I'm scribbling this post on a northbound train to NYC. I'm a big fan of public transit and ride the rails often, from home to work or, like this morning, to get my fix of the Big Apple. With gas prices nearing $4 a gallon, we should be thinking hard about bumping up our subsidies for our woefully underfunded transportation system.
It's only 90 miles from Philly to NYC, but our starving Amtrak system keeps jacking up the fares--it's only sensible response to the fact that Amtrak could not survive any other way. In one of the most perverse examples of the way that market fundamentalism distorts our public policy, Congress puts our rail system on a famine diet and then blames it for wasting away--all as an excuse for the dubious panacea of privatization.
The result is a transportation alternative accessible only to the wealthy. A roundtrip ticket from PHL to NYC on Amtrak would have cost me about $150.
So here I am traversing the lovely Garden State on New Jersey Transit. Thank goodness NJ still finds the revenue to offer frequent and relatively cheap service. My total fare, including regional rail in Philly amounts to $42 roundtrip. Bummer that the trip takes three hours. But at least I can read and type on my phone.And riding the rails offers a great view of rusting cities, tacky suburbs, and sometimes stylish graffiti.
NJ Transit has experienced a spike in ridership recently. This is the upside of high fuel prices. But it's time for America to join the rest of the world and put a lot more resources into this environment-saving alternative to the car.
From Rahway, heading north...