Saturday, April 20, 2013

The density to support long distance trains

There's a new dust-up among transit bloggers, stirred by a recent report showing that while Amtrak's Northeast Corridor makes a profit and the state-sponsored corridor trains break even, the long distance trains are still losing money (although Don Phillips disputes those numbers). Eric Jaffe gives three arguments in favor of keeping the subsidies for the long distance trains, while Jarrett Walker and Bruce Nourish make an austerity case for dropping them. Paul Druce won't go that far, but argues that we should at least charge market clearing prices for berths in the sleeping cars.


Here's the key quote from Jarrett's comment on Jaffe's post: "Rail is optimal for particular distances. Europe has lots of great rail services, but still, if you’re going 2000 miles within Europe, and you’re not a tourist or time-rich wanderer, you’re definitely going to fly. ... Australia is too big for rail networks to be national, and so are the US and Canada."

I've faulted Jarrett in the past for transportation myopia, and here it's causing him to repeat the old "density to support transit" canard. These are the three questions that get you out of this myopic viewpoint:

  1. Would transit work if it had a better mode share?
  2. Does the area have the density to support roads or airplanes either?
  3. Would people live or work more densely if the car or air infrastructure were less subsidized?

1. Would long distance trains work if they had a better mode share? Absolutely. Take the ridership on just about any Amtrak long distance route and there are more than a hundred times that many people driving or flying. Shift half of those drivers or flyers to the train, and you can charge enough to break even.

2. Does the area have the density to support roads or airplanes either? No. There are very few highways that pay for themselves, and I don't think any of those compete with trains. Air service is heavily subsidized: public airports, publicly funded air traffic control, Essential Air Service.

3. Would people live or work more densely if the car or air infrastructure were less subsidized? Yeah. You'd still have people living in Seattle and Phoenix and along train lines connecting them, but a lot less in small towns scattered around the country.

So we see that it's not that Australia, the US and Canada are too big for national rail networks. It's that they're too big for three national networks, road, rail and air. Cut the subsidies to one of the other two, and we can get enough passengers for rail.

Jarrett makes a further argument based on efficiency with his remark about the "time-rich wanderer," which is echoed by Nourish. That may have merit, but it's a separate issue, and it doesn't help anyone if you conflate them. I'll deal with it in another post.

25 comments:

Alen said...

why would anyone want to spend 24, 48 or 72 hours on a long distance train trip when you can fly coast to coast in 6 hours?

i can fly NYC to vegas friday night and be back sunday night or monday morning to go to work.

James Sinclair said...

Alen, because those arent most of the customers? A train is not a plane. One does not have to go from end to end, there are many stops in the middle. Chicago to Seattle? Maybe. Chicago to farmsville, farmstate? Yup. Farmsville to townstowne? Yup.

People also forget the weather thing. Trains do better in snow and wind than buses and planes.

C.P. Norris said...

I think this debate needs to start with exactly what problem you're trying to solve. Are we talking about travel between, say, San Francisco and Chicago, San Francisco and Denver, or San Francisco and Reno? And are we trying to make it more comfortable, faster, more energy-efficient, or all three?

All of those problems might have different answers.

Adirondacker12800 said...

There's density and then there's density.
Hawaii is more densely populated than Virginia. Ohio and Pennsylvania are almost as densely populated as France. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey are more densely populated than Japan. So is Puerto Rico. Hawaii and Puerto Rico are never going to have rail service from the islands to anyplace else. Virginia on the other hand has lots of places rail service makes sense. Even high speed rail service.

Some other interesting tidbits.

The mean the center of the US population is in Missouri - the place where everyone is equidistant from everyone else. That tidbit isn't as useful as the median center of population. The place where half the people are north of you and half are south of you. Or half are east of you and half are west of you. That's in Indiana.

More than 25 percent of the population lives in the ten biggest metro areas. 36 percent of them live in the 20 biggest metro areas and 40 percent of them live in the top 25. It's one of the reasons why the top 25 represent so much of Amtrak's passengers. It's where the passengers are and where the passengers want to go.

Pack everybody in Colorado into Denver and the population density in Denver would be similar to the population density in Brooklyn. Denver would still be 1,000 miles away from Chicago. Some cities that are closer to Chicago than Denver is.
Fort Worth
New Orleans
Atlanta
Jacksonville and to get to Jacksonville you'd probably go through Atlanta.
Charlotte NC. Myrtle Beach SC is closer to Chicago than Denver is.
Washington DC
Philadelphia.
New York
Boston to get to Boston you go through Cleveland and the string of cities in Upstate New York. It's a reasonable route to get to New York. So is going through Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Montreal
Toronto

jazumah said...

