Trains – continued

As I mentioned, I traveled by train to Washington, DC, to attend the annual meetings of the American Thoracic Society.  Unfortunately the rest of the trip didn’t go as well as the beginning.

We arrived in Chicago pretty much on time, and I knew there was a 7 hour layover.  I had hoped to spend most of that taking photos of Chicago.  Instead, the temperature was 44 degrees and it was raining.  So I got to spend a lot of time in Union Station.

Boarding was much improved.  Rather than crowding into the small area just outside the train tracks, boarding is done from the Great Hall of the station (at 7 pm).  Since the train was full, we were assigned seats as we boarded.  I was fortunate to get a window seat, and also fortunate that my seat mate, Rodger, chose to spend the entire trip in the observation car, watching movies.  It is more comfortable to not have someone sitting next to you.

I had forgotten they keep the coaches pretty cool (cold), and I had only packed a sweatshirt, thinking of the hot temperatures in Washington.

Sleeping in a train seat is not very comfortable, but I managed to get a fair amount, tossing and turning.  When I check our location on my cell phone, it didn’t look like we were getting across Ohio very quickly.  I had noticed a lot of time when the train wasn’t moving.  At 7 am we were informed that we had spend a lot of time stopped, waiting for freight traffic, and were 4 hours behind schedule!!

This is the problem with train travel in the United States.  The tracks are owned by the freight companies, and passenger trains always have to yield to them.  I heard so many stories of people’s trips being ruined by this delay.  Someone was supposed to be picked up by someone who had to travel an hour and a half to pick them up.  Someone else was going to miss the bicycle journey he was going on with friends.  Someone else had already spent hours outside a closed train station in a bad neighborhood.

We did finally arrive in Washington four hours late, with the entire trip from Indianapolis taking 36 hours!!

This is a microcosm of our society’s attitude toward public transportation, that people are basically less valuable than things (freight).  And of so many politicians’ attitude, that they don’t believe in funding transportation, because most of the constituents they pay attention to, don’t use it (ever).

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