If you want to see America – take the Lake Shore Limited. This daily train from the East Coast to Chicago shows America at its best. People of all backgrounds and walks of life squeezed into a train crossing America for a day. Maybe it is aspirational, but seeing so many different people coexisting on a train makes one feel good about what we can be, and reassures us that we can leave our silos and coexist.
Unlike the confined and uncomfortable spaces of an airplane, the space of a train, with just 4 seats per row, and club and dining cars encourage socializing. And the endless security lines are nowhere to be seen.
But is also shows us how much we have to lose. There is something different about Amtrak. Rather than a massive private company, it is a government agency – slowly and awkwardly providing public service to more than 30 million people each year.
As you ride their long distant trains you see tiny towns, mostly farming and mining towns that once thrived with the railroad, and now cling to them for a connection to the outside world. Unlike the airports, which serve only big cites, the railroad still brings commerce and a life to hundreds of small towns across America
This melting pot and rural lifeline is now in danger – as a Federal Budget is on the table that would wipeout every long distance rail line, ending tourism and cutting off small towns from east to west. It is a cruel and heartless gesture from a detached group of people who are happy to build highways that produce no revenue, but refuse to invest in rail that every other advanced nation has invested in.