Amtrak Platform, Freeport, Maine
Today, almost all passenger transportation in the U.S. takes place via automobiles and airplanes. Currently, about 1 percent is by bus and rail, even though both of these are energy efficient options.
Since WWII, the preferred mode of travel has been one person in one car, sometimes referred to by critics of this model as “Happy Motoring.” Many large American cities are notorious for poor public transportation systems and as a result, freeways in and out of most cities are choked with cars idling in traffic during morning and evening rush hours.
In rural states like Maine, lacking the requisite population density to warrant full-blown public transportation options, rail travel has been making a bit of a comeback, at least in the southern region.
Since 2001, Amtrak has offered passenger rail travel between Boston and Portland. Since November, this has been extended north to Brunswick. It’s been 50 years since passenger trains have departed from this coastal Maine community.
Saturday, I boarded the Amtrak Downeaster in Freeport at 7:20 am and traveled south to visit my sister in Seascoast New Hampshire. She picked me up in Exeter at 9:21 and we spent a great day together doing some strategic planning, and found time to walk along the seawall in Hampton Beach. This was similar to her own “maiden voyage” by train to Brunswick last weekend.
The JAB waiting for the JBE.
At 6:47 pm, I departed northward for Freeport arriving at 8:55 (about 12 minutes behind schedule). My morning trip found me aboard a crowded train with fellow travelers opting for the train. The trip was pleasant, in fact the time on the train passed quickly. Free wi-fi, comfortable accommodations, and no concerns about traffic made my trip a treat.
The Exeter Amtrak Downeaster platform.
Only time will tell if passenger rail becomes even more important in coming years, especially if peak oil prognosticators and climate concerns push public sentiment back towards rail and away from the automobile. Critics might even change their anti-rail diatribes if they idled their automobiles and hopped aboard the Downeaster for points south, like a day in Boston.
The Downeaster departing Freeport for its final destination in Brunswick.