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Book Data

ISBN: 9781603580649
Year Added to Catalog: 2009
Book Format: Paperback
Dimensions: 6 x 9
Number of Pages: 304
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Old ISBN: 1603580646
Release Date: October 20, 2009
Web Product ID: 470

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Waiting on a Train

The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service
A Year Spent Riding Across America

by James McCommons

Foreword by James Howard Kunstler

"This is must reading for anybody who cares about the transportation future of this country. It should be a call to arms for all Americans who keep wondering why our friends in Europe and Asia have terrific trains while we have poured billions into highways and airports and a pittance into our national passenger rail system."

Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts and vice-chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors, 1998-2003

A Library Journal Best Book of 2009

Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards 2009
Silver Award Winner in Social Science

During the tumultuous year of 2008—when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California—journalist James McCommons spent a year on America’s trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism.

Readers meet the historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates who are rallying around a simple question: Why has the greatest railroad nation in the world turned its back on the very form of transportation that made modern life and mobility possible?

Distrust of railroads in the nineteenth century, overregulation in the twentieth, and heavy government subsidies for airports and roads have left the country with a skeletal intercity passenger-rail system. Amtrak has endured for decades, and yet failed to prosper owing to a lack of political and financial support and an uneasy relationship with the big, remaining railroads.

While riding the rails, McCommons explores how the country may move passenger rail forward in America—and what role government should play in creating and funding mass-transportation systems. Against the backdrop of the nation’s stimulus program, he explores what it will take to build high-speed trains and transportation networks, and when the promise of rail will be realized in America.


About the Author

James McCommons

James McCommons has been a journalist for more than twenty-five years and published hundreds of articles in magazines and major newspapers. A former senior editor at Organic Gardening magazine, he specializes in ecology and travel writing. He grew up in a railroad family and has spent thirty-five years riding trains in America. He currently teaches journalism and nature writing at Northern Michigan University in the Upper Peninsula.


In the News

Interview on KCUR's Up to Date with Steve Kraske: Listen Now

Passenger Rail Symposium, Day 1: Hooray for High Speed Rail: LA.StreetsBlog.org

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View James's full profile page >





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