Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving update and A Conservative Voice

With the busiest travel day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving, occurring this week, it seems appropriate to post on just how many people will be traveling this holiday (Thank you to the AAA Auto Club):
By car: 33.2 million travelers
By air: 2.3 million
By Amtrak: 125,000

The jaw dropping gap in popularity between Amtrak and the other modes is not reason to smile at first glance, especially given the wishes of myself and so many others that Passenger Rail quickly evolve not only into a fast and affordable option for a majority of Americans, but become the preferred option for all of those traveling 500 miles or less.

The glimmer of hope for the move away from air and towards rail can be found in the above linked article:
  • "There will be a 6.7 percent decrease in the number of air travelers, totaling 2.3 million this year, continuing a decade-long decline of Thanksgiving air travel."
  • "2.9 million people will take other modes of transport, including trains and buses. That's up about 1.2 percent from last year. Amtrak expects Wednesday to be its heaviest single travel day of the year, with as many as 125,000 passengers nationwide. The rail system is bracing for the holiday by running more trains with higher capacity on its lines in the Pacific Northwest, Chicago area and the Northeast corridor. Most of those will run on the busiest days — the day before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday after."
A recent article from ABC News Australia states, "an estimated 1.3 million people die on the world's roads each year", which in turn "costs the world economy $540 Billion." While I do not know how they arrived at this figure, there is no denying that in the United States our roads are a dangerous place that annually consumes far too many lives (pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and passengers) and far too much money in the form of accidents and severe congestion.

Public transportation and passenger rail offer the freedom of movement for those who are not able to drive, cannot afford to drive or fly, but like all other Americans deserve the mobility to get where they want to go. A poll conducted in 2008 showed that 60% of Americans consider themselves "conservative". Millions of these conservatives are the people who do not believe in supporting quality public transportation. A new book, Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation by: William Lind addresses these concerns for many of my countrymen who lean to the right.

While, there is not much about High Speed Rail in the Midwest to report on until the FRA doles out the $8 Billion of Stimulus fund in early 2010, there is some great news out of Minnesota where the new Northstar Commuter Rail is up and running between Big Lake and the new home of the Twins, Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and travel safely.

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