed so many wonderful experiences, for example the way blind people are allowed to beg on the trains.
While the blind man – on the right – is being led through the compartment by a young sighted assistant holding the begging cup, the blind man sings.
I had to ask someone to translate for me and the song was something like, “I’m blind. I cannot see the beautiful day. Please help me. Please give me money. God bless you….”
As you can see no one seemed to pay much attention to them.
We sat opposite this friendly woman on our way back from downtown Cape Town. Once we introduced ourselves she put her book down, pointed out the sights, chatted about life in the new South Africa, and told us when we were approaching our station, or we would’ve missed it.
If we know that traveling by rail is better for the environment, and I’ve heard a lot of talk about the United States becoming less dependent on oil, why is the rest of the world way ahead of us with their high-speed trains?
Why doesn’t the subway in L.A. go west of Universal City? Why is there still no subway to Santa Monica, or the airport?
If a city like Johannesburg has a high speed train from the airport, what are we waiting for?