A new way to think about night trains
Long-distance night trains represent America, connecting cities and distant rural areas, serving higher-ticket tourists and budget-minded commuters, and uniting elected leaders of every political persuasion.
They are highly productive, cost-effectively bundling together many routes and travel markets.
We believe long-distance night trains can be the foundation for improving and expanding our entire national rail network.
The current conversation around night trains focuses on saving what’s left, rather than on expanding and improving a dynamic, high-value service.
A faulty assumption underlying much of the debate around long-distance rail travel is the “three-hour rule,” which assumes travelers will choose to fly for trips over three hours. The three-hour rule has prevented policy makers from identifying improvements that would create significant ridership growth.
In fact, trains are fast, convenient and affordable – at any distance.
The Empire Builder’s Chicago-Seattle route offers one example of how trains bridge time zones and economic classes, serving residents of dense cities and sparse rural areas alike.
Passengers get on and off the train all along its route, some riding for just a stop or two, some going the entire distance from the Midwest to the coast.
Riders who pay a premium for bedrooms help subsidize the train, making rural transportation affordable for the one- or two-stop riders.
The High Speed Rail Alliance believes in a visionary federal policy to expand networks and service throughout the country.
Night trains are one of the cost-effective tools we have to build an integrated national network.
We need to change the language from cost burdens to acquisition of new state-of-the-art trains and track, improvements in on-time performance and expansion of service.
Resources on the benefits of night trains to riders, communities and policymakers.
- “Long Distance Trains - A Foundation for National Mobility” includes more ideas for how we can improve the network.
- Our August 2004 and 2002 special edition newsletters speak to this topic
- New NightJet trains for Austria show what modern night trains can be
- Residents of Edinburgh and London in the U.K. embrace night trains’ convenience and cost-effectiveness