Ridin' That Train, Down For the Game
By The Editors
Created Jul 3 2007 - 7:46pm
So a few weeks back my wife announced that I was taking her to a Red Sox game. There was this deal with the Marriott, a room and two tickets for a reasonable price. If you get the chance to stay at the Marriott in downtown Boston, by the way, get an even-numbered room on one of the upper floors, 30 or higher. They overlook the river, the MIT campus, and Cambridge, and in the morning you can watch the sculling crews skim down the river. It's all very uber-urban for a guy from Maine.
Rather than challenge the weekend traffic, we took the Downeaster train from Portland to North Station. The old days of strolling into the terminal off Congress Street ten minutes before departure and buying a ticket are long gone. By the Wednesday before our trip, Sunday's only southbound train with vacant seats was the 6:30 a.m. run. Luckily, I'm an early riser.
When the Downeaster first began operating in December 2001 critics expected ridership to peak and decline quickly once the novelty wore off. Instead, the route is the fastest growing in the Amtrak network. Now I see why. It's so darned convenient. Not only did we avoid traffic stress and paying for gas, tolls, and parking, the caf` car served Starbucks coffee. Parking at the station was three dollars a day, and ridership did not include the personal indignities that everyone accepts as normal for air travel.
There's been a lot of talk lately of restoring passenger train service to other Maine communities, such as Brunswick, Augusta, and Bangor. There are many good reasons, both practical and philosophical, to start planning those expansions now. If Portland is any indication, demand for the service will not be an issue.
Senior editor, rail fan, and doggone it the Sox lost.
Can anyone tell me why Amtrak uses those humongous, ugly engines to move a handful of passenger cars? Looks like overkill to me. And how about adding an express train between Portland and Boston?