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Postcard from Charlotte: “America needs passenger rail.”

Posted by Luke Upton on Feb 20, 2015

Charlotte NC

"We're expecting 70 million more people over the next 30 years and a 45 percent spike in freight volume..."

SmartRail World today reports from Charlotte, North Carolina to hear from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Vice President Joe Biden. The two political heavyweights have visited the city as part of their five-state bus tour highlighting the importance of infrastructure investment and encouraging Congress to pass the Grow America Act - a $478-billion, six year transportation spending plan. It’s a familiar venue for Secretary Foxx, both as a former Mayor of Charlotte and having spoken at the 2014 edition of SmartRail USA Congress and Expo in the same city.

Foxx talked about his time in Charlotte as mayor and the growth that he saw on the city's transit network. He also proposed that Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Washington could be connected by high-speed rail. Vice President Biden who is famously a regular Amtrak user from his Delaware home to the Washington called infrastructure spending "a virtuous cycle" that will boost business by moving goods faster while adding construction and engineering jobs with the expansion of transportation networks.

Secretary Anthony Foxx Speech courtesy of the US Department of Transportation.

"When you're making the case for stable investment in American passenger rail, it helps to have with you the nation's greatest champion for passenger rail --Vice President Joe Biden.

The Vice President and I have been traveling up the East Coast this week as part of the GROW AMERICA Express to focus America’s attention on our infrastructure, and to remind the American people that we are at a crucial crossroads.

We can choose to ignore the quality of our transportation infrastructure, currently ranked just 16th in the world, and watch a system that was once the envy of the world slip into further deficiency. Or we can choose to invest in a future where the United States is once again outpacing the rest of the world; where hundreds of millions of people can move about their communities, their states, and the country safely and without delays; and where the freight that fuels our nation's economy moves efficiently and competitively from farm and factory to local and global markets.

And, as Vice President Biden knows well, passenger rail is an important piece of our transportation puzzle.

America is growing. But our roads, rails, and runways don't automatically grow with our population. We're expecting 70 million more people over the next 30 years and a 45 percent spike in freight volume. And much of this growth will happen in the South --in places like my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where we were this morning.

The question is, “How are we going to move all of this freight, and all of these folks?”

Well, it turns out, the American people are voting on this question with their train tickets. Amtrak has broken ridership records in 10 out of the past 11 years. The train service that runs between Charlotte and Raleigh carries 100,000 more riders today than it did only five years ago.

So, you have Amtrak ridership at an all-time high. You have, on top of that, more people riding public transportation than at any time in the past half-century.

And so, it makes sense that the NC DOT and Charlotte would have a vision to build a new Gateway Station that would be located closer to the city centre and that would not only serve intercity passenger rail, but buses, and --one day-- a streetcar and new commuter rail service.

It makes sense that, as we speak, workers are executing a series of projects between Charlotte and Raleigh, funded by the Obama Administration’s first-of-its-kind passenger rail program. Projects that will improve service for record numbers of riders and help prepare this corridor for the day when it will form the nexus of a powerful southeast passenger rail network running down from D.C. through Atlanta.

Sure, we can continue investing less in our passenger rail system than we should and watch our country's competitiveness slip lower and lower. Or, we can choose to build projects like the proposed Gateway Station that would bring our passenger train services into the 21st century. And create jobs. And grow our economy.

When push comes to shove --and that time is now-- we must make the choice that positions us for a brighter future. For us. For our children. And for generations of Americans to come.

I’m on the road this week –and the Vice President is with me– because we know that we can make that choice. We can choose, for the first time, to dedicate funding for rail projects –for efforts that add service, lower trip times, improve safety, and improve stations.

All we need is for Congress to choose to GROW AMERICA."

smart-rail-usa1

SmartRail USA 2015 will be returning to Charlotte on 28-29th October 2015 Building on a 4 year track record, SmartRail USA is the definitive transit technology show. It showcases the technology that both drives ridership and develops the integrated transit networks of the future focussing on IT, Telecoms, Operations, Fare Collection, Passenger Engagement and more.

 

Click to download your free 'Future of US Rail' e-book.

Topics: projects

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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