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.