A Little of This; a Little of That.
Good Luck with This. One of the transportation goals being advocated by the National Association of Railroad Passengers NARP) is “connectivity”, meaning that we should be able to transfer smoothly from one means of transport to another … that is, from a long-distance train to a commuter line or a bus or an urban transit system.
But there’s another kind of “connectivity” at least as important to many rail passengers, most especially younger people: they want connectivity to the internet while on the train. And they want to stay connected. I’m not a technician and I have no idea what the technical problems are, but I do know that Amtrak has been very slowly although steadily working through a host of problems to bring internet access to their trains. Some trains have it, some don’t, and it’s spotty on many of the trains that do have it. It is in that context I report that Amtrak announced a few days ago that wi-fi is now available on two more eastern trains, the Lake Shore Limited and the Cardinal.
And Good Luck with That. Meanwhile, here in Hawaii—more specifically on the Island of Oahu—the much maligned transit system reached another milestone when the first two rail cars were delivered. Eventually, HART (Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit) will have a fleet of 20 trains, each a four-car consist. The body shells of the cars are being built in Italy with assembly and finishing work being done in California.
This system was first championed by Mayor Frank Fasi back in the early 1970s when the federal government would have funded 90 percent of the cost. That was dependent on the City of Honolulu authorizing a small additional tax to cover the ten percent. The vote ended up 5 to 4 against the tax and thus whole thing crashed. Now here we are—40 years later with monumental traffic jams, a system under construction and over budget, and a pissed off citizenry. For the record, the deciding vote that killed the project way back then was cast by a Republican and local businessman, John Henry Felix, who deserves to be remembered as the guy who could have had a huge positive impact on the island of Oahu . . . and didn’t.
And He’s Off! Finally, a reminder that I’m leaving here Monday morning to attend NARP’s annual Spring meeting in Washington, DC. and, as will be no surprise to anyone, there’s a lot of train travel involved: the Zephyr from the West Coast to Chicago and the Capitol Limited from there to Washington. My return trip will be Amtrak from Washington to Toronto, where I’m booked on VIA Rail’s marvelous train #1, the Canadian, for the trans-continental ride to Vancouver. From there, it’s Amtrak to Seattle then the Coast Starlight for the overnight ride to Los Angeles. Posts will be a bit irregular—see item One above—but I will do my best to provide reports as I go.