Why do trains suck in the U.S.?


#69

Here’s a post I’ve repeated here a couple of times, covers “why do our trains suck” and “why does it take a lifetime to finish a project” as the same root cause can be found:


#70

To the marble seller, and the contractor, and the city councilman they support, it was a stroke of genius.


#71

If you are including MTA then aren’t there a lot of other regional services you have to include too? The LA-Riverside Metrolink is probably longer than a lot of SNCF routes - should it be included? What about BART? Caltrain? And those are only the ones I know about. Add up all of these around the country and 13,700 is probably not a stretch. Seems like a hugely misleading comparison for the video to omit these.


#72

Ever read “The Power Broker” bio of Robert Moses? One of my favorite parts was when he said to a flunky of a councilman who owned a quarry contracted for decorative stone sheathing on the Triboro Bridge: “I don’t have enough money for both stone or on ramps, which shall it be?” The reply was “stone”.


#73

I’ve been driving since 79 and they’ve been working on the 59th St bridge and the BQE the whole time. Lifetime job security. It’s like the AC Boardwalk, when they get to one end, it’s time to start back at the beginning.


#74

You mean like Europe? No, actually you’re right, European cities aren’t arranged in anything like a line. But somehow that rail network seems to work quite well. How do they do that?


Huffing Boing Boing
#75

I’m thinking for the same reason that passenger rail works well (i.e. better than the rest of the country) in the Mid-Atlantic/East Coast: Those cities, towns and villages grew before the widespread introduction of the automobile, making it harder to sprawl (until recent decades). For example, if I walk for 30 minutes from my house (in Maryland) I could cross three different jurisdictions on foot; when I used to live in Texas I’d still have several more miles to go before I reached the city limits. You have pockets of people (sometimes very dense pockets) that are closer to each other in, say, Delaware than you do in Brewster County, Texas (which is as big as three Delawares in area, but has less than 10,000 inhabitants). Given the density, it makes (or made) more sense to link them with rails, as it’s more likely that there are customers in one particular place who need to go somewhere else along the rails.

At least, that’s how I figure it. It’s also why I figure that within England, you have different accents (or even varieties of English) in places that aren’t far apart: they were far apart, when one had to go on one’s feet or by horse. Less interaction meant that dialects developed in parallel. Same goes for varieties of German in Switzerland, for example.

Or maybe I’m wrong about all of these?


#76

Exactly right.

National, state, or local, Republican, Democrat, or nonpartisan, the guiding principles behind every government project in America are “how much can I skim?” and its corollary “who wants an iron rice bowl?”


#77

Didn’t the government assign all that right-of-way to the railroad companies in the first place? The Indians sure as hell didn’t sell it to them.


#78

Trains suck in America : because the masses care more for the destination than the journey and driving our cars gets us there faster… Oh and gas is as cheap as water…

Give me a dining car with a top shelf bar and a window to watch the land spread out in front of me, over one flat tire!


#79

#80

Who is John Galt?


#81

Wha? No ayn rand there.


#82

Agreed. For reference, looks like about 1,700 for LIRR+NJ Transit+Metro North. Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and SF have what looks like a few hundred each per day.


#83

#84

That’s the thing: you guys bitch about them because you notice when it’s not working. Most of us haven’t ever had any experience with our rail system, except light rail/subways for those of us in cities.


#85

I think a lot of the problem is that road building is the federal subsidy of first resort. So Americans don’t really understand the advantage of rail cos they don’t pay the bill and their states do get “free” roads but not free rail.


#86

This is such an excellent point.


#87

“You have pockets of people (sometimes very dense pockets) that are closer to each other in, say, Delaware than you do in Brewster County, Texas (which is as big as three Delawares in area, but has less than 10,000 inhabitants). Given the density, it makes (or made) more sense to link them with rails”

Makes sense. Doesn’t explain why anyone built roads for those 10k people.


#88

I guess we are train-spoiled brats :smiley: On a more serious note, train is not cheap anymore and peoples are more and more share cars and use bus.