Weather that stops buses usually stop trains too. The problem is that Amtrak cannot generate revenue fast enough because it does not have enough cars. I would also mention that many of the coach cars have a density that is too low. The incremental cost of adding a coach car to a train is $1.50-2.00 per mile. I don't think operating 60 seat coaches is practical. I would be looking at getting 84-100 seat coaches in ASAP. Then, fares could come down "naturally".

eric345 said...

You say that if it weren't for the highways, then the train to Williston, ND would turn a profit. You are probably right. But what would happen to the residents of Williston, ND? Once a day they would have train service to 6 other towns in North Dakota, plus a longer ride to Minneapolis or Seattle. What if they wanted to visit those places at some other time? Or if, at any time, they wanted to visit a place not on that list? They wouldn't be able to. Because train tracks are inherently different from roads - you can't bring your own vehicle on them, you have to wait until enough ridership builds up to fill a public transit vehicle. And in Williston, ND, that is a LOOOOOONNNNNG wait. So your plan is to support the trains at the expense of the people. I think I'll politely say no to that one.

By the way, you are right about so-called "Essential Air Service". We should get rid of it even faster than the transcontinental train routes. In major cities though, most air infrastructure nowadays is self-supporting.

arcady said...

Fun fact about "Essential Air Service": quite a few towns along the Empire Builder have EAS-subsidized flights. That actually have fewer passengers than the Empire Builder does in those towns, and much higher per-passenger subsidy as a result. For that matter, if they took the EAS subsidy for Rutland, VT and instead put that money into capital improvements for train service, maybe the train would be able to run faster than 30 mph in Vermont.

Steve Stofka said...

Essential Air Service seems to be a mis-moded solution; most places that get it would be better off getting a daily train.

I agree with Paul Druce's remark that market clearing prices should be charged on the sleepers. There's a lengthy waiting list on the berths--clearly a sign of unmet demand. And along the way, the profits realized from sleeper market clearing allows the train to subsidize daily ETS ("Essential Train Service") in a tweaked model of what the Empire Builder and California Zephyr do already.

This, by the way, clearly identifies that long-distance train services have a different niche than air (especially); air service is essentially quick point-to-point over long distances, while the train is part land cruise and part essential daily service to the places "along the way" (along with connecting shuttles and coaches).

3sigma said...

There are two quasi-obsessions on the train American blogosphere that I can't get over:

(1) the idea that long, enormous multi-day routes are needed "because they serve many city-pairs in between". These routes are horrible for punctuality, they propagate delays, they don't serve well all places. It is better to break then down in overlapping segments using mostly daytime train configuration (seats instead of sleepers). It would make a Los Angeles - Chicago whole trip longer, but so be it: the shorter city pairs that are dears for their proponents could be better served.

(2) this assumption that you could just put more trains if you had ridership outside the NEC, where Amtrak is just a host of freight railways. CSX presented a $ 700 mln. bill if it wanted to restore the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to FL. UP shot down, twice, proposals for a Denver-ID train via Wyoming, unless almost $ 1.2 bln. in improvements UP doesn't need for freight are made. The consolidation of freight lines mean they are busier than they have ever been since opened. There is no space for "6-to-10x a day" St. Louis-Chicago service as some suggested.

Steven H said...

Three questions:

1. If we cut subsidies to the long distance trains, will 80-100% of those savings remain in Amtrak's budget?

2. If those savings DO remain in Amtrak's budget, will those savings NOT justify (to Congress) cutting other sources of Amtrak funding?

3. If those savings DO remain in Amtrak's budget, and they are NOT used to replace other funding, are those savings enough to significantly bolster any of the emerging <750 mile regional intercity corridors that--I think we all agree--should be Amtrak's focus in the future?

If the answer to any of those questions is "no," then leave the long distance trains be, at least for now.

I realize that all of this profit talk stemming from the Brookings Report was well-intentioned, but it's still a poison pill. Let Reason and Cato argue about cutting ties with Williston, ND; we should focus our efforts on securing more funding from all sources (state, federal and private) for the short-haul routes that we need, irrespective of whether or not the long distance routes should continue in the long-run.

