Train travel makes a comeback

Despite some political and economic hurdles, more communities are reviving intercity rail links or making plans for new ones.

By Bruce Kennedy Dec 17, 2012 12:28PM

Image: Railroad Crossing with Train (Edmond Van Hoorick/Photodisc/Getty Images)Train travel in the U.S. has long been derided as outdated, inefficient, expensive and a sad relic of America's past rail glories. 

But given high gas prices, worsening traffic conditions, airline industry cuts and government pledges to renew the nation's infrastructure, it appears passenger train service is quietly making a comeback across the country.

Here are some recent examples:

  • For the first time in decades, starting next summer, passenger rail service will be running again between Boston and Cape Cod. says the two-hour trip from Beantown to Hyannis will cost about $30 for a round-trip ticket.


  • Earlier this month, Amtrak revived its Richmond-to-Norfolk passenger service in Virginia for the first time since 1977 -- also with an eye on beach-bound travelers. WTVR-TV says the state invested $100 million in the rail line, and will pay an additional $1 million in annual costs.                        
  • The Arizona Department of Transportation is currently looking at the feasibility of a passenger rail link between Phoenix and Tucson.
  • Plans are in the works for luxury train service from Southern California to Las Vegas starting late next year. Promoters of the X Train say their service will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and employment opportunities to the region.
  • Amtrak plans to launch Chicago-to-Omaha passenger service by the end of 2015. An Iowa Department of Transportation official tells KPTM-TV the service would not only have Wi-Fi, café cars and ADA-accessible bathrooms, but would also help the state save on highway repairs.
  • Amtrak meanwhile, just announced plans to improve passenger service in its important Northeast Corridor by adding to its existing fleet of high-speed Acela trains. "Moving directly to new high-speed train sets is the best option to create more seating capacity, permit higher speeds, and maximize customer comfort all while improving equipment reliability and reducing operating costs,” Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said in a press statement.
  • Amtrak set a national ridership record of 31.2 million passengers in fiscal 2012 -- including a new record 11.4 million travelers on its Northeast Corridor services. Amtrak says it currently carries "three passengers for every one airline passenger between New York and Washington, and carries more passengers between New York and Boston than all the airlines combined."

Not all the news is positive for passenger rail travel.

Governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin rejected federal grants last year for high-speed rail service in their states -- part of an Obama Administration plan to upgrade and improve America's tattered rail corridors. And a planned rail link between Northern and Southern California is running into financial and political obstacles.

But earlier this month, an administration official said that, despite the current fiscal crisis, it remains committed to passenger train travel.

"We're not giving up on high-speed rail," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, according to the Washington Post, during testimony before a congressional committee. "The president will include funding in his budget. I think we'll get there with public money, but in the absence of that we'll get there with private money."

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Dec 18, 2012 4:01PM
I can't understand the states Governors that voted down the rail work.
Would have been good for the cyitizens and created more jobs.
Republican or Democrat what ever they were or are they made bad business decisions that us voters did not agree with.
When they find themselves voted out of office they shouldn't wonder why.

Dec 18, 2012 12:56AM
Of course Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio rejected the rail improvement money. They all are moronic, stupid Republicans, and they know this project was one Obama wanted. Until people smarten up and help us get rid of the Republican vermin state by state, nothing's going to change.
Dec 18, 2012 3:29PM
Dec 19, 2012 3:45PM

Typical liberal press article here. I can't speak to the specifics of why high speed rail was shut down in other states, but the article only briefly mention the HUGE BOONDOGGLE high speed rail has been here in California. The cost of the project is MANY TIMES MORE THAN WHAT THEY TOLD US. There can be no question that we were absolutely LIED TO about the cost of the project. I suspect it's the same story in those other states, which is why their governors didn't allow those projects to happen.


By the way, I am ALL FOR increased passenger train service...but it still has to make economic sense.

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