A New England writer asks the question about intercity and commuter rail: The return of private rail passenger service?

September 5, 2015

Since the disappearance of private-sector passenger rail service decades ago, intrepid entrepreneurs have tried to bring it back. None have succeeded.

However, in some densely populated places, passenger rail has even thrived in the public sector, at least as measured by passenger volume. This mostly means Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor and several major cities’ long-established commuter-rail networks. But new commuter rail is also catching on in some unlikely places, including such Sunbelt cities as Dallas and Phoenix, which now have popular light-rail systems.

Now, with an aging population, the proliferation of digital devices that many people would prefer to stare at rather than at the road and the increasing unpleasantness of traveling on America’s decaying highway infrastructure amidst texting and angry drivers, private passenger rail looks more capitalistically attractive.

Consider All Aboard Florida, a company that plans to offer extensive rail service starting in 2017. It will connect Miami and Orlando in just under three hours, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Its advertising copy eloquently describes commuter rail’s allure in populous areas:

“{Y}ou can turn your stressful daily {car} commute into a productive or peaceful time by choosing to take the train instead of driving your car. By becoming a train commuter, you’ll also help the economy and environment while you’re at it.”

Southern New England, like much of Florida, is densely populated, with some unused or underused rail rights of way. So our entrepreneurs occasionally propose private passenger rail for routes not served by Amtrak or such regional mass-transit organizations as Metro North and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Read editor and writer Robert Whitcomb’s full piece in the Huffington Post Travel by clicking here.


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