I like riding passenger trains. My wife and I rode the rails from Richmond to Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago to avoid the knuckle-clenching grind of Interstate 95 and the expense of parking in the District. The seats in our Amtrak car were comfortable, and Wi-Fi allowed us to check email and surf the Web. What I like even more is that my tickets were subsidized. Thank you, taxpayers, for making my enjoyable trip more affordable!
The cost of train travel rarely enters into the consideration of other rail buffs, however. Indeed, in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch Rafi Guroian, a director of the Virginia Rail Passengers Association, urges a massive expansion of train service in Virginia without ever once mentioning how much his marvelous ideas would cost.
Guroian praises Virginia for expanding its passenger rail service in recent years to Roanoke and Norfolk, but says the state’s long-term vision is crimped. Virginia’s passenger rail system, he observes, serves mainly “to whisk people and money out of Virginia, and into Washington and the Northeast corridor. … But what about people who want to visit Virginia from out of state for a day-trip of business or tourism? Their options are decidedly more limited.”
Guroian offers an expansive vision. “We need trains that encourage travel to and within our commonwealth,” he writes. “We need more trains coming into the state in the morning, leaving in the evening, and we need cross-state trains through our key activity centers (college, business, and tourist destinations).”
Wow, that is quite a list of “needs.” But I’m wondering, how many people actually need these things? How badly do they need these things? Given alternative transportation modes such as cars and inter-city buses, how willing are they to pay to, say, ride a train from Roanoke to Norfolk? How much would it cost to fund Guroian’s vision of expanded rail service, what is the gap between what it would cost and what people are willing to pay in fares, and how much would he ask from taxpayers to make up the difference?
Any discussion of passenger rail in Virginia that fails to address such questions strikes me as disconnected from reality and utterly pointless.There are currently no comments highlighted.