July 3, 2007
I’m the first to admit I have romantic notions about trains. I have sentimental attachments to them as my memories from them are all fun. Riding with my girl scout friends in elementary school (can’t remember where we went, but I know it involved giggling), riding with my mormor in Sweden, doing the Eurail thing with Laurel (We only got kicked off once, in Italy for accidentally getting on the bullet train when we’d only paid the regular train fare. Those Italian train conductors were a bit intense.), avoiding (this time on purpose by hiding in the bathroom) paying the fare to Båstad with Daniel (during a year I spent in Lund, Sweden) and travelling to the Norwegian fjords in 2001 (as seen above and below – the only photos of mine from my train adventures that I could find).
Most recently I took the train from Emeryville, California to Auburn, California (riding the Zephyr). I had no idea it would be such a party. I left on a Friday, and the train was surprisingly populated. Commuter regulars were opening their mini-wines (bought in the dining car), and celebrating the end of the work week. Some staggered down the aisles with lemon-capped beers. On the way back to SF, the train was also quite populated, this time with Oakland A’s baseball game goers. A cute granddad and his decked out in Oakland A gear grandson quietly picnicked together.
My point is, I love trains. I do not understand why there aren’t bullet trains and regular train riding going on all over the US. It is so much more environmentally sound (and safer) than car driving en masse or riding the plane! And you can read, get work done, dine, have a party, play cards, draw, take photos, journal, walk around, craft, etc. on the train!
The SF Guardian recently had a good article about Schwarzenegger’s postponing the realization of a California bullet train. The California bullet train has been in the works since the 1980’s, and in planning for almost 10 years. Why is it taking so long? There are these folks who say a bullet train would cut into hundreds of parks and protected areas in California. This is obviously not good for the environment. But I wonder in the long run, which has a greater impact, cutting into some of these protected areas (I’m assuming not by huge amounts since the rail would run alongside existing rails), or continued degradation due to so much car driving (which will only increase as the population increases, and which will require wider and more roads, also cutting into land). The reason Schwarzenegger is not getting this train moving is not related to the land impact however. His reason is all about cost-effectiveness in the short term. When are politicians going to realize we need to think in the long term, especially if they’re claiming, as Schwarzenegger is, to be environmentally conscious?!
Honestly, I think it will be hard to persuade car-drivers to switch to the train. But with some good advertising, with growing awareness of how our car-centered lives are severely hurting our environment, and with a bullet train travelling much faster than a car, perhaps a slow transition to trainriding and public transport is possible....
In the Bay Area, you can get involved with the bullet-train supporters. And write to Schwarzenegger.
Some flickry train goodness:
waking up on the train at 6 am.
an old train car
It's all about the dining car:
dining car nap
dining car (check out those seats!)
dining car table
lunch on the train
If you’re looking for a train-related movie, Station Agent is one of my all-time favorites.