The biggest problem with American public transportation is that it lacks a critical mass. The infrequent service is more of a problem than the slow speeds, which could be padded over with comfortable seats, wifi, and better coffee. Amtrak has only one train a day north of Springfield, which in turn has one train to Boston and spotty bus service. Little wonder everyone drives.
Why throw money at high-speed rail when Amtrak runs on such dilatory schedules? Spend the money, instead, on more traditional rail cars and engines, which are in short supply, or hire some Swiss conductors and engineers to keep to the schedules.
Leaving out the $80 cost of the rental car, my travels cost less than $125. And although I loved being on trains and ferries, there is something shabby about public transportation, as though it’s headed for obscurity, rather than for the President’s brave, new high-speed world.
Back home, the question on my mind was: If you had $8 billion, would you let Amtrak manage it?
Matthew Stevenson is the author of Remembering the Twentieth Century Limited, winner of Foreword’s bronze award for best travel essays at this year’s BEA. He is also editor of Rules of the Game: The Best Sports Writing from Harper’s Magazine. He lives in Switzerland.