September 06, 2004

All come, to look for America

A little story: I live in Chicago, right in the middle of a city with quite a nice public transportation system, so, to save money, I don't own a car. I have quite a few friends scattered around the Midwest and East Coast, who I would like to go visit on the occasional weekend or vacation. One might think I have four options: taking a plane, renting a car, Amtrak, and Greyhound. Well, one might think this if one was European, where trains and busses are heavily subsidized, and the efficient, convenient schedules make these viable transportation options. Amtrak and Greyhound do usually run routes between Chicago and my desired destination -- St. Louis, Cincinnatti, Des Moines, to name a few -- but renting a car for a weekend is often only slight more expensive, takes half the amount of time, and means I don't have to leave at four in the morning to catch the single train/bus that takes me where I want to go.

In the US, of course, Amtrak and Greyhound are subsidized in the same half-assed way we pay teachers and fight terrorism. So we end up in a vicious circle: poorly-funded, inconvenient, and uncomfortable interstate train and bus services mean more people drive themselves or fly, making more and more train and bus routes unprofitable, justifying eliminating routes and services in a struggle for Amtrak and Greyhound to remain solvent. Which is why this isn't a surprise.

1 comment:

MosBen said...

Ugh, I agree on the whole "We need better public transportation" thing, but as soon as I saw that this woman lives in Ritzville I had to stop reading. That place really IS nowhere. Why anyone would live there is beyond me.