Local Perspective: Arguments Against Proposed NLX Train Not Sincere

Modern passenger trains are no more obsolete than any other type of public transport. …In the United States and around the world, the public and private sectors are investing billions in building and/or expanding passenger rail systems.

04 June 2022 11:22

I know that some Minnesota senators oppose funding the proposed Northern Lights Express train service because they believe passenger trains are obsolete.

For example, Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, drafted an amendment this legislative session prohibiting NLX planning from being included in a supplementary budget and policy bill, as reported by Minnesota Public Radio. “The Northern Lights Wisconsin rail system is a bad idea that’s a 19th century solution to transportation in Minnesota,” he said. “It’s like asking us to spend money on buggy whips.”

I do not agree. Modern passenger trains are no more obsolete than any other type of public transport. NLX trains will be as technologically advanced as any passenger aircraft without the hassle of TSA checks at airports or long journeys to and from airports far from city centers.

In addition, in the United States and around the world, the public and private sectors are investing billions in the construction and/or expansion of passenger train networks. Passenger trains bring many benefits to their communities, especially underserved communities. These include the development of businesses in and around stations, which attracts and retains young professionals, many of whom prefer public transit to private cars. All this reduces regional economic disparities.

Passenger trains reduce toxic greenhouse gas emissions to create cleaner air that reduces costly illnesses and human deaths. They also bring safe, reliable and comfortable mobility choices in public transport deserts, especially for those who choose not to drive or who cannot drive.

Moreover, it is, at best, a disingenuous argument to insist that NLX trains make a profit – while other types of transport, without objection, receive lavish transport subsidies. The Rail Passengers Association’s white paper, “Long Distance Trains: a Foundation for National Mobility,” stated, “Goals such as ‘operational self-sufficiency,’ ‘profit,’ or federal operating support (minimum ) are neither reasonable nor sound public policy objectives. This is supported by the fact that federal and state funds subsidize air and road travel. The effect of these goals is to block improvements needed to modernize the nation’s intercity passenger rail system and rejuvenate our increasingly expensive and dysfunctional transportation system. The main objective should be to reap the public benefits that the trains produce for the communities they serve and for the nation as a whole. Studies have shown that even one train a day produces benefits that outweigh the costs. »

According to Amtrak, “Trains use less energy and produce fewer harmful pollutants than car or air travel. Riding an Amtrak train will save you gas and the daily wear and tear on your car. It also reduces ever-increasing traffic jams on the roads and in the sky.

Amtrak also said highlighting its benefits that “expanding passenger rail service will generate $30 billion in direct investment in our communities and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 50% compared to automobile travel. In addition to the economic benefits and positive impact on our environment, investing in Amtrak benefits everyday Americans and their families.

For those who think the Upper Midwest has no place for fast trains, railroad historians have written that the Japanese Shinkansen, informally known in English as “bullet train”, is the first true high-speed passenger train, with electric trains traveling at 125 mph.

However, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad’s Twin Cities 400, which ran from Chicago to St. Paul, with a final stop in Minneapolis, had streamlined diesel trains that could reach 112 mph about 10 years before the Shinkansen. Japanese. Thus, the Twin Cities 400 was a high-speed train — version 0.9.

Additionally, while the Amtrak Pere Marquette train, which travels a 176-mile course between Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Chicago, is currently at 79 mph, planned track and crossing improvements will increase its speed to 110 mph. . Anyone who wants to experience what our Northern Lights Express train will look like should board the Pere Marquette today.

Contrary to the criticisms of Senator Osmek and others, Amtrak’s passenger trains are not obsolete. On the contrary, they are an essential element in meeting the needs of present and future generations.

By building NLX as soon as possible, we would connect communities, create jobs, reduce traffic and air congestion, and modernize rail infrastructure for passengers and freight, while addressing the serious environmental challenges of today and tomorrow. .

This column first appeared in the June 04, 2022 edition of the Duluth News Tribune.

James Patrick Buchanan of Duluth has been a lifelong supporter and advocate of passenger trains.

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