Saturday, May 28, 2016


As good as it gets
Yesterday we took the Alpha Pendular
train from Lisbon north to Porto. After
a short cab ride we were at the station,
had boarded our car, found our seats.
For the next two and a half hours we
smoothly sailed through the Portuguese
countryside. With power and free wifi
we were able to catch up with the news
back home. Before we knew it we were
at our final station, took a quick cab to
our hotel, checked in, and were ready
for a cocktail! One thing is certain, the
living is easy here in Portugal!
Slightly off track?
Whenever I take a train it’s always great.
They run on time and rarely get off track.
Meaning you almost always get where
you need to go when they say they will
get you there. Rather than driving to the
edge of civilization to an airport, most
train stations are located in the heart of
downtown. Most important, there are
NO security lines, x-ray machines, or
occasional body searches! So when and
why did America decide to turn it’s back
on what seems to be a fairly viable mode
of transportation?
Ready, willing, and able
By the time my generation arrived trains
had already left the station. Therefore I'll
admit that I’ve always considered taking
the train a bit passe'. Yet the railroad is
still a viable mode of transport. In my
youth they took me out to the Hamptons
or just about anywhere in the burbs. As
a young husband and father I commuted
via rail. Later there was no better way
to go from Manhattan to Philadelphia,
Washington D.C., or Boston than via the
rails. Oh, and let's not forget my favorite
train... the good old subway!
You can take the A train
As a former New Yorker I miss it's
subterranean rail system. There is no
faster way to traverse Manhattan but
deep below the mess above. For years
is was in rough shape. A graffiti clad
equivalent of a urinal, most stayed
away. Fortunately the MTA cleaned
up it's act and quickly anybody smart
enough to figure out it was the fastest
way to travel was back on board. And
while still not as sparkling as European
subways, the IRT, BMT, and IND keep
the big apple moving!
Easy does it
Navigating any city can be challenging.
However public transportation systems
provide easy ways to learn the lay of
the land while seeing the sights. Here
in Portugal we've had no need for a car.
Instead we've gotten anywhere we had
to go via train, tram, subway or even the
occasional taxi. One can't help but think
that such a group effort is better for our
eco system. Yet in cities across America
few if any of these conveyances exist.
And nothing could be more unfortunate.
When did we lose our way?
Off the beaten track
Why has America turned it's back on the
railroad?  One could suggest that it's our
innate pioneer spirit that drives our lack
of public transport. Few of us like being
confined to a specific route or somebody
else’s schedule. Since the invention of
the automobile we've been able to go
wherever... whenever! However in truth
almost of us are beyond frequent fliers.
Meaning we actively engage in what is
a modern day form of mass transport.
And while in theory faster, it's actually
always means a more than tedious trip.
High or low
One thing is certain, we Americans adore
speed. Therefore in theory flying is faster.
However when it comes to short jaunts
nothing could be father from the truth.
The fact is that getting on a plane requires
much more time and effort than hopping
on a train. Thus any trip under three hours
should be accomplished via rail if or when
it's available. As if avoiding airport security
wasn't enough motivation, the view along
your ride is well worth the price of a ticket.
How do we get back on track? Or will we
spend the rest of our lives standing in line?
The little engine that could?
Across our nation lies a rusty road
waiting to be reawakened. There
has to be some way to utilize what's
left of our rail system. Specifically
within highly populated urban cores.
Hopefully the next generation will
appreciate what we're not. My kids
seriously considered taking the train
to Montana. While in the end it just
didn't work out, they're ready and
willing to ride the rails. Hopefully
they will be our ticket to whatever
is next. All aboard America?!