September 1, 2002

I don’t watch “60 Minutes” all that often, but when I do, Andy Rooney’s commentary at the end of the program is always entertaining. Tonight he was talking about how the U.S. government is going to give $15 billion dollars to the airline industry to bail it out. He then pointed out that American train travel is way behind most other countries and that we should be putting more money into improving travel by rail.

A flight from New York to California carrying 100 passengers takes about 1500 gallons of fuel, whereas the same trip by train can carry 1000 passengers and takes 300 gallons. You can start adding freight, etc. and it’s obvious that improved train services could help the economy as well as the environment (less fossil fuels, less tractor-trailers on the highways). Rooney also pointed out that thousands of miles of track are rusting away, right along-side many major interstate highways. Trains can run in any weather condition, and of course there’s the added benefit for someone like myself (who hates to fly) of not being 30,000 feet above ground while traveling at high speeds.

I’ve never taken a very long trip by rail (although I do take a commuter train to work every day), but I wish it was more commonplace — and that it was just as desirable for the whole country make it so.