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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

National Train Day: All Aboard for a Retro- and Pre-Celebration


LNW_TrainDay09Usually we call attention to events before they happen, but today we’re retro-celebrating National Train Day that somehow sped past us like a high-speed Amtrak Acela and was gone before we even knew it was coming. On May 9 the second annual Train Day celebrated “140 years of connecting travelers from coast to coast.” (Cool fact: It was on May 10, 1869, that the ceremonial Golden Spike joined the rails of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit, Utah, thus completing the Transcontinental Railroad.) So, we’re celebrating a few weeks after the fact, and more than 11 months in advance of the third annual National Train Day.

This year’s Train Day was marked by events in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, among other places. American Idol judge Randy Jackson participated in the WDC festivities that included music performances, interactive “green travel” exhibits that showcased electric trains’ energy efficiency, model train displays, and an exhibit on how Trains Move Our Economy.

Levees Not War has been a strong supporter of public transit as a way of reducing America’s dependence on automobiles and petroleum—not only the oil imported from overseas but also extracted from off the coast of Louisiana. [See “Get Congress on Track to Stimulate Mass Transit” (1/26/09) below.] The U.S. Geological Survey has found that the process of extracting oil and gas from under southern Louisiana, by causing a pressure shift in underground reservoirs, has contributed to the subsidence (sinking of land) that makes flooding more likely. Further, as we’ve noted before, carbon emissions contribute to global warming, which intensifies hurricanes and raises sea levels. About 10,000 miles of oil industry pipelines and shortcut canals have been cut through the Louisiana wetlands since the 1930s. The canals trigger erosion: saltwater rushes in, burns the delicate marsh grass, and waves beat the dying grass and roots to pieces. Because of the incursion of saltwater, the canals tend to double their width every 14 years. Scientists at LSU estimate that at least one-third of coastal erosion—possibly as much as 30 to 60 percent—is directly attributable to these industrial canals.

Trains could also provide an effective means of evacuation from oncoming hurricanes. A New Orleans–to–Baton Rouge line has been proposed.

This is all a long way of saying that there are more reasons than you might have realized why trains are cool. We can hardly wait till next year’s National Train Day—the third annual. You read about it here first.

For more information about alternative (non-automobile) transportation, check out:

Transportation for America
Free Public Transit

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