Raving, Ranting & Riding on Railroads

From the transcontinental railroad to Amtrak, a look at our current system.

It's been more than 150 years since the original Pacific Railroad Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
What does our current rail environment look like? Photo:Anders Illum (Flickr Creative Commons)
Raving, Ranting & Riding on Rail
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Raving, Ranting & Riding on Rail

Like other government programs, there is a debate over funding for Amtrak. It’s a complicated business model for the rail operator because it’s owned by the government but operates in many ways like a private company.

Today,  we’ll talk about the current state of rail in the United States. With all of this talk about high speed rail...including here in the northeast, how did we get to where we are today?

We’ll be joined by journalist and urbanist Yonah Freemark about the our current rail environment and the prospects of privatization. He has written for numerous publications on transportation issues and now runs his own site called The Transport Politic.

We’ll also check-in with WNPR reporter Neena Satija who is embarking on a new project called Rant & Rail. She’s trying to get around the state of Connecticut without a car.

Finally, a look way back in history at the construction and financing of the transcontinental railroad with author Dennis Drabelle. His latest book is The Great American Railroad War: How Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris Took on the Notorious Central Pacific Railroad.



Amtrak costs more in SE Conn. than Central Conn.

I've tried to use Amtrak here in SE Conn. I can walk from my Conn. home to the Westerly, RI station in 15 minutes and the walk to work from New London's Union Station is even less, but the ticket prices are extremely high at $15.50 minimum. I compared the trip with Amtrak's Meriden to New Haven route, a 28 minute run (2 minutes longer than my commute would be) that only costs $5.50. Why this discrimination against SE CT commuters?

Conn transit

Four ten years I happily took the bus to downtown Hartford from W Hartfd and later Avon. My employer, a private law firm, subsidized my bus fare and the bus took me within 5 minutes walk to my office.

Then I changed jobs went to part time and because there is no mid-day service to or from Avon, I had to start driving later I took a full time job with the state and hoped to start using the bus again however, the buses from Avon don't stop near enough to the Capitol area, so it would add at least 30 minutes round trip to my commute. The state's working hours are 40 hours a week compared to 35 for my private employers. Thats 5 less hours, hardly incentive to spend more time commuting. Plus the state provides free parking. So I keep on driving in.