Whatever happened to passenger rail?
There was a time in the US when passenger rail was king. But then came Henry Ford and the rise of the automobile, the interstate highway system and cheap gasoline, and passenger rail became something of a relic. Car-choked freeways became the symbol of progress while trains were seen as a quaint throwback.
Meanwhile, other countries have developed networks of high-speed bullet trains that put our woefully inadequate passenger rail to shame. But, says James McCommons, author of Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service, that may be changing.
From WPR’s Joy Cardin program:
Joy Cardin: What Happened?
James McCommons: We started to build a road system beginning in the 1920s that sort of paralleled the passenger rail network, and of course aviation came in in the 50s, the interstate highway system was really the stake in the heart of the passenger rail system, and we just moved away from the rail to cars. And a lot of freight as well. So by the late 1960s, early ’70s, the railroads in general were in bad shape, and Amtrak was created as a way to save some freight trains, but mostly to save the freight railroads. Many of them were going into bankruptcy because they were losing so much money on passenger service.