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Why don't Americans ride trains?

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Transportation Why don't Americans ride trains?

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    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    Why don’t Americans ride trains?

    Aug 29th 2013, 23:50 by N.B. | WASHINGTON, DC

    AMERICA has by far the largest rail network in the world, with more than twice as much track as China. But it lags far behind other first-world countries in ridership. Instead of passengers, most of America’s massive rail network is used to carry freight. Why don’t Americans ride trains?

    READ MORE: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/08/economist-explains-18



    Pretty simple. We have automobiles, good roads, and cheap gas. :)

    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    columbusmike said:
    Pretty simple. We have automobiles, good roads, and cheap gas. :)

    Agreed on the first reason… those last two are questionable. ;)



    Well, and a lack of places locally to get on the trains legally and safely.



    Low gas prices in the last century created our car culture and it’s difficult to break something so ingrained. I remember paying $0.50/gallon in 1980. So all our efforts went into car infrastructure while in Europe the focus was rail, especially after WWII. Yes, it’s more expensive than what we’re used to but it’s cheap compared to Europe (an expensive compared to Venezuela!):

    But nowhere in the world is gas quite as cheap as it is in Venezuela. At $0.04 a gallon, it’s practically free. In Venezuela, it costs about $1.56 to fill up the 39-gallon tank of a Chevrolet Suburban, according to calculations from Bloomberg, compared to $137.28 in the U.S. and $389.22 in Turkey.

    Handy interactive map at the bottom of this article:

    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    Pablo said:
    I remember paying $0.50/gallon in 1980.

    I remember paying 99 cents a gallon somewhere in the 1996-1998 era when I was a teenage driver. It’s only really shot up drastically in the past 10-15 years.



    The other reason… SPEED! We may have the “largest” rail system, but it is also considerably slower than the European and Chinese counterparts. I would LOVE to be able to take the train… But when it take like 16 hours on a train to go a distance that would take 4-6 hours in a car, I think I will pass…


    Alex Silbajoris

    A long time ago I heard the comment that the railroads would rather haul freight than people, because freight doesn’t complain.


    Matt Boyd

    To simplify my comments I am going to envision three types of travel: local, medium range, and long range.

    Unless you are in a major metropolitan area that is already designed around a local passenger rail system, nothing substitutes for the convenience of a car. You can go wherever you want, any time you want, for relatively low cost. Even though gas is triple what it was just 15 years ago…it’s still relatively cheap. If it wasn’t, people would be seriously considering alternatives….it’s economics baby.

    Medium Range
    In my mind this is the only area passenger rail really has a chance. Going from Columbus to Chicago, or Nashville, or St. Louis would likely be much more convenient by rail and potentially cheaper. In the past, the government encouraged car travel so much though the national infrastructure initiatives, that people naturally drove these types of travels.

    Long Range
    Here rail is competing with air travel. The airlines have been significantly subsidized since their inception. To the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. The government pretty much decided that travel to the coasts or coast-to-coast was going to be done by air travel. Plus, it’s not cheap to build train lines through mountains when planes can just fly over them.

    Just my two cents

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