Trains are popular,
travelers and the general public say repeatedly
Time and again, train advocates hear doubts about 'who will ride a train?' as existing services remain under severe challenge, as new service is proposed -- commuter, inter-city and high speed rail.
Here are survey results and links to them consistently voicing popular support for better, more extensive train service.
APTA survey echoes local support for trains and transit (Spring, 2003) - Four in five (81 percent) Americans believe that increased investment in public transportation strengthens the economy, creates jobs, reduces traffic congestion and air pollution, and saves energy, according to a new national poll, says the website
of American Public Transportation Association about results disclosed
March 12 during its three-day meeting for transit officials in Washington D.C.
The phone survey of about one thousand Americans during mid-February was
commissioned by APTA. It found most responses favorable to public transit were
by majorities near or exceeding two-thirds. Though rail transit was not singled
out for scrutiny in the APTA-commissioned survey, commuter rail is a key
component of the metropolitan mix of services and is elsewhere supported by
wide margins in polls and public meetings. For example, a Racine event
supporting Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter trains in mid-February drew an
audience of 120-150 participants, most of them favoring a SEWRPC proposal to
invest $152 million in the 33-mile extension, compatible with Metra Northline
service between Chicago and Kenosha.
Visit the APTA website for more information about their survey.
Excite'd about trains (March, 2003)- A daily poll at Excite.com found that a significant fraction of respondents favor train travel in the U.S., by as much as 3-to-1 versus naysayers. In a multiple-answer poll, Excite.com offered five possible completions to the statement:"I would be more likely to use the U.S. passenger rail system if ...".
Of more than 9,200 replies, fewer than one-sixth chose to reply in opposition to trains or refused to endorse their use. Negative or ambiguous options were "None of the above," "[u]nder no scenario would I be more likely to take a train," and "I don't travel/I don't care."
Among favorable responses, "better on-time arrivals" was least mentioned, signifying that delays to present Amtrak and commuter train services in America are less discouraging to riders than the lack of train availability. More high speed trains (those peaking above 100 mph) drew 38 percent of favorable replies, twice as many as the "on-time arrivals" percentage. Forty percent felt lower fares would induce them to travel by train, while improved convenience appealed to 45 percent. Most decisive of all, 51 percent completed the sentence with "if ... there were more destinations/locations" to travel by train -- more than three times the fraction which wasn't enthused.
The Excite.com results for March 9 continue in the pattern of past opinion polls, such as the 2001 poll sponsored by Wisconsin Assoc'n of Railroad Passengers. Americans consistently endorse trains as an alternate to car travel, and hundreds of thousands each work day already use commuter trains instead of cars, SUVs, and light trucks for traveling to and from jobs.
Wisconsin and national polls show favor for trains (2002) - Public opinion favors train travel and government support for them according to independent opinion polls. Wisc. Association of Railroad Passengers commissioned a 2002 poll to survey by telephone of some 600 households throughout the state, which revealed overwhelming support for state funding of trains. Wisconsin already underwrites 80 percent of highway expenses and contributes varied percentages to bus operations, airport expansion and for certain harbors. Visit the WisARP website for downloadable versions of the survey, with accompanying charts.
Key transport industry group touts commuter rail - Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin declares commuter rail for southeast Wisconsin and for the Madison area a viable enhancement to metropolitan transit in "Moving Forward: The Benefits of Commuter Rail", its Issue Paper #6. TDA-Wisconsin's analysis begins, "In an era of growing highway traffic and associated congestion, citizens, businesses, and their government representatives are looking for reliable alternatives to auto travel and increased numbers of mobility options for the public," then introduces commuter rail to its cautious and cost-conscious members. Though not explicit in the TDA-Wisconsin paper, K-R-M as proposed will cost about one-fifth (20 percent) of the predicted outlay for another state's 33-mile commuter rail project on existing right of way which is sure to seek Federal Transit Adminstration funding once its preliminary studies are complete. Click here for the TDA-Wisconsin issue paper about commuter rail.
Enduring editorial support for KRM in 2005 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published further advocacy for KRM written by Kenosha County Executive Allan Kehl, which stressed the importance of adopting a regional initiative to nurture growth, in Oct. 27 edition of Journal Sentinel.
Mister Kehl wrote, in part: "For southeastern Wisconsin to succeed economically and continue to develop, it is paramount that regional cooperation be at the center of community leaders' plans. While each municipality has its own goals and thoughts for the future, we all must find a way to work together because strengthening our region benefits all of us."
