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April 07, 2009

In praise of train travel

C.W. Gusewelle writes about the experience of riding a train from Kansas City to New York (4/5, Local). There are not many families today who have the time away from work or the money to take a long-distance train trip. Oh, it can be done, but not nearly as easily as it could 50 years ago.

He is right that we the people should hold President Obama to his pledge to fund Amtrak so train travel frequency and efficiency are improved.

Gusewelle’s article was timely for me because I just finished a wonderful vacation utilizing Spanish, French and Italian train services. Each train we rode proved to be an added holiday adventure of meeting and getting to know fellow travelers from around the world. Plus my wife, Annie, and I saw sights not available to see from an airplane or a car speeding down an interstate highway.

Our four days on eight trains were comfortable and relaxing, and we didn’t have to stop and wait on freight trains like Amtrak has to do here in the Midwest.

A few more train travel stories like Gusewelle’s might move our state and federal governments to properly fund passenger service expansion.

Charles D. Jones
Overland Park


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Travelling with him is always a treat. Crossing on a ferry from Turkey to Greece, he used his last Turkish currency to buy a big box of Turkish delight which he then shared with ALL of the passengers on the ferry, just chatting despite language difficulties.


Is there a "green" train that is subsidized by the governemnt for all to ride for free?
Train travel is more expensive than air travel to most cities.


As a child I took a number of trips to Ohio, Illinois and Louisiana on trains, and they are great memories. The one trip I've taken on Amtrak was not pleasant. Trains in Europe, Asia and Canada are much better run and more comfortable.


I realize the bullet train to Denver is not feasible Roger, I'm just really tired of making that drive every month!


If it is indeed a "wise investment" the private sector will take it on...if not, "take your shoes off get in the scanner line".

Roger Lambert

Casady, all things being equal I would prefer to take a train, for the reasons you mention. Having said that, I can't imagine it's a wise investment to build a bullet train across the middle of the United States.


"Train travel makes sense in the Northeast or in Europe where cities are close together. It makes little sense in the Midwest or West where the distances are so great."

I agree Roger. However, if Amtrak were to beef up their tracks and trains so they were on a par with the Northeast corridor, the trip to St. Louis would be reduced 2 1/2 hours and the trip to Chicago would be reduced to 5 1/2. Factoring the time it takes to drive to the airport, deal with security (which, admittedly in KC is non-issue but that is not the case with Chicago or STL), the time difference between flying and taking the train would be greatly reduced. This would greatly increase demand to the point where fares would also be comparable. But you are right, as it stands now, train travel outside of the NE corridor leaves a lot to be desired. Now a 2 hour bullet train from KC to Denver. That would be nice!

Roger Lambert

I've taken a train from KC to Washington, DC. It was 24+ hours of misery.

I've also recently checked into taking a train from KC to Chicago. A plane ticket was about $40 cheaper.

Train travel makes sense in the Northeast or in Europe where cities are close together. It makes little sense in the Midwest or West where the distances are so great.

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