CoastalRailNow, COAST, and ASERT have invited you here to celebrate the train, not only Nationally, but to celebrate progress in delivering improved regional rail service.
This year National Train Day marks 141 years of connecting travelers coast to coast and commemorates the day the first transcontinental railroad was created. On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, the “Golden Spike” was driven into the final tie that joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways, transforming America by creating the nation‘s first transcontinental railroad.
As the nation‘s intercity passenger rail operator, Amtrak connects America in safer, greener and healthier ways. Last fiscal year (FY 2009), the railroad carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second-best year in the company‘s history. With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day—at speeds up to 150 mph—to more than 500 destinations. Amtrak also is the operator of choice for state-supported corridor services in 15 states and for four commuter rail agencies.
Passenger rail travel is 20 percent more efficient than airline travel and 28 percent more efficient than automobile travel. Since 2003, Amtrak has cut its diesel fuel use by more than five percent while increasing train frequencies on many routes.
Freight rail transportation is an efficient form of surface transportation. A freight train can move one ton of freight 457 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. It also helps control air emissions. If 10 percent of long-haul freight now moving by truck moved by rail, annual greenhouse gas emissions would fall by more than 12 million tons. American railroads move 40 percent of our nation’s freight, but account for just 2.2 percent of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and just 0.6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Freight railroads are three times more fuel-efficient than trucks and emit three times less carbon dioxide (CO2) than trucks for the same transportation service. In 2003 alone, railroads increased their efficiency by consuming 2.8 billion fewer gallons of fuel in the United States — and emitted 31.5 million fewer tons of CO2 — than they would have if their efficiency had remained constant since 1980.
These facts underscore rails growing popularity; as Americans in ever growing numbers find trains a convenient, energy efficient, environmentally sound way to travel and move goods. Locally, Santa Barbara County’s Measure A has earmarked $25M for commuter rail service from Ventura County. With ongoing road construction in our future for the next couple of decades, commuter rail service will be more of a necessity than a convenience. The City of Santa Barbara’s Rail Sub-Committee’s On-TRAC Plan proposes to retime the train you arrived on, so that morning commuters could arrive by rail before 8am. That’s a good start!