Photo taken from the back of the Amtrak Pere Marquette line. Attribution Some rights reserved by amtrak_russ

The train I ride

The train I ride," Elvis sang, "is 16 coaches long." The train I ride, at least a dozen times a year, stretches four or five coaches long. It is Amtrak's Pere Marquette line between Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Travelers on the line are businesspeople, shoppers, baseball fans, family visitors, college students and—without fail—a goodly portion of Amish. Passengers nearly always fill the Pere Mar­quette, but, despite that, the line teeters annually in peril of elimination.

Americans are shortsighted about nothing so much as passenger trains. Sooner or later, and usually sooner, conversations about passenger trains and Amtrak in particular sputter with the dirty "s-word": subsidies. For some, that word alone is a conversation-stopper. It is taken as self-evident that government subsidies should be eliminated, and Amtrak is a favorite target.


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