A Fun Train of Thought

I’m heartened by Christopher Conkey’s piece in the WSJ today saying that Amtrak is getting more financial and political support than ever. And about time too!

My imagination was also sparked by a stray metonym:

One measure of progress will be how long it takes to get from Wall Street to the nation’s capital, a trip which currently takes two hours and 45 minutes on the Acela…

A provision in the House’s Amtrak bill would have the Transportation Department study the possibility of high-speed service between Washington and New York, with trains running as fast as 200 miles an hour and a trip time of two hours or less.

Amtrak’s president Alex Kummant sensibly pours cold water on this idea: while high-speed rail links are great things, there are much more important and much more urgent passenger-rail investments to be made elsewhere in the country.

But a chap can dream. And I was particularly taken by Conkey’s use of the term "Wall Street" rather than "New York". Amtrak trains currently run into the miserable dungeon that is Penn Station, and they won’t move across the street if and when the new Moynihan Station is ever completed.

Meanwhile, a huge and gorgeous new transit hub is being built just a few hundred feet away from Wall Street itself — a transit hub all of whose rail lines head directly across the Hudson River to the US mainland and the Northeast Corridor. If the hub was ever to host proper trains rather than just the PATH subway, most people had thought it would be the terminus of a high-speed link to JFK. But being part of a new high-speed link between Washington and Boston? That would be very cool indeed.

Of course, I’m sure there are lots of very good reasons why this couldn’t ever happen, not least that you probably can’t fit Amtrak trains into PATH tunnels, which are in any case fully occupied already. But given the number of Goldman Sachs executives making the move to Washington, maybe they could stump up a couple of billion dollars to help make this happen?

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