Category Archives: Commentary

Rail travel and the pursuit of happiness

Taking a train may not give us life or liberty, but, ah… it’s a great way to pursue happiness. My trip last week on the Empire Builder reminded me that trains are the best way to enjoy our spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

No matter what your political beliefs are, we need your help to keep the trains running.

Happy Independence Day!

-CH

Photo: “Dawn with fruit trees, Wenatchee, WA,” C. Hamilton

Post rail advocacy info in train stations

Sometimes you will see information from chapters of the National Association of Railroad Passengers posted in train stations.  You don’t see this at [Washington] Union Station, but you do at Penn Station in Baltimore (at least back when I used to ride MARC to Baltimore a few days each week for work).
Richard Layman

I first learned about NARP from a newsletter posted on a bulletin board in Baltimore’s Penn Station in 1977. Even in this age of electronic and social media, print materials reach people who might not find out about our advocacy any other way.

NARP offers several types of print materials. Some stations are willing to let us post brochures and newsletters, others are not. Ask.

And if you’re a NARP member, don’t forget to order NARP business cards that you can hand out to fellow passengers. Information is available to members at this link.

Trains don’t grow on trees

Every once in a while, someone will post that they’re tired of politics, and just want to talk about trains. But are these folks naive? Whether they like to ride trains, or watch them roll by, how do they expect service to survive without the hard work that’s done every day in Washington, DC, by organizations like the National Association of Railroad Passengers, and by state advocacy groups in state capitols and with local elected officials?

I think most of us would agree that the current political environment can be poisonous and hyper-partisan. But support for passenger rail service is still one of the few subjects that finds support on both sides of the aisle….if you and I keep telling our elected representatives that passenger rail is important.

Please join NARP for our annual “Day On the Hill” if you can make it to DC in a couple of weeks. And if you can’t, contact your elected representatives, and show them how passenger rail affects your community.

Working together, we can make sure that the “Train Tree” stays healthy and growing!

-CH

Support for passenger rail continues to grow, with your help

Have you ever looked at the profiles of your friends on social media in passenger train groups? The other groups they belong to? The pages they like? The posts they make? You might be surprised at the range of political beliefs in the Amtrak communities on Facebook.
 
What’s more, the number of people asking to join these groups is growing… a lot. The admins of the passenger train groups on Facebook  are hard-pressed to keep up with the requests to join. And the membership of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, is booming.
 
So don’t let the pundits make unwarranted and incorrect assumptions about the level of support for passenger rail. It’s strong, and continues to get stronger. 
 
But we need to make our voices heard, in Washington, DC, and beyond–especially in our state legislatures, since a large amount of passenger train service is paid for by the states.
And do you want more service, or service in places where it’s lacking? That will only happen from the bottom up — if we push our local councils, business groups, and mayors to remind the legislators and Congressional representatives how important passenger rail is to the health and development of our local communities.
 
There are many ways that all of us can work to improve passenger rail. Please check this list. Let’s all work together to keep trains on track!

The trains are still running

January will see a new team in the White House. The Congress will still be divided. There haven’t been too many changes in state legislatures.

And the trains will still be running.

But now more than ever, we all need to work together to build bipartisan support for a robust passenger train network. Please join, donate to, and become actively involved in, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, and rail advocacy groups in your area.

And there are many other ways to help.

Trains don’t grow on trees. With your help, we can keep them running!

Vote for rail supporters at all levels

For now, seven races shift toward Democrats:

Florida’s 7th District (John L. Mica, R) from Tilts Republican to Tossup

Representative Mica (R-FL7) has been known for micro-managing Amtrak for several years, but he is now facing a real struggle in his bid for re-election.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers has a list of local transit measures on their website here, but they can’t endorse candidates because of their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. If anyone knows of candidates who are worthy of endorsement by passenger rail supporters, please post them here or on the Grow Trains Facebook page.

Don’t forget to vote for passenger rail supporters in the Senate, the House, in state legislatures, and locally!

Tired of advertising?

Advertising. It’s everywhere.

It was originally about paying newspaper writers, radio and television artists, and bloggers. But today, you and I post our comments and our photos to social media and don’t get paid…unless we work for Facebook, or Twitter, or the other platforms we use.

Sure, it costs big money to run big social media sites.  But maybe it’s time to think smaller.

We’re ready to start our own social media site, just for people who care about rail. 

Here’s the idea. The site will have no advertising. It won’t claim ownership of the text and images you post. It won’t collect and sell your personal information. It won’t have subscriptions.

To pay for the small costs it will take to run the site, we’ll ask those of you who can afford it to provide voluntary donations.

Will you join us?

A good choice, but don’t expect miracles

Amtrak’s announcement that retired Norfolk Southern executive Charles “Wick” Moorman will be the railroad’s next president has been greeted positively.

Railfans immediately started posting their wish lists for Mr. Moorman: resurrection of every route Amtrak ever had; return of old-style elegant food service; and so on…even a steam excursion program similar to Norfolk Southern’s.

Well, dream on. We’re pleased that Amtrak has selected a widely-respected executive. But Mr. Moorman is going to need our help to make our wishes come true. This fall, we need to vote for members of Congress, governors, legislators, and local officials who are willing to fund passenger rail.

So please, ask candidates if they support better trains, and let us know what you find out. Mr. Moorman needs our support.

-CH

Flying more, enjoying it less?

mka-nypI’ve seen a lot of posts like this recently. Train supporters are flying, because Amtrak is just not meeting their needs. Personally, I’m taking trains less and flying more this year.

This is bad news. We need to be making passenger trains more convenient, not less.

So now that the circuses in Cleveland and Philadelphia have done their jobs, it’s time to focus on electing candidates that support better infrastructure.

And we need to find and support candidates running for office at every level — US Congress, governors, state legislators, city and county council members — who recognize the importance of passenger rail.

Do you know candidates like that? Let us know! We’ll build a list of supporters, and share it soon.

Who should Grow Trains support?

Grow Trains is looking for candidates who support passenger rail.

It’s important to have strong supporters of passenger rail at all levels of government. So we’re looking for candidates running for election at any level, and they may be affiliated with any party.

Are you such a candidate, or do you know someone who is? Please tell us by completing the linked form.

We hope to publish a list of candidates we like soon. Thanks for your help!