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Letter to the editor: Passenger rail a good idea in some places, but not in Auburn
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Letter to the editor: Passenger rail a good idea in some places, but not in Auburn

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An Amtrak train is readied to start a journey from San Diego to Los Angeles.

Train to nowhere

As much as I enjoy the comfort of a train and as cool as it would be to take a train from Auburn to Nashville for the weekend or from Auburn to Atlanta for the SEC championship, the expansion of Amtrak subsidies within the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan is fiscally irresponsible and not viewed through a lens of reality. Congress should stop subsidizing Amtrak, so that they are no longer enabled to waste tax dollars in unprofitable rail markets. Instead, Amtrak should focus on implementing high speed rail on the west Coast and on the East Coast where geography, population densities, and travel trends would keep Amtrak profitable without taxpayer help.

As much as people can point to how great passenger rail is in other countries, there are distinct differences. Great rail systems that come to mind are the European system, Japan, and China; all having geographic and cultural differences from the USA. Compare the sheer distance between major cities in Japan and Europe to those in the USA. Japan is slightly smaller than the state of California, yet has three times the population, so rail makes sense. In Europe you have major capitals and other highly populated cities close together. Paris to Brussels is just a hop, skip, and a jump. Paris to Berlin is only just over 500 miles. There are no cities this size in the USA that are geographically that close. Consider the scales and city layouts of cities in China. China is filled with highly concentrated mega cities that dwarf New York City, all with transit systems. These cities are filled with massive buildings reminiscent of Soviet style apartment buildings. These metro areas have clear boundaries.

Comparatively, large cities in the South like Atlanta, Nashville, and New Orleans are spread out into never-ending suburbia and it’s unrealistic and price-prohibitive to develop a decent metro transit system due to the geographic distances. The simple matter of fact is you need a car to go anywhere except downtown in Atlanta or Nashville, and most other American cities. Americans don’t have a love affair with automobiles; we have a love affair with space, mobility and freedom. Yes, young people are moving to the heart of cities, but come mid-30s, people start looking for that green lawn where you need a car.

Rail is great in certain settings; why not try to make a great rail system where it fits and not force it where it does not at the expense of the taxpayer? Let’s leave nationalized rail to China, so that hard working Americans don’t have to front the bill for you to travel with more leg room.

Landon Speakman


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