Besides, we shouldn't ignore the political cost of cutting the long distance routes. Like it or not, Williston, ND, has just as many Senators as does New York City or Chicago; considering, as someone else has mentioned, that Williston would rather pick our pockets for more roads in North Dakota than for any rail anywhere, it's probably not a good idea to offer up any cuts at all. They might take your offered cuts, only to cut your funding next year when they have nothing left to lose.

Alen said...

i have known people from farmsville, and they all drive. for long drives they leave before the sun comes up and drive all day and night. if they took the train it would mean driving to the station, finding a place to leave your car, waiting for the train, waiting if there is a delay, taking the train, waiting at a layover, etc. not worth it.

last year i flew from NYC to Denver. 4 1/2 hour trip each way. i had a 7am flight and ate lunch at my family's house an hour north of denver.

out of curiosity i checked amtrak and the same trip would take 48 hours including an 11 hour layover. and cost more money.

one time my mother took me on an overnight amtrak trip NYC to orlando. never again.

but i'll take the Acela NYC to Philly instead of driving any day. 8am Acela takes an hour to Philly. i'll be home by dinner. my wife knows people who take the acela NYC to DC all the time instead of flying.

BruceMcF said...

3sigma: "(1) the idea that long, enormous multi-day routes are needed "because they serve many city-pairs in between". These routes are horrible for punctuality, they propagate delays, they don't serve well all places. It is better to break them down in overlapping segments using mostly daytime train configuration (seats instead of sleepers)."

There is the problem that breaking them down into overlapping corridors requires at least one servicing facility for each pair of corridor segments, and such a large number of dedicated servicing centers are difficult to justify for once a day corridor trains.

As far as corridors that would justify multiple services per day, they require more service than Congress is willing to fund, so the political compromise that has been reached is subsidized services on corridors below a certain length have to be subsidized by the state or states being served. That leaves it up to the State whether to provide those additional services, as California, Illinois and New York do, or to do without that additional service, as with Ohio, South Carolina or Texas.

busplanner said...

Cap'n - Both you and Jarrett are making similar arguments at somewhat different scales. You are arguing for a better rail funding allocation between modes. Jarrett is questioning the allocation of monies for poorly performing rail services in the same way he poses the "coverage vs. frequency" argument within metro areas.

If you invest in more frequent train service at higher speeds, you will attract more rail passengers; but there is always an upper limit. That upper limit is total travel (by all modes) in a corridor. And that demand limit defines the service offered.

For example, the LIRR only offers the Cannonball Express from Penn Station to the Hamptons and Montauk on summer Fridays and Sundays. Why not offer an express daily year around? Why not operate more express trains each day in the summer. Demand won't support it. More trains might attract more riders; but not enough riders to justify the cost. There are better places to use any available funding.

Or consider, the Empire Builder through Montana and North Dakota. North Dakota - 673,000 people over 70,700 square miles. Montana - 989,000 people over 147,700 square miles. The train provides access for only a small portion of this population and the demand on any given day for travel in the corridor the train serves is limited. (By comparison, Queens has 2,231,000 people crammed into 178 square miles. There are many more people traveling in any given corridor in any given time period; thus supporting frequent rail and bus service in many places.

There are most likely more farm equipment stores in Montana and North Dakota than in NYC; though NYC has a far greater population. On the other hand, there are most likely more 4/5 star hotels in NYC than in the much larger Montana and North Dakota. The reason in both cases: DEMAND. So, let's use DEMAND instead of DENSITY and see where that takes us.

Capn Transit said...

Busplanner, I agree that demand is a good measure. But what makes you think that demand is constant and unchangeable?

Adirondacker12800 said...

"Busplanner, I agree that demand is a good measure. But what makes you think that demand is constant and unchangeable?"

There's the upper limit constraint of how many people there are to use it. The train running from Fargo to Coeur D'Alene isn't much use if you want to go from Sioux Falls to Boise.

Turn the density concept upside down. There's 230 miles of subway route in New York City according to nycsubway.org. The population of North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho is 4 million. Or half of New York City. So to get the same per capita density of route in those for states they would get 115 miles. It's 1,200 miles from Fargo to Boise. Well then how about track miles instead of route miles. There are 656 track miles. How about track miles and all those tracks in subway yards etc? 842. So they would get 421 miles of single track. To go 1,200 miles.

There's 450 route miles between Boston and Washington DC. The 8 states Acela passes through and Washington DC have a population of almost 60 million. North and South Dakota, Montana and Idaho would have 30 miles of route if they had the same route density. I can't find a reference for track miles in the NEC I seem to remember 1,200. They'd have 80 miles of track.

