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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Could Amtrak help TV transit?

Idaho Statesman columnist Tim Woodward has a fine essay today about the possibility that Amtrak might return to Boise after more than 10 years. He writes:

A generation of Idahoans is growing up not knowing what a passenger train is. They don't have a clue that they're missing out on one of the most civilized ways to travel.

Sen. Mike Crapo would like to change that. Crapo is considering co-sponsoring a bill that could bring Amtrak trains back to southern Idaho. That's good news for young people whose idea of a train is an antique locomotive in Julia Davis Park — to say nothing of former passengers who have alternately fumed and sulked since our trains were taken away...

... "They're looking at expanding or returning service in some areas, and there's a huge gap in the Mountain West," Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern said. "We want to see a train back in southern Idaho. There's been a lot of growth in Boise, Portland and really all along the line. There potentially are a lot more passengers than there were when the Pioneer was cut."

Woodward's column got me thinking: If Amtrak comes back to Boise, it would come back to Nampa, too. Depending on when the trains run, would there be a possibility that some people could use Amtrak to commute between Idaho's two largest cities?

Probably not. You can commute from Seattle to Tacoma on Amtrak, but it would cost about $22 a day with an advance purchase. (Woodward boasted of traveling 350 miles on Amtrak for $48. The farther you go on Amtrak, the cheaper the per-mile cost.) Still, considering gas, parking, and the relaxing train vibe, perhaps $22 is worth it for some well-to-do Puget Sound commuters.

Another potential dilemma: We wouldn't have the amount of service that West Coast and East Coast train riders enjoy. If it turns out that the day's lone westbound train leaves Boise at 11:30 a.m. and the only eastbound comes through Nampa at 3:15 p.m, that obviously wouldn't work too well for commuting.

OK, so maybe we can't count on a resurrected Amtrak to relieve rush-hour traffic on Interstate 84. The train would still help whet local appetites for more public transit and give us all a great long-distance transportation alternative.

I agree: Let's bring back Amtrak. You can write Sen. Crapo in support of this idea here.

1 comment:

Nickin206 said...

Hopefully they will bring the service back to the area. I remember growing up as a kid and seeing it there. Sad to see that service dwindled away. As far as the Tacoma to Seattle or vice versa, we have the Sounder which is operated by Sound Transit. It only costs $4.75 one way. This is much cheaper than the Amtrack, although, with Amtrack, if you have a Flexpass or PugetPass (transit passes used in the Puget Sound)you can ride free. Commuter rail would be easier for a place like Boise (I think), because tracks already exhist and stations could be simple. Perhaps! I know that in my time spent there recently those freeways are getting groovy and not in a good way!