Guest Opinion: Old railroad tracks should be used for trains, not trails

·4 min read

I sometimes wonder why anyone chooses to remain enslaved to commuting in a motor vehicle and why are we not investing American dollars back into our American Railroads, big time.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021, proposes to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations when it should propose to restore and conserve or build 500,000 train stations across our nation. There was a time, not that long ago, wherein all one had to do was walk, bike, trolley or take a short commute to the nearest train station. The trains of the former Reading Railroad could take you almost any place you needed to go within southeastern Pennsylvania or offer you connections to other train networks, at regional stations, some offering routes beyond our state’s borders. The former Reading Railroad tracks are now used by entities such as SEPTA and Conrail while others were abandoned. Some of the rail line has been converted into pedestrian and bike trails through the Rails-to-Trails program as seen in parts of Hatfield Township, Montgomery County and Richland Township, Bucks County.

The former Bethlehem Line of the Reading Railroad runs from Lansdale in Montgomery County all the way to Bethlehem City in Northampton County. This section of tract sits between Sellersville and Quakertown.
The former Bethlehem Line of the Reading Railroad runs from Lansdale in Montgomery County all the way to Bethlehem City in Northampton County. This section of tract sits between Sellersville and Quakertown.

However, the highest and best use of the old railroad easements and tracks would be an actual railroad line for railcars or a monorail system, not trails. More importantly, the railroad easements, are all public record, running with the land, in perpetuity, waiting for the railroads to be brought back to life or reimaged in the form of a new monorail passenger and freight system.

Dependence on motor vehicles, no matter how they are powered, can only offer us increased suburban sprawl; dependence on warehouses which are being built further and further away from our nation’s ports and cities which in turn make us even more dependent on the automakers and tractor trailers and all the apparatus tied to them, except trains are the missing link with the newer warehouses which is by design.

Schemed and crafted by our auto, oil, finance, insurance, and technology industries, they’ve managed to keep trains out of our collective, public conscience. They’ve removed trolleys powered by electricity in our cities and given us buses on tires that require oil and gas to power them; they removed trains powered by electricity and given us each expensive motor vehicles on tires that require oil and gas, among other things; naturally, the most environmentally friendly option would be the train running on electricity, not a motor vehicle on tires powered by gas and oil or unrecyclable batteries.

They now have vehicles powered by electricity or hybrids, all under the pretense of saving the environment, but that only serves to make us always dependent on the auto industry and its apparatus tied to them, and parts and battery makers located outside our national borders and encourages continuance of further suburban sprawl.

Apple and Samsung have partnered with the automakers to make vehicles “smart” which really make us all “stupid” for being further enslaved to the automobile, turning them into rolling entertainment devices. They were designed to get us from A to B, not originally designed to entertain and distract us. We are slugging our way down our nation’s highways and roads, and we’ve managed to become the great drive-thru society in the process, which only serves to offer us obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure which all lead to our eventual and premature deaths. Pharmaceutical conglomerates, and corporations and industries tied to them, don’t mind our bad health given the high volume of drug ads we’re subjected to watch and read daily, giving their shareholders and profits priority over our health and safety, ignoring the public good.

Never forget, those that got us away from trains were, mainly but not solely, the Big Three Automakers, at the time. They are now in a concerted effort with other tied industries, and our governments, leading the charge into alternative, powered vehicles while using our own tax dollars to fund the initiative, and suggesting we allow AI to drive us around, into the future which all in turn keeps us dependent on the automakers and their apparatus, ignoring the railroads.

Who in their right mind wants to sit in traffic in a robo-taxi? General Motors is evidently funding one such company in San Francisco which they named, “Cruise,” which shall eliminate taxi, Uber and Lyft driver jobs; and they’ve developed an automobile driven by a computer auto-pilot system, as seen in present-day Tesla vehicles, that could potentially be hacked and driven off the road or into another vehicle or object, plus tracked by our government, when hopefully one day you can ride a brand new train or monorail system, which have been proven to be the safer, faster and the more ecologically friendly and sustainable option, all the while not using one single drop of oil from the Middle East, nor a single, pollution-causing unrecyclable battery produced in China.

Our world neighbors in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America all still use trains to this day, why aren’t we?

All aboard!

Jacob F. Kratz lives in Quakertown, Bucks County

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Old railroad tracks should be used for trains, not trails

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