Smart Ideas: A Way Forward for Train Travel

Plus: Changing lanes in the 2020 race.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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Feb. 26, 2019, 8 p.m.

Long-haul Amtrak trains expendable, with conditions

Eric Holthaus, writing for Grist

Amtrak’s planned prioritization of intercity travel over long-haul routes through the South and West is positive news for the rail industry, and “could boost ridership by millions with the same (meager) funding levels. … Building up train routes between cities like Chicago and Washington, Dallas and San Antonio, Atlanta and New Orleans, Los Angeles and the Bay Area—all of which are currently served by just a single train per day—would boost a rail renaissance in America.” While trains are often “a practical means of long-distance transport” in rural areas and cutting back rural routes would likely meet resistance in Congress, “an Amtrak that doubled-down on killing air travel in California and Texas” and provided federally funded bus routes to replace rural train routes would make a dent in carbon emissions.

Obama library should keep hard copies

Erin Dunne, writing for the Washington Examiner

Barack Obama’s presidential library should not forgo physical documents in favor of a digital-only system. Not only is paper less likely to become obsolete than the latest digital technology, but “part of the importance of archival research is the possibility of stumbling upon something unexpected that turns out to be vitally important,” which is much less likely when searching a computer. Plus, hackers might target a digital collection. “With no physical backup, the collection could be taken down entirely or otherwise crippled, perhaps deliberately blocking access to records critical to understanding current events.”

Voters not bound by candidate lanes

Nathaniel Rakich, writing for FiveThirtyEight

Polling of the 2020 primary field reveals “the blocs/corners/lanes/circles we try to fit candidates and voters into are a lot messier in real life than we sometimes imagine.” Name recognition accounts for Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden, two very different candidates, being the top second choices in the field, evidence that many voters “are perfectly willing to vote for a candidate in a different lane.” Such analysis also discounts the quality of a candidate, instead considering candidates to simply be a collection of policy preferences. “Current events and the shifting media spotlight after candidates win or outperform expectations in early primary states can also shake up fields, and candidates’ own marketing efforts can often succeed at winning over voters that may not be part of their ‘natural constituency.’”

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