With all the silly talk about the need for high-speed rail as a “green alternative” to passenger transportation – it may be worth noting that our energy efficiencies would be more importantly served by just getting general rail transportation back to 20-century levels.
Below is a picture of Union Station, in Saint Louis Missouri, February 2011. Take a close look (click to enlarge -click browser back to comeback)
Actually, Union Station is off to the left. Only the arched roof of the train shed is visible on the far left. But note the city’s skyline and the tracks in the foreground. (especially the tracks and skyline)If you go back 60 years to 1951, the same view will tell a very different story about the transportation system.
You might notice a few more tracks. Oh yeah, and is those days there was no UPS trailer depot. (far left foreground) No interstate highway crossing the rail yards either. (look back at 2011 photo)
Take another look. This is facing due east. There is no train operation taking place no train cars are moving in this photo.
Look back to 1951. All in all at least five train operations are being performed, and three of them are servicing passenger trains.
And review the skyline – guess what has been added.Some of the “new buildings” in the Skyline are massive Federal Government Courts building named for former Senator Eagleton. The three other largest building are the homes two giant nation-wide banks and the Metropolitan Life Insurance company.
In 1951 – trains were just becoming the most efficient means of mass transportation in history. Only to be rendered obsolete just 15 years due to the mass investment in interstate highway infrastructure by the federal government.
In 1951 – at least six major railroads intersected at Union Station in Saint Louis. Now four major Interstate Highways handle the traffic at less than ten percent of the energy efficiency.
Across the 60 year period, the Saint Louis area becomes home to a four Interstate Highway Intersection, three massive bank operations and an insurance giant. The rail yards are replaced by a UPS trailer depot and mostly an interstate highway.
The Union Station, has now become known “ramshack” – nothing more than a concrete stoop along side the Greyhound Bus terminal.
Two pictures tell the tale of a nation gone terribly off track. What will the scene be in another 60 years?