Over at Carbon Trace, is a post where High Speed Rail is extolled. I really WANT to be a rail fan, but I'm also a skeptic. I LIKE trains and I have an annual pass for TRE/DART in my wallet as I write this. OTOH, let's look at what actually happens when government gets in the middle of transportation. More specifically, let's ignore all the huge subsidies that happen to help cars push other road users off the road and focus ONLY on rail. More specifically, let's ignore light rail and focus on one specific trip.
Amtrak website. I found that I could book a trip from Dallas to Fort Worth in March. It would cost $7 and would take one hour and thirty five minutes to get from Dallas to Fort Worth. As far as I can tell, I have one choice each day, and it'd cost a bundle to bring my bike along. The site isn't too easy to use, so I can't really say for sure if I might be able to go sometime sooner, but that is definitely the transit time and price.
ON THE OTHER HAND, should I have happened upon a totally different website, that of TRE, I would have found that I could get from Dallas to Fort Worth, via train, any day of the week I wished except Sunday, with many choices and no problems if I wanted to bring my bike along. The price for a one-way trip? $3.75. Actually, for 50 cents more than the price of that government-subsidized Amtrak ticket, I can buy a government-subsidized TRE ticket that'd let me ride around the entire DFW metroplex all day, bike in tow, until I simply dropped from nervous exhaustion.
Oh, I forgot, the cheap TRE route takes 58 minutes. I can leave Dallas after the Amtrak train and be there at the destination to greet the arriving train.
Certainly, Amtrak is in a different market than TRE, but IMHO, it seems that Amtrak would need LESS of my tax dollars if they weren't totally clueless. $7 to go from Dallas to Fort Worth? You gotta be kidding me. It's no wonder that rail in the US is on its knees. What's more, these guys seem pretty clueless that there are other competitors out there called "airlines" that are faster, with more flexible prices. Price out how much it'd cost to travel by train from Florida to Washington State, versus the price to fly. What's more, compare the advance booking necessary. If this is what we have for trains, it really MIGHT be better to simply pull the plug. Certainly this is not a wise use of the tax money extracted from me each year - to offer a poor service at twice the price of other options.
At least bikes don't depend on government subsidies and I hope it stays that way. UPDATE - nothing less than $9 on AMTRAK through August. You CAN ride for $7.50 if you wait until September - or else ride today for half the price on TRE WITH your bike.
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