It's 245 miles from Fargo to Sioux Falls. I suspect most people wouldn't want to bicycle between the two. So there would have to be a bus.

There was a comment, that seems to have evaporated, about using Thruway buses which are popular in California.

So I checked population. The counties north of Sacramento, the ones the Thurway bus passes through between Davis and Redding, have more population than North Dakota. More than South Dakota. 100,000-ish less than Montana. The big counties have almost as many people as metro Fargo or metro Sioux Falls.

Or turn it another way. Pack them all together in one dense blob. Not even as dense as Brooklyn and Queens. As dense as New Jersey. They take up half of New Jersey. Lets say the northern half. They don't have any reason to go to Atlantic City because Atlantic City is still windswept sand dunes. Same thing happens if you put them in four equidistant blobs the density of Rhode Island. And the size of Rhode Island. They don't need to go to Sioux Falls or Fargo anymore because there is prairie with buffalo grazing on it in either place.

Or look at it a third way. You've condensed them in northern New Jersey. They don't need to go to Washington DC because it's still a swamp. Or Pittsburgh because it's still a aboreal forest. Or Chicago because it's still as uninhabited prairie as where Fargo would have been in the four equidistant blobs scenario.

.. the problem isn't that there isn't the population density. The problem is that there isn't the population.

Adirondacker12800 said...

......The population of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho is 4 million....

Alon said...

Before the highways, people just had shitty service. A few trains per day, some expressing to provide transcontinental service rather than serving local stops; local travel was done by horse. Those areas also needed the WPA to get electricity, 15 years after most city dwellers already had electricity without subsidies.

The express transcontinental service you can forget about right now; air service on the major city pairs isn't EAS. The population distribution is also not linear, because even the towns that were settled by railroads were settled along many different lines, not all of which are in-service mainlines anymore (i.e. Northern Pacific), and this means that the linear advantage of rail isn't there. Land is also practically free in the relevant area, which means rail's compactness advantage isn't there either.

Christopher Parker said...

Alon and others are making some big mistakes here - and in the process writing off the large population the United States has that is not the coasts.

He writes about flying from New York to Denver, but that is absolutely irrelevant. Not many people go from New York to Denver - by any means. Of the top 235 travel markets in the United States, it's not one of them. On the trains from New York to Denver not many are going from New York to Denver.

The problem is the name "long-distance trains" distracts people into thinking people travel long-distances on them. Of course a few do, just a like a few people actually drive the length of Interstate 80. But the overwhelming number of people are traveling distances under 400 miles or so. Denver - Omaha is a bigger market than Denver to New York. Or Denver to Chicago.

The great advantage of long-distance trains is that the short distance markets start to overlap. On the same train you have Denver to Omaha, Lincoln NE to Galesburg IL, Cleveland to Harrisburg, Altoona to New York and so on.

Which leads to the next point: that the cumulative effect of the little stops is bigger than the major destinations. There are 33 stops between Denver and New York. That means there there are 33 x 33 possible destinations - 1,089 different travel markets, not even getting into connections or destinations further west. Princeton IL to Bryan OH may not be a large travel market, but add them up and they dwarf the endpoint to endpoint travel. Furthermore the train's market share is much larger. That makes sense when you consider that the small towns often don't have airports and interstates.

That's why breaking up the long distance runs into shorter segments is silly. It's fine if you want to go on the sections chosen but it eliminates all the passengers who are going past the break point, which are always many.

Alon said...

First, I didn't even mention New York-Denver.

Second, even Denver-Omaha is a tiny travel market. Denver's too far from other major cities for ground transportation. And even the Denver-Omaha-Chicago trains make more sense than the trains from Denver to the west.

Third, nobody said anything about the population on the coasts vs. not on the coasts. Michigan, Ohio, etc., aren't coastal states. (Ohio is served by LDs and shouldn't be, but it can and should be served by short-hop HSR to Chicago and the East Coast.) The states Adirondacker and I are mocking as having low population indeed have low population, and the same analysis can be extended to Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico, and the parts of Arizona away from Phoenix.

Fourth, 33 stops don't give that many interesting travel markets. The NEC has about 25 stops, but nearly half of travel is just between the top 4 stops, and from partial data most of the rest seems to be just connections from the next ~10 stops to New York. A train like the Empire Builder has tons of potential city pairs, but these include ones like Minot-Whitefish with homeopathic traffic levels.

