Wow! Mention I-95 and you get a lot of comments. So, I will stay on the topic for another day, address some of the issues raised in my post last Friday, and bring up another idea.
The current car-train permits Snowbirds to bring their cars from the DC area to Florida, where they spend the winter, and get them back again. I have never been on this train so I have no idea if it would suit the purpose suggested here of allowing travelers along the I-95 Corridor in the summertime to likewise bring their car along. The reason is, as someone pointed out, that it can be cumbersome to get the cars on and off the train. Once, on an overnight train in Italy, I went to sleep planning on waking up in Venice. I woke up in Milan. The front half of the train split off at Verona and went one way, and the back half the other. Something similar could be used for the car-train. For instance, heading north from New York, there could be one car for New London, another for Providence, a third for Boston and the final one for Maine. These would be attached in order so that the first off (New London in this example) would be at the end of the train. When the whole train pulled into New London, the last car would be detached and the rest of the train could continue on its way and the autos could take their time unloading.
A reader named Annie objected to federal monies being used to help Northeast liberals like me enjoy their vacations. She, living in New Mexico doesn’t want to subsidize our train travel. Fine. As soon as all the Western states reimburse Connecticut for their water projects, I will abandon my quest for federal money for Amtrak. When the Hoover Dam, and the Glen Canyon Dam, and the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, and the Grand Coulee Dam, (the list goes on) are torn down and Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque no longer have any electricity or water, then and only then, will I submit to a lecture on the importance of local government or the rugged individualism of our Western fellow citizens.
Joseph Cleary and Brian Gallagher raise a different but related issue. They note that the tracks are antiquated and owned by the rail companies themselves. This is because trains are a nineteenth century technology and back then, before the federal income tax, the rail companies had more cash to lay train tracks than the government. Now, it is crazy that the government has not purchased the tracks. The airlines do not own the airports and drivers do not own the highways. And, instead of threatening claims of eminent domain and seizing whole neighborhoods along the coast, why not lay the new track right down the median of I-95. It is not perfectly straight, but most of it is, and it would be better than what we have now.
Michael Binder’s suggestion that all cars be Zip Cars is interesting, but I am not sure anyone wants to drive our car after our Saint Bernard puppy was in the back seat after playing in the river. Alas, we treat our cars like family rooms and some people are allergic to dogs.
The good news is that we are even discussing these issues. It is time that we, as a nation, end the historical anomaly of the lack of federal ownership of the tracks. It is time we find ways to make high speed rail a reality, rather than make excuses for why it won’t work. It is time we find new products like car-trains that will so improve the experience of a great American tradition – the family vacation – that it might even prove profitable sooner than one thinks. All Aboard!