Trains multiply choices
Having devoted many years to dealing with rail transportation issues, I must firmly disagree with the arguments that Janis Jaquith put forth in her April 7 essay ["Trojan train: Keep D.C. a car commute away"] opposing improvement of rail passenger service to Washington, D.C.
For travel to that city, local residents at present have available only one daily train and one thrice-a-week train, so nearly everybody opts to drive individually. This adds to fossil fuel consumption and pollutes the environment, particularly when gasoline is wasted during the almost inevitable jam-ups on Interstate 66 (not to mention stops at the numerous traffic lights that have sprouted like dandelions all along U.S. Route 29).
There are perhaps hundreds of business travelers each day from the Charlottesville area to Northern Virginia, some weekend commuters heading up to D.C. jobs (perhaps staying in an apartment as I did when working at USDOT from 1992 to 1997), plus certainly hundreds (maybe thousands) of UVA students going to and from home on weekends. So the market is already there for having more trains that would provide a benefit to the environment by reducing auto trips to D.C. by current residents of this area.
Her likening of Albemarle County to unspoiled tropical paradises seems a stretch, since this area is already becoming spoiled by unbridled development that is smothering the utility of Route 29 as a formerly efficient intercity travel corridor.
Development pressures are arising due to growth in the present local population, plus the more-than-decade-long touting of this area among the well-to-do and retirees as a #1 place to live. The absence or presence of train service will have little effect on the existing momentum of the development juggernaut being propelled by in-migration.
But gaining more trains to D.C. will create a larger palette of choices for regular commuters or occasional travelers, will lessen congestion along Route 29, may see fewer young people killed in auto wrecks, and will reduce the demand pressure that is pushing up prices of a gasoline supply that is now limited by refinery capacity constraints and the declining quality of untapped reserves.
Our community needs more choice in transportation options, and getting more intercity trains onto the schedule is the way to go.