Don’t Railroad Amtrak – Americans love trains. So should conservatives.

September 8, 2015

At root, conservatism is about preserving good things from the past and, where they have been lost, restoring them. Conservatives know that life in the past was in many ways better than life at present; morals and manners both come to mind. So, as some of us are old enough to remember, was travel.

The word “travel” itself suggests a better time and better experiences getting from one place to another than those we now suffer. Travel, where the journey itself is part of the pleasure, has been displaced by “transportation.” Like so many bandboxes or birdcages, people too are now packages and shipped. Whether crammed into an airline seat designed for garden gnomes, your baggage thoroughly (or not) searched in case you are a terrorist, or stuck in heavy traffic behind the wheel of a car, enjoying the journey is not in the script. Your highest hope is to get through it quickly and safely and forget about it as soon as possible.

Yet strange to say, some Americans do still travel, and enjoy it. Who are these privileged souls? Not the 1 percent, but anyone who is traveling by train. Last year, they numbered just over 30 million, counting only passengers on Amtrak, not commuter trains.

Passenger trains offer comfortable travel the middle class can afford. On long-distance trains, most of which use Amtrak’s double-decker Superliner cars, a reasonable coach fare gets you a better seat than domestic flights offer in first class. You have a big window and interesting things to see from it. You can look out, read, work, or nap, all with plenty of room. You can get up and walk around, including to a lounge car with wraparound glass and, for now, to the dining car for a meal with real food. The train can be social if you want it to be; it is easy to meet people. If your trip is overnight, for a somewhat steeper fare, though usually less than first class by air, you can get a private room with a bed at night and a comfortable chair or sofa during the day.

Read the full commentary from William S. Lind and Glen D. Bottoms in The American Conservative by clicking here.

Previous post:

Next post: