Why Choose the train?
1) First and foremost, because of the great experience of train travel!
On what other mode of travel do you get dining service with fresh-cooked gourmet meals in an elegant, smooth-riding dining car, bar and lounge service, all with friendly on-board attendants, observation and dome cars with 360 degree views, huge windows, spacious seats with leg rests, private sleeping accommodations and washrooms, and being able to drift to sleep between warm woolen blankets as you watch the prairies, farms, glistening rivers and shadowy peaks roll by your roomette window?
2) Because of the affordability of train travel.
Both VIA and Amtrak offer a variety of discounts for all types of travellers. As an example, as of March 2013, both companies offer rail passes for discounted economy travel across the country (USA rail passes start at $439.00, Canrail passes at $630.00). Or a VIA express deal would allow 2 people to travel from Toronto to Vancouver in berth sleeping accommodations with all meals included for $1341.99 CDN. Or with the AAA discount, 2 people could travel on Amtrak round trip from Buffalo to Emeryville (San Francisco Bay Area) for $1,828.80 US in roomette sleeping accommodations with all meals included .
3) Because other modes of transportation require far more extensive subsidies from the taxpayer than passenger rail does.
Government spending on Air transport is 891 million dollars/year, according to page 7 of the following Council of Ministers responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety report: http://www.comt.ca/english/statistics.pdf
The following report provided by the City of Spokane indicates that heavy traffic – most notably bus traffic, is a major factor in the life of a street and that the average EMPTY bus is equivalent to nearly 3,000 cars in terms of damage imparted to the pavement infrastructure: http://www.inlandrail.org/documents/FactPaperForHeavyAxleLoads.pdf
Canadian Government spending on roads is $29 billion dollars/yr, according to the following Sustainable Prosperity report: http://thecostofsprawl.com/report/the-costs-of-roads-and-highways.pdf
By contrast Passenger rail’s operating funding is only $240 million/yr – LESS THAN 1% OF WHAT ROADS RECEIVE! (page 7 of the following Council of Ministers responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety report: http://www.comt.ca/english/statistics.pdf)
Yet for less than 1% of the subsidies given to roads, VIA Rail carries over 4 million passengers/yr – the equivalent of 12% of the population of Canada! (page 24 of the following Council of Ministers responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety report: http://www.comt.ca/english/statistics.pdf)
4) Because unlike flights, trains have the ability to serve multiple cities on one route.
A flight from Chicago to LA, for example only serves the two endpoint cities. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, by contrast serves 31 intermediate stops, or 528 city pairs, on one route, vastly improving public mobility, according to page 5 of the following report from the National Association of Railroad Passengers:
5) Because rail travel reduces road congestion, pollution and conserves energy.
Intercity rail is the the most energy-efficient means of transportation according to figures from the US Transportation Energy Data Book, far better than buses, cars or air – in terms of BTU’s per passenger mile:
6) Because the train’s unique ability to operate safely in all types of weather conditions makes it a truly essential service.
Trains can operate safely in inclement weather that can both snarl and jeopardize road and air transport. Rail is inherently one of the safest and most reliable modes of transport.
7) Because of the other economic benefits of passenger rail:
In exchange for an $8 million annual investment in operating subsidies, more than $15 million of annual economic activities (business sales) can be attributed to Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service, according to the following reports:
8) Because having a national, interconnecting passenger rail network generates greater revenues & ridership than a smaller, disconnected, piecemeal network.
The following report from the National Association of Railroad Passengers states that connecting passengers on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief generated 89% more revenue than this route would have if operated as an isolated, stand alone corridor: http://www.onerail.org/sites/default/files/documents/studies-and-reports/narp-white-paper.pdf
Yet there are some in politics that denounce rail travel, what can I do in order to raise awareness of the importance of rail travel and hopefully improve or at least prevent further cuts to rail service?
It is true that government’s role of pouring money into the taxpayer-funded highway and air transport industries, while viewing the rail industry as a source of tax revenues, has resulted in loss of revenues on the formerly privately-funded passenger train network as well as cuts to service. However as mentioned above, passenger rail in it’s current form as a publicly-owned entity is the least subsidized overall of all transport modes. Most importantly passenger rail is a service that people want and the proof of this is shown by the millions of people that ride VIA every year as well as by the record ridership that Amtrak has been experiencing year after year.
There are many things you can do to raise awareness of the importance of rail travel and hopefully improve or at least preserve rail services as a travel choice. Here are a few options you can exercise:
1) Write to your local political representative – be polite, and address them by their proper title, keep it as much to the point as possible, try to use supportive facts or examples, give your name and address.
2) Write to the local media, same general rules as above.
3) Contact, join or donate to a rail or transport advocacy group that works to promote, improve and ensure a viable and important passenger rail service such as “Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains” or “Transport Action Canada” in Canada or “National Association of Railroad Passengers” in the USA.
4) Sign a petition.
5) Last but certainly not least, the next time you travel TAKE THE TRAIN!
Travelers of all types are sure to enjoy the comfort, service and scenery. If you love trains and train travel, don’t just take pictures of the train going by and wave at the passengers, GET ON THE TRAIN and ENJOY and SUPPORT IT! With more passengers the financial performance of trains will surely improve even further and along with it the chances for continued, expanded services.
If you’ve never taken a train before whether it’s for pleasure or business give it a chance, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Take a ride soon and I’m confident you will enjoy and cherish the experience.
See you on board!
VIA provides an essential year-round transportation link to towns & cities across Canada, providing a valuable service to the millions of people who use it every year at a fraction of the government spending given to roads, and with the ability to serve far more city pairs than air ever could.