The combination of airline delays and Amtrak's increasing ridership is generating goodwill that could lead to more support for passenger rail, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal.
Over the last 10 months, ridership on Amtrak's fast Acela trains in the Washington-Boston corridor is up 20% -- "enough new passengers to fill 2,000 Boeing 757 jets." Ridership in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor is up 53% in the 10 months through July, the paper said. It could've mentioned recent gains in Cascadia too.
Hopefully this trend eases some opposition to investing in rail. Then we could talk about breaking up the Amtrak monopoly and introducing more market forces aimed at improving passenger rail rather than dismantling it.
The article suggests some encouraging signs:
"You have to begin to put the infrastructure in place to put in high-speed trains," says Gordon Bethune, who retired in 2004 as chief executive of Continental Airlines Inc. "It should be a national priority. If the French can do it, why can't we?"
Another airline-industry legend Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines parent AMR Corp., says improvements to Amtrak's network in the Northeast are one of the best ways to reduce aviation gridlock.
In Cascadia, it's going to be a long process -- even in Washington, which has funded some rail improvements. Among other things, we need more support from the B.C. government to speed the Seattle-Vancouver corridor.