America Needs Freight Trains

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Our homes are filled with stuff. Some of it is essential, such as a stove and a toilet, but much of it is superfluous and properly classified as "wants" rather than "needs," such as wallpaper or DVD players. An inventory of the items found in our homes would undoubtedly produce a list of substantial length. Where did it all come from? A trip to the mall and we glean insight. But how does all this stuff get there? This is an important question for several reasons. In particular, a closer look at the means by which goods are transported reveals much about our economic, environmental and social commitments. There are obviously many ways in which products make it to us. To get materials from overseas obviously requires ships or aircraft. Once items have arrived on our continent, trucks and trains become available. Each of these two land-based forms of transportation has advantages and disadvantages, yet the continued shift from rails to highways for transporting and distributing freight should concern us. Let's find out why. The train-truck debate has been brewing as long as interstates connected major centers of commerce. While railroads reigned supreme for over one-hundred years going back to Abraham Lincoln's time, trucks are an increasingly visible form of transporting goods over land. (Trains still transport more freight however.) The transition from rail lines to interstates occurred over a significant period of time and involved many governmental organizations and pieces of legislation-most notably, the Interstate Commerce Commission (which began the regulation of the railroads in 1887) and the various Federal Aid Highway Acts (which provided the impetus and funding for paved landscapes). Yet, few environmental considerat... ... middle of paper ... ...ious policy. Locally, as well, there may be a great deal to gain from a resurgence in train usage, particularly at a time when industrial jobs are fleeing us rapidly. The railroads helped put our town on the map in its formative years. Perhaps we need to look to our rails for future economic assistance. Works Cited Garrison, W.L. & J.D. Ward. (2000) Tomorrow's Transportation: Changing Cities, Economies, and Lives. Boston: Artech House, 316 pp. Lague, D. (2002) "On track for a rail revolution." Far Eastern Economic Review, 165 (28), 26-29. Lowe, M.D. (1994) Back on Track: The Global Rail Revival. Worldwatch Paper 118. Worldwatch Institute, 54 pp. Porter, R.C. (1999) Economics at the Wheel: The Costs of Cars and Drivers. San Diego: Academic Press, 258 pp. Wilner, F.N. (1998) "Big-truck menace: The cold war heats up." Railway Age, 199 (Dec), 33-38.

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