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Don’t give in to the UP

Letter from Name Withheld By Request

Transportation – October 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine


While I certainly agree that a dead railroad is a much better place to walk the dog than a living railroad, I cannot believe that such a reason constitutes your admission of defeat at the hands of Union Pacific.

After you have sampled the only good public passenger train in the U.S. (the Cascades), why suddenly throw in the towel? As for all this talk of noise and vibration being a nuisance — puh-lease. Trains are cool partly because they are big and loud. Even if Salida has very few lineside industries for local traffic, it would still be nice to see a hotshot BNSF intermodal zipping along the canyon. I remember how much I loved watching the piggy-back trains on Tennessee Pass when I was growing up.

The Tennessee Pass route is fantastic — with tunnels, passes, canyons galore. They don’t make them like they used to. Well, okay, they do, but not in North America. Europe and Asia still dig tunnels and cross new mountain passes, but America seems likely to sit this century out.

Anyway, it is disheartening that you would give up on that railroad. Perhaps no one can escape the human condition — we tend to get comfortable with the status quo — no matter what it is.

As a planner, I am familiar with this situation. For about ten or so years after a streetcar line closes, the public clamors to get it back. After that period elapses, a group of naysayers emerge to complain that streetcars block traffic, or are blocked by traffic, or are unsightly, or whatever. A new crop of NIMBYs moves in. Transit agencies know that if they wait long enough, the neighborhood will give up on streetcars and stop fighting for their return (SEPTA and MBTA use this approach to great effect).

It would seem that this approach works for railroads as well.

Unfortunately for all of us, the future has few vigorous advocates, while the status quo has plenty of defenders.


Name withheld by request

Subcriber in Pennsylvania