Why Did They Let This Happen?
A year ago, the annual Fall meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) was
held in Indianapolis. It was a successful meeting and we all enjoyed what we saw of the city . . . with one notable exception: the Indianapolis Railway Station.
At one time, Indianapolis boasted one of the great railway station in this country. The building itself has been preserved and restored, but actual railroad passengers would never know it. Back in October of 2015, we never got into the original building. Instead passengers waiting to board the Cardinal headed for Chicago had to walk around to the side of the building into the waiting room.
It was—how shall I describe it at 5:30 in the morning?—dark, dank and filthy . . . trash everywhere . . . homeless people . . . drunks . . . pan handlers. I would not want to walk alone through that building, especially at night. The railway station in Indianapolis would be a disgrace for any city, but for a state capital? Shocking!
Apparently someone has noticed. The station, which serves both Amtrak and Greyhound, was recently called a “civic embarrassment” by the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance. The organization invited some of the local government officials to the station where one of the IPRA officers, Bill Malcolm, described the waiting room as unwelcoming, unsightly and scary. “It’s a turn-off,” he said.
He’s absolutely right and it does beg the question: How is it that responsible public officials—governors and mayors and members of town councils—allowed this to happen? Indianapolis is, after all, the capital city of Indiana.
Among other things, it sure as hell points out the need for citizen groups—private citizens organizing to light fires under the people they elect to take care of legitimate community needs. Of course these days, politicians only have their eyes on the next election and, no matter how pressing the need, they haven’t got the guts to raise taxes to pay for these essential things … even on people who have more money than they can possibly ever spend.
Personally, I suspect one reason some railway stations are allowed to become “civic embarrassments” and Amtrak is still using 40-year-old sleeping cars is because a lot of politicians think rich people fly and poor people take the train.