While a student at Fordham University, which is along the Metro North, New York and Connecticut’s regional commuter line, I was jealous of my classmates who could walk off campus and catch the train home for a long weekend or holiday break as they read, chatted on their cell phone or just caught some shut eye, while whoever would be picking them up from the station was likely still at home, instead of caught in highway traffic. I on the other hand would be sitting at LaGuardia wondering which jumbo pretzel I wanted to try next since my $300+ flight home was just delayed for the 4th time.
The Midwest is home to the 11 universities of the Big Ten conference and the roughly 330,000 undergraduates that matriculate at those schools, not to mention the graduate students, faculty, staff and those people who live near campus. If you happen to be a student, parent or alumni of a Big Ten school, especially someone who is from a Midwestern state other than your respective school, just imagine the possibilities! The comfort and convenience of not driving 5 hours to go pick up your son or daughter for Thanksgiving, when they will need a ride back just a few days later. Going to visit your friend from high school for the weekend who is currently studying at a conference rival without having to drive or get a ride to the airport. Snow, rain or lava (you never know in the Midwest) your train is speeding towards your destination while you are taking a nap, using the restroom or checking your email through Amtrak's wifi, which is coming soon. No need to worry about whether that car on the side of the road is a cop with a radar gun or if your flight is going to be delayed yet AGAIN (See what Secretary LaHood has to say on that topic).
Map of the Big Ten schools across the Midwest: image courtesy of Wikipedia
Map of President Obama’s Vision for HSR in America -- http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/images/rail_map_blog.jpg
When looking at the two images, it is easy to see how close the Big Ten schools will be to the lines on the planned Chicago Hub Network.
You might be thinking that your school is not close to a train station, well that is all the more reason to make sure that large colleges and universities, which attract HUGE numbers of people for education, employment and sporting events are considered when planning the Midwest Rail Network. Princeton University in New Jersey is approximately 3 miles from the busiest passenger line in the country, the Northeast Corridor Line. However students, employees and visitors can easily make the trip from the Princeton Junction Station on the mainline, to the steps of campus via a single coach car, known as “The Dinky”, which shuttles between the university and the prime artery for rail travel in the Northeastern United States. Small shuttle trains like The Dinky could easily link the nearest Amtrak Station to every campus in the Big Ten and numerous other institutions in the Midwest.
If you are a parent who is sick of traffic and long drives to campus, a student who would rather stretch out and relax while affordably traveling home for Winter Break, or a fan who would rather be goofing around with your buddies on your way to game instead of paying $50 to park on some guy's lawn nowhere where near the stadium, then keep this, among many other valid reasons, in mind when talking about the necessity of supporting comprehensive rail improvements throughout the Midwest.
To be totally blunt, fewer intoxicated fans driving home, fewer people stuck in interstate holiday traffic, fewer dollars spent on gas or airfare and fewer hours lost stuck in the car or on the runway during bad weather will benefit not only those traveling to and from a school, but all who fly, drive or ride a train in and out of and around the Midwest.
I apologize for not including many of the other excellent schools in the Midwest, namely Bradley University (Secretary LaHood’s Alma mater), so to illustrate the point of just how many colleges and universities would benefit from safe and dependable trains, please add in any schools that are less than 10 miles from the nearest Amtrak station in the comment section.
Please follow this link to make an impact by simply sending an email: http://www.midwesthsr.org/rollcall/
Labels: amtrak, Big Ten, Bradley, Chicago, college, Dinky, Fordham, LaHood, parent, Princeton, student, university