Photo By: Ankush Minda from Unsplash
Trains are still the undefeated form of public transit. In fact, I’ll push it even further; trains are the greatest form of travel, period.
I ran across this tweet last week and it ignited a fire in me. I realized that we’ve truly been robbed in North America by the automobile-related industries and their collective lobbying in the last century to fill our countries with ugly highways.
Every time I’ve travelled to Europe, I’ve been stunned by the wide selection of trains offered wherever you are at any given time, and the undeniable feeling of comradery that they produce.
Let’s bracket the practical advantages for a second, though. On a purely aesthetic level, trains are still the undisputed champions of transit. You’ve got the cute and modest trains in London’s underground railway system (aka “The Tube”) or the sleek, high-tech and world-famous Japanese bullet-train, which is way faster than your dentist neighbour’s Corvette, I guarantee it. Also, trains are marvelous pieces of machinery and much of it is exposed on the outside for you to wonder at endlessly.
We can even get away from trains’ visual appeals in and of themselves and instead talk about the visual pleasantries they offer through their convenience. You can’t really look out a window in your car for very long and enjoy the view, can you? Well you can try, but I wouldn’t recommend it. That’s the beauty of the train; you don’t even have to drive, someone else drives for you, and, get this, they’re highly trained engineers so you know you’re in good hands. And trains don’t really crash often, do they? So that means enjoying the views offered with little stress; whether you’re deep in an underground tunnel, traversing the underbelly of a city, or above ground appreciating an urban landscape as it passes you by, maybe even appreciating a natural vista over a bridge. Whatever it is, it’s usually better than a gray, dense highway that’s punctuated by the occasional roadkill.
Now, practically speaking, they also make all the sense in the world as a form of public transit. Environmentally they’re fairly clean, with greenhouse gasses per passenger kilometer up to five times less than a car. And they’re way more cost-effective too, you don’t have to fill up or repair anything as the passenger. Also, it promotes a healthier lifestyle because you have to walk and stand a lot when dealing with train systems, meaning less tight hip-flexors, strengthened glutes (which everyone cares about) and good blood flow. Furthermore, you can get some work done, read a book, listen to music or even have an interesting conversation with a stranger on the ride. Not to mention it’s just nice to disappear into a mass of people sometimes.
Trains remain the best thing we’ve got in the world of transit. It sounds cliché, but taking the train is a unique experience unlike any other.