Fifth, passenger travel on I-90 doesn't justify a continuous expressway either. The US made a mistake spending money on subsidizing Western settlement in the 1800s and it's still a mistake to keep pouring money there: too few people, too much infrastructure needs. Despite all the oil and the low unemployment, North Dakota gets $1.47 in federal spending per dollar in federal taxes; Rhode Island, one of the highest-unemployment states, gets $0.81 (link to sanitized data; the sources are the IRS and the Census Bureau).

busplanner said...

@Cap'n - Yes, demand is variable and can change. That is why the LIRR only operates the Cannonball on summer weekends and not daily year around. The demand isn't there at other times. Perhaps, a better term even than demand is TRIP POTENTIAL, which I hereby define as the number of people wanting to make a trip between two points on any given day.

Granted, increasing frequencies and reducing travel time and cost may produce some otherwise latent demand; but there is still a finite number of people who would be willing and able to make a trip outside of a regular commute to work or trip to school locally on any given day.

@Christopher Parker - If I wanted to travel between Denver and Omaha, I could fly (choice of three airlines - 11 flights on a typical day) in about 3 1/2 hours or I could take the train - 1 trip a day taking about 11 hours. Lincoln-Galesburg - again that 1 train trip (leaving Lincoln at 3:20 AM). I suspect the current trip demand on Amtrak with that schedule is less than 1 person per day on average between that city pair; though I am willing to be corrected.

Adirondacker12800 said...

The NEC has about 25 stops,

87 last time I counted, I may be misremembering and I'm not going to count again. They've added a few since too. For instance Fairfield Interstellar wasn't on the list at the time. Or whether or not I counted TF Green Parking Garages. The 2 million people in Manhattan get by with three. The Dakotas, Montana and Idaho should have 6. New Jersey has 16 on the NEC. Or three in Idaho, two in Montana and one in North Dakota and one in South Dakota and one in Spokane WA because they want to get to big city now and then.

A train like the Empire Builder has tons of potential city pairs, but these include ones like Minot-Whitefish with homeopathic traffic levels.

If a commuter agency had the ridership levels of some stations on the Empire Builder people would be up in arms - " Why is the agency spending the money it costs to stop there! ". A quick glance at MTA information - there are 4 subway stations with more weekday ridership than the annual ridership in North Dakota. All of North Dakota. Or Montana. More people ride BART in a day than use Amtrak annually in all of North Dakota and Montana combined.

There's 220 miles of NEC track on 60 route miles in New Jersey. It's 288 miles from Bozeman MT. to Miles City MT. Or 293 from Fargo ND to Dickinson ND.

passenger travel on I-90 doesn't justify a continuous expressway either.

With the trucks it might. Don't compare to Canada. Canada has one tenth of the population of the US. If Canada gets by with one lane in each direction the US needs 10 lanes. I-90, I-80, I-70, I-40 and I-10. Half of Canada's population lives in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor. When they want California lettuce or oranges it travels on I-80. When they want Washington apples or Idaho potatoes it travels on I-90. When they want pasta, the wheat travels on I-94. Whether or not I-94 is a good idea is a separate question. Whether or not we should subsidize the truck traffic is a separate question. Whether or not there would be enough truck traffic if it was unsubsidized is a yet another question.

North Dakota gets $1.47 in federal spending per dollar in federal taxes; Rhode Island, one of the highest-unemployment states, gets $0.81

Last time I saw a list New Jersey gets $0.62. If I backed that out correctly, at the time, they could have paid for ARC in 9 months, if their tax money wasn't going to subsidized roads in North Dakota and subsidized cell phone service in Mississippi etc.

neroden@gmail said...

"Blogger Steve Stofka said...

Essential Air Service seems to be a mis-moded solution; most places that get it would be better off getting a daily train."

Yep. We could use one in Ithaca (beneficiary of EAS).

The far-sighted founder of Cornell University actually established one of the first train lines in the country specifically to get people to his rurally-located campus. The short-sighted later Presidents of Cornell allowed the line to be ripped out.

3sigma wrote:
" (1) the idea that long, enormous multi-day routes are needed "because they serve many city-pairs in between"."

The single-overnight, or roughly 24-hour, routes (NY-Chicago, DC-Chicago, Boston-Chicago, NY-Florida, NY-New Orleans, Chicago-New Orleans) are definitely needed because of the intermediate points.

