Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service

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NOOK Book. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism. Readers meet the historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates who are rallying around a simple question: Why has the greatest railroad nation in the world turned its back on the very form of transportation that made modern life and mobility possible?

Distrust of railroads in the nineteenth century, overregulation in the twentieth, and heavy government subsidies for airports and roads have left the country with a skeletal intercity passenger-rail system.

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Amtrak has endured for decades, and yet failed to prosper owing to a lack of political and financial support and an uneasy relationship with the big, remaining railroads. While riding the rails, McCommons explores how the country may move passenger rail forward in America--and what role government should play in creating and funding mass-transportation systems. Against the backdrop of the nation's stimulus program, he explores what it will take to build high-speed trains and transportation networks, and when the promise of rail will be realized in America.

Foreword Prologue Baltimore : on the oldest railroad in America Part 1. Through the Rockies and Sierras: California Zephyr : here come your game boys and microwaves ; Sacramento : all you got now is Amtrak ; Train world : foamers and train spotters ; Real railroad world : the birth of Amtrak Part 2.

Pacific Northwest: North Dakota : across on the hi-line ; Essex, Montana : at the Izaak Walton Inn ; The Cascades : locomotive problems ; Seattle : the "N" word: nationalization ; Amtrak Cascades : its all about frequency Oregon : funding rail with vanity plates ; Empire builder : the best kept secret in America Part 3. We really do ; Texas Eagle : no Mac and cheese Part 7. Part 8.

Pittsburgh : on train time again. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD With wit and charm, amateur detective Veronica Speedwell, triumphs over adversity and danger in Victorian England. BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

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James McCommons

Subscribe to receive some of our best reviews, "beyond the book" articles, book club info, and giveaways by email. About this book Summary Read a sample. Book Summary. Read a Sample Click to the right or left of the sample to turn the page. Reviews Media Reviews Reader Reviews. Media Reviews Attention! More Information Comments. More Recommendations More Books. Readers Also Browsed. Join Now! Book Club. Win this book! Jan 21, Ellen rated it it was amazing.

I really enjoyed reading about all the bureaucracy that limits America's passenger rail service. If you, like me, have ever wondered why we can't have the efficient, pleasant, inexpensive, reliable train service of Europe, this book gives you a pretty good idea.

Are trains slower now than they were in the 1920s?

Feb 16, Jeff rated it really liked it. During , a year when gas prices rose to record heights and the economy nosedived, James McCommons spent the year riding Amtrak around the country while speaking to railroad experts about the future of passenger rail services. As he takes various trains, he writes about his experiences traveling and his interviews. Mixed into the text is a brief the history of railroading in America.

For a nation that has the most efficient freight system in the world, our passenger system is leaves much to b During , a year when gas prices rose to record heights and the economy nosedived, James McCommons spent the year riding Amtrak around the country while speaking to railroad experts about the future of passenger rail services. For a nation that has the most efficient freight system in the world, our passenger system is leaves much to be desired. McCommons describes what happened with passenger rail service in the United States and how we ended up with the spotty system we currently have.

Amtrak was formed at a time when the entire rail system in the United States was nearing a collapse. In order to shed this responsibility, Amtrak was formed.

The Majority Report — Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service

Each railroad contributed equipment and gave Amtrak running rights on its track. At the time, the Penn Central bankruptcy was the largest ever and Congress felt it had to act or it leave much of the northeast without any rail service. In the late 60s, both freight and passenger trains were in trouble. McCommons explores in detail how the railroads became such a mess. In the 19th Century, the government gave land and money and other incentives to the railroads to encourage them to connect the country.

But as the 19th Century came to an end, the brutal and often monopolistic practices of railroads caused them to be one of the most hated businesses in the nation. During the Progressive Era, starting with Teddy Roosevelt, railroads were highly regulated. As the nation entered the 20th Century, railroads had few friends to help them against the threat of other forms of transportation that were being subsidized. Furthermore, railroads were barred from having any connection with bus services, which was seen as a competition to rail travel, not a complimentary service.

Railroads came out of the Second World War with high hopes for passenger service, but the interstate and air travel quickly diminished their hopes. Although sold as a way to make passenger rail profitable, such an idea was a myth. As he travels the country, McCommons visits with passenger rail advocates and industrial leaders of all but one of the Class 1 railroads in the country.

Only Union Pacific refused to meet with him and Union Pacific comes across in this book as being anti-passenger rail.

James McCommons: Waiting on a Train

Yet, McCommons was surprised at the response he had from the other railroads who strive to work with Amtrak in providing passenger service. As Amtrak only owns a portion of its track, it has to depend on other railroads for space on their tracks. Norfolk Southern has even pondered the idea of getting back into the rail business. The Bush-era Department of Transportation only funded highway projects!

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George W. Bush tried to kill Amtrak funding throughout his administration and his family is well tied with Southwest Airlines, whose president bragged that he killed a proposed highspeed rail corridor that would tied together Texas three major metropolitan areas. In Florida, Jed Bush also killed a project that would link that state together with high speed rail.

Although McCommons points out the failure of passenger rail in this country, he also highlights several areas where it is successful.


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He points to corridors which successfully links population areas together and notes that trains can compete with airlines in travel of less than miles. Not to brag, but I have ridden all the trains he rode with the exception of the lines in New England. To read some of my train adventures, check out my blog at www. Jun 21, Stephen rated it really liked it Shelves: infrastructure , civic-awareness , trains , social-criticism , transportation , sustainability. You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four, Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore!

Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer Than to have your ham and eggs in Carolina! In , in the middle of an as-yet-unbroken sting of nine co You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four, Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore! In , in the middle of an as-yet-unbroken sting of nine consecutive record-breaking years, James McCommons traveled the length of Amtrak's many varied routes to gauge the state of the nation's passenger rails.

In the wake of an ostensibly transit-friendly president being elected, and in anticipation of some stimulus money being applied toward improving rail infrastructure, such a journey seemed timely.