Editorials support K-R-M commuter train proposal - Area newspaper editorials in the first months of 2003 endorsed long-sought extension of Chicago-Kenosha commuter train service through Racine to Milwaukee on Union Pacific track near Lake Michigan. Typical of the endorsements was an April 12 Kenosha News editorial which enthused about prospects for linking lakeshore cities. Noting compelling motivation in its concluding paragraph, the News wrote that Kenosha won't "be at the end of the line any longer. It would be in the middle of a much bigger network, with easier-than-ever airport connections. It would be good for Kenosha's economy, and it would be good for Kenosha's quality of life." Its editorial is available at this KenRail webpage.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed the idea of adding commuter train access to downtown Milwaukee in a January, 2003 editorial. Follow this link to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's January editorial.
K-R-M trains lauded - In an opinion published May 28, occasional contributor to Kenosha News op-ed page Arthur Cyr opines on the key role K-R-M commuter trains could play in the "economic survival and relatively recent resurgence of Southeastern Wisconsin." Observing that post-World War II construction of the Interstate highway system at the direction of President Eisenhower met a demand for greater use of cars, Mr. Cyr notes the trend has passed its peak and that commuting patterns from central cities to suburban work sites -- developed due to reliance on cars and metro Interstate highways -- now is being accommodated by Metra in NE Illinois. He regards K-R-M trains as one facet of the growth trend in Metra commuter train use.
K-R-M commuter trains are also expected to significantly improve access to downtown Milwaukee, in the more traditional manner of commuting to a metro region's central business district.
Arthur Cyr is Director of the Clausen Center for World Business at Carthage College, Kenosha.
K-R-M preliminary engineering endorsed - Following the offical adoption of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail plan, to operate at a medium level of service (7 weekday round-trips, 3 each weekend day and holiday), doubts about how to match federal and state funding with local monies arose. Kenosha County Executive Allan Kehl led the effort to assure that his Racine and Milwaukee counterparts and the respective mayors would budget approximately $33,000 each for FY 2004 and FY 2005. Kenosha News editorialized favorably earlier the day of that Sept. 29 conference hosted by Mr. Kehl in support of the needed funding, a follow up to a Sept. 26 news story detailing the unequivocal support for K-R-M trains voiced by Racine Mayor Gary Becker. "The benefits are huge," he told Kenosha News, "for Racine and for the whole Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee-Chicago region. It's an investment we would be foolish not to make."
Editorials support train travel in other parts of the nation, and across America.
Seattle Times printed an Amtrak worker's contention on 29 November 2001 that more trains are essential for America's future.
"Now more than ever, our country needs more (not fewer) local and long-distance trains. Trains can reduce air pollution and auto-traffic congestion, and they can reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil. We pay a tremendous price for our strong dependence on automobiles, and trains offer a workable option for reducing that dependency.
"When it comes to government financial support for public transportation, Congress seems to use a double standard - one for airline and motor-vehicle transportation, and an altogether different standard for rail-passenger travel."
A New York Times editorial pitching for rebuilding that city in the months after 9/11 devastation at the World Trade Center, to compete globally with rising challengers in Europe and Asia as the foremost finance and culture capital included this primary infrastructure objective ...
"We are already pitifuly behind cities like London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Paris, which have each spent heavily on ultramodern subways and high-speed trains that will support and enrich those cities for decades to come.
"Even in times of economic prosperity, New York City cannot pay for new mass-transit systems by itself, any more than London or Paris could have paid for theirs alone, or cities in the Sun Belt could have built their own Interstate highways."
-- from New York Times, 11 November 2001, exactly two months after World Trade Center collapse
Andy Rooney minute from CBS "60 Minutes," 30 Sep 2001
"The United States is way behind in train travel as anyone knows who's been to Europe or Japan. Trains everywhere are better, faster and more luxurious.
"There's no greater feeling of luxury and satisfaction than being whisked 500 miles closer to your destination while you sleep on a fast-moving train."
Pat Oliphant editorial cartoon from Washington Post, 24 Sept 2001
After following this link to Washington Post, click on the Oliphant link, then select in the new window from the pop up menu at bottom left. Choose Sept. 24.
After Congress hastily handed $15 billion to the ailing airline industry, Oliphant is among many wondering why passenger trains aren't eligible too.
Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial in Sunday editions, 30 Sep 2001
Minneapolis is a key air travel hub, home to Northwest Airlines, and a vibrant metropolis. Its leading newspaper chose its most widely circulated editions, on a Sunday morning, to proclaim support for greatly improving America's train travel choices, for funding Minnesota's share of MWRRS.
"The terrible events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath remind us of our fundamental reliance on mobility. Americans are a restless, curious people with deep attractions to family, culture, business and ideas that stretch far beyond parochial boundaries. We are not inclined to hunker down. Our freedom of movement is not just an economic necessity. It defines who we are."