NARP Radio Touts a Daily Cardinal.
Amtrak’s Cardinal is my favorite eastern train. It operates in both directions between Chicago and New York’s Penn Station, passing through some of the loveliest country east of the Mississippi, including the New River Gorge, the Shenandoah Valley, and over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The trouble is, the Cardinal seems to be Amtrak’s unwanted stepchild. It’s a small consist—usually just one Viewliner sleeping car and a few coaches—and it only operates three days a week in each direction. NARP, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, is launching an effort to drum up more support for a daily Cardinal by distributing some 30-second public service radio spots to more than 150 radio stations all along the Cardinal’s route. Thanks to the innovations of the digital age, we are able to simply attach an MP3 file to an email which is then sent to each of the stations agreeing to air the spots.
While probably 90-percent of the stations we’ve contacted have said they will air the spots at no charge, I’ve been surprised at the responses we’ve gotten from a few of the stations.
One program director said what we were proposing sounded to him “like a commercial endeavor” and he refused to air our spots on that basis. How he could have possibly gotten that idea I will never know.
Another station said they didn’t have email—Really??—and therefore we should fax our spots to him. Hmmm … my fax machine is 10 years old, so I’m guessing it probably doesn’t have the capability of transmitting a recorded spot anyway. Another station said they didn’t broadcast public service announcements, but they would be glad to post our spots on the bulletin board in their coffee room. I’m not sure I have the technological know-how to pull that one off either.
(All of which—and I admit this is a diversion—reminds me of a man who owned one of the radio stations back in my original home town of Hartford, Connecticut. He was Jewish with a typically wicked sense of humor and, when asked about his station, loved to say, “Yes, I own WCCC. It’s 1200 on the dial … but, for you, eleven-ninety-five!”)
It is our hope that these spots will be the start of a grassroots effort to turn the Cardinal into a daily train. I have no doubt it would do wondrous things for its ridership and–more fundamentally–it is the only viable, affordable public transportation for people all along that meandering route. And you know how I feel about that: at least some minimal public transportation should be a fundamental right of all Americans!