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Everything Old is New Again – an editorial

If you had occasion to read my post on railroad buffs, you’ll know that I have a long personal connection to the railroad industry, albeit of the short-line variety.

Over the decades I have watched our nation’s shortsightedness vis a vis the railroad industry, which seems today even more dismaying for having gone on for so long. But I’m hoping our newfound energy and environmental consciousness will renew our understanding of, and enthusiasm for, the advantages of rail travel and transport. 

I am impressed with the television spots being aired by CSX Corporation – one of the seven major carriers that have emerged from past industry upheavals — as much for their timing as their content. And the content is simple and compelling: you can move tons of goods hundreds of miles on a single gallon of fuel. Who can argue with that?

With energy dependence a buzz-phrase, the railroad’s ability to transport goods so efficiently seems like the magic of new technology – except that railroads have been around for more than a century, adopting new technologies to improve their already impressive value.

I am by no means an expert, but I do know that resurrecting railroads to a new heyday will not be easy. Railroad infrastructure and maintenance are expensive. Thousands of miles of track that were torn up in the ‘70s when railroads fell out of favor and were struggling under the weight of regulation and economics, are not easily re-laid. 

But we hear about our equally pressing need to upgrade our infrastructure and what makes better sense than to funnel public funds into a mode of transportation that is highly efficient than one that encourages more vehicular traffic spewing more CO2, consuming millions of gallons of fuel to move exponentially fewer goods, and adding traffic to one’s daily commute. I hope this time we “get it. “

And railroads’ people-moving aspects? Anyone who has traveled through Europe by train knows that comfort and the convenience of train travel is possible. In America, you’re lucky if you can travel by train between major cities. I’m told that when Amtrak was introduced in 1971 with such high hopes, Congress nixed adequate funding, in addition to the onus of regulatory issues weighing down the industry. Amtrak built demand and then couldn’t meet it and both the traveling public and policy makers lost their zeal to support it. An overly simplistic characterization, certainly, but all the more reason to look at the landscape and change it to work for us rather than against us.

Perhaps you feel our individual relationship to railroads is too far removed to get involved,  but we are, after all, a democracy where public support for policies has impact. If you go online and research some of the projects being advocated for and by the industry – the ARC Tunnel project, the National Gateway partnership and the OneRail Coalition to name a few – some may have directly impact your daily lives, others will have impact for the entire nation for years to come.

And in the microcosm, just as locavores advocate diets of locally grown food, you can ask the retailers you patronize how your favorite goods arrived on the store floor. Did the refrigerator come from the manufacturer to a rail siding where store trucks brought it the last few miles, or did tractor-trailers bring it several hundred miles via interstate highway? It makes a difference to the environment, the cost of gas at the pump, America’s dependency issues, and wear-and-tear on infrastructure. Become a locaport!

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More Stories By Karyn Price

Karyn joined the Bailiwick Company ten years ago, and spends the majority of her time managing media relations and corporate, employee and marketing communications for her telecommunications and technology clients. She currently leads the company's public relations practice. With an eye toward results, she works diligently to secure meaningful coverage for clients in relevant print and online publications, as well as in key financial and analyst reports. Her new-found passion for social media has ignited additional interest for the clients she serves. Prior to joining Bailiwick, Karyn was the communications manager for the Bucks County Conference & Visitors Bureau, where she publicized the beauty, art and culture that the region offers to leisure travelers. Under her direction, the county saw a 43 percent increase in travel leads. She has also spent time in advertising. Karyn holds an M.A. in Professional Communication from La Salle University and a B.A. in Communication from Elizabethtown College. Outside of the office she enjoys music, spending time with family and reading great novels. Please note that the views expressed on this site are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the clients I represent.

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