Saturday, March 31, 2012

Amtrak’s Downeaster: Grassroots Success Story.

Over the years, I have made it a point to ride as many of Amtrak’s trains as I could. My list is nearly complete and one of the last ones will be crossed off in a few weeks when I will be taking a round trip on the Downeaster from Boston up to Portland, Maine.

The Downeaster story is a remarkable one. It began in the early ‘90s when a group of ordinary folks living in a number of towns strung out along the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine started agitating for rail service that would link their communities with Boston.

They pestered federal, state and local officials and badgered Amtrak. They kept it up for almost 10 years and simply wouldn't go away. And they got their train, with service beginning in 2001. Furthermore, ridership has steadily increased over the years, long since breaking even their own projections … tangible proof that the Downeaster is a great success.

But there’s a lot more to it that just numbers. Now people living as far north as Portland can travel to Boston for the day … for business or shopping or maybe just to visit family or see the Red Sox at Fenway Park. And they can do it affordably and in relaxed comfort.

Yo! Members of Congress! Are you listening?? Amtrak’s Downeaster is proof positive: Americans want trains!


Drew James said...

I've never ridden that train either...I'm starting a long ride soon myself - Lake Shore to Chicago, Zephyr to Sacramento, flying to LA, Chief to Chicago, and Lake Shore home.

JIM LOOMIS said...

If you have the time and want to squeeze in another nice ride, leave the Zephyr at Davis, CA, spend the night, and catch the Coast Starlight early the next morning down for the ride down to LA. The Hallmark Inn is a reasonably nice hotel with a very good restaurant and is literally less than a 100 yards from the Davis station. Kind of nice finishing up a long rail journey lounging in the Pacific Parlour Car for that last segment. On one of my trips, the wine tasting that began at 3:00 in the afternoon lasted all the way into LA! ("That was a nice shiraz, wasn't it. How 'bout I buy us a bottle?") Now, I ask you: How can the airlines compete with something like that!!