Train will save, not pave

Essayist Janis Jaquith [April 7 essay: "Trojan train: Keep D.C. a car commute away"] should be advocating for more and better passenger rail service to Washington, D.C., instead of opposing this mode of public transportation, if she really wants a sustainable future for our region.

Charlottesville residents have little choice but to drive or fly to D.C. With more frequent, accessible, and reliable rail connections, many more people would choose the rail alternative. This includes families (especially those traveling with children), seniors who are no longer comfortable driving, school children on field trips, UVA students and alumni from Northern Virginia, UVA faculty and others with business in D.C., those traveling on by train to Boston or New York, tourists, and ordinary citizens on weekend outings, visiting friends and family, shopping or museum-hopping in the D.C. area.

Arriving in Washington's Union Station, passengers can make intermodal connections to just about anywhere in the D.C. area. Jaquith would deny our residents the option of taking the train because of her fear of growth, whereas just about everyone I know travels frequently to D.C. anyway, but always by car.

According to Sierra Club calculations of pollution per passenger mile traveled, the 236-mile round-trip to D.C. costs our environment a whopping 2,258 oz. of pollution by car, 4,118 oz. by plane, and 708 oz. by train. The train option reduces the fuel gluttony of the trip, is far safer than going by car, and requires only a single track compared to lanes and lanes of highway spread across the landscape.

Anyone familiar with the superb intercity rail networks in Europe and Japan knows how much they contribute to the quality of life there. A resurgence in intercity passenger rail is long overdue, and we should start right here, right now, to make it happen.

Meredith Richards
Member, Governor's Commission on Rail for the 21st Century