Making them shorter just kills ridership for no reason: we have a real example of this in the former Philadelphia-Chicago route. Forcing a Pittsburgh transfer just throws away ridership for no reason whatsoever. And it doesn't make either train significantly more reliable.

There should probably be more single-overnight routes.

Some of the double-overnight routes, which cause particular problems, could be run as two separate single-overnight routes, with train change, without much loss in ridership. If this actually would make the trains more reliable it would be be worth while. Splitting Chicago-Denver from Denver-Oakland, for instance -- over half of the seats on the train change passengers in Denver anyway.

I see the same damn conflation in several of these comments, conflating routes like Oakland-Salt Lake-Denver (probably hard to make competitive) with routes like Chicago-Ft. Wayne-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-NY (really easy to make competitive).

People like Jarrett and Bruce may intend to criticize the trains running through the Mountain Time Zone, but the way they talk is going to hurt the trains east of the Mississippi if they're not careful.

neroden@gmail said...

"Steven H said..."
Wisest commentator here. :-)

" Three questions:

1. If we cut subsidies to the long distance trains, will 80-100% of those savings remain in Amtrak's budget?"
No. The Montana (et al) Senators will take the money out and spend it on other Montana projects.

" 2. If those savings DO remain in Amtrak's budget, will those savings NOT justify (to Congress) cutting other sources of Amtrak funding?"
No -- the angry Montana (et al) Senators will definitely cut other sources of Amtrak funding if they lose their trains.

" 3. If those savings DO remain in Amtrak's budget, and they are NOT used to replace other funding, are those savings enough to significantly bolster any of the emerging <750 mile regional intercity corridors that--I think we all agree--should be Amtrak's focus in the future?"

No. The investment in the regional corridors is limited by track ownership, which is limited by politics and freight railroads. The extra cash would not be nearly enough for Amtrak to buy the trackways it needs even from Chicago to Gary, let alone along an entire corridor.

"If the answer to any of those questions is "no," then leave the long distance trains be, at least for now."

Exactly. I would count only one exception which could manage to give a "yes" answer.

The Sunset Limited doesn't get votes. The Senators from Texas and Arizona routinely vote against Amtrak and try to cut its budget -- regardless of the presence of the Sunset Limited. The Senators from Louisiana, New Mexico, and California would likely continue to vote for Amtrak funding based on the other, more useful Amtrak trains through their states.

Contrast the other trains -- the Cardinal gets WV votes, the Empire Builder gets ND and Montana votes, the California Zephyr gets Colorado votes, the Southwest Chief gets NM votes, etc.

This political situation changes the answer to the first two questions. And the Sunset Limited is sufficiently expensive to operate and sufficiently equipment-intensive that the funding might be used to make minor upgrades along the service of the other long-distance routes to better secure political support, reputation, and future demand for corridor services. It also runs on a dog of a schedule and actively hurts Amtrak's reputation because of that.

I think the Sunset Limited should be retained just because it has future potential, as a "marker" on track access, because it's proven very hard to get passenger trains back on a route once they've been removed, but that's really the only justification I can find for it -- I can't justify it as it currently exists.

But it's easy to justify the others.

neroden@gmail said...

" Before the highways, people just had shitty service."

(I assume that by "highways" you mean "expressways" or at least "US highways". Before paved roads is another matter, and the term "highway" actually dates to the Middle Ages and can refer to dirt roads.)

What people had shitty service? Before the highways, Ithaca, NY had service on rail lines going in six directions, with multiple departures per day on ALL of them. One of them was hourly.

Sure, Wyoming had shitty service.

You know, if we're gonna make this a fight between the populated areas and the Mountain West, you'd better focus your targeting directly on the malapportioned US Senate. As long as that's there, the Mountain West will disproportionately extract cash and services from the rest of the country.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Before the highways, Ithaca, NY had service on rail lines going in six directions, with multiple departures per day on ALL of them. One of them was hourly.

There aren't any scheduled stagecoach lines serving Ithaca these days either. Or canal boats.
By the time they published my March 1956 Official Guide there were two trains in each direction, a day. They were slower than driving is today.

If your choice is a two hour train ride or a 20 hour canal boat ride or walking the two hour train ride is attractive. If your choice is a two hour train ride or a one hour car ride you drive.

The non local trains passing through were... passing through. The stop in Ithaca was leeching off the New York-Buffalo market. The Black Diamond and the Maple Leaf stopped making sense when airplanes were cheap enough to make taking the train from Buffalo to New York the lesser choice. The Thruway opening didn't help.