The Future of North American Rail Service: A Call for Better Connectivity

Aiden Starling

Updated Thursday, May 2, 2024 at 12:00 AM CDT

In today's fast-paced world, efficient transportation is essential for connecting people and fostering economic growth. However, the current state of rail service in North America leaves much to be desired. A recent social media post by Hayden Clarkin, also known as @the_transit_guy, highlights the need for improved rail connectivity between Montreal and New York City. With 48 planes scheduled to fly between these two cities today alone, it's clear that there is a demand for faster and more sustainable alternatives.

The image accompanying the post depicts a map of the northeastern United States and southern Quebec, Canada. A red arrow points from Montreal to New York City, emphasizing a direct route that could potentially reduce travel time to less than 3 hours. Currently, it takes a staggering 11 hours to complete this journey by train. The map also showcases other cities and states/provinces in the region, emphasizing the potential for widespread connectivity and enhanced mobility.

The reactions to the post echo the sentiment that the existing transportation options are far from ideal. One comment highlights the inconveniences of air travel, such as TSA lines, waiting for shuttles, and traffic congestion. Another user points out the exorbitant costs of train tickets in Canada compared to airfare. These comments shed light on the various challenges that travelers face when choosing between different modes of transportation.

The issue of inadequate rail service in North America is not unique to this particular route. Commenters discuss their experiences in other countries, where efficient rail systems provide affordable and convenient travel options. From Barcelona to Paris, passengers express their willingness to sit back, enjoy the scenery, and avoid the hassles of air travel if only train tickets were more competitively priced.

John Oliver's episode dedicated to train travel in the US highlights the underlying issue: the profitability of freight transportation takes precedence over passenger rail. While passenger rail has legal priority, it often gets sidelined due to conflicting interests and lack of enforcement. This results in a subpar experience for travelers who are left with limited options and lengthy travel times.

Investing in high-speed rail and pre-clearance protocols could revolutionize the way we travel between cities in North America. By prioritizing passenger rail and enhancing connectivity, we can decrease travel times, reduce congestion on roads and in airports, and promote sustainable transportation alternatives. The potential benefits extend beyond mere convenience; they encompass economic growth, reduced environmental impact, and enhanced accessibility for all.

It's time for North America to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of efficient rail service. We have the resources, the technology, and the demand to make it happen. Let's come together and advocate for the necessary investments and policy changes that will ensure a brighter future for transportation in our region. Together, we can build a network of high-speed rail that connects our cities, strengthens our economies, and offers a more sustainable way to travel. The time for change is now.

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Top Comments from Imgur


Plane ticket appears to be $125-$140. And takes an hour and a half. Quite a few people might prefer to save the 90 minutes. Although personally, I would LOVE to ride that train route. And yes, to your point, you are absolutely correct, we NEED more rail and more high speed rail in this country. F*** the oil and gas lobby.


*that doesn't cost more than flying, like going from boston to nyc on the train does


Last time I had to go that distance for a business trip I opted to drive because I hate the f---n airport. Those of you who say "is only a 90 minute flight" forget the TSA line, waiting in line to get on, to get off, waiting for the shuttle, waiting to rent a car, and then getting stuck in traffic. Don't forget the inevitable 7 hour layover where you're trapped at the airport with delicious food within walking distance but unattainable The airport wastes away the entire day every time.


After WW2 much of the world needed to be rebuilt. They chose to invest in railroads. America Invested in the interstate highway system. Oops.


Trains are crazy expensive. Passenger trains in Canada are buck f***ing wild. It cost $500 to go from Toronto to Quebec City but it cost me $580 to fly from Quebec City to Edmonton. Make that make sense.


Unfortunately even if there was a good rail network there'd still be pricing to contend with. Europe has a good rail network but long journeys are almost always going to be significantly cheaper by plane. When I travelled from Barcelona to Paris for example I would have been happy to sit on the train and take in the scenery and avoid the airport, but the fact was that flights were like 30€ while the train was like 100€.


I have ridden the 11 hours from a to b. Bits were nice. Will never do again


Here's the problem: the US has the most *profitable* rail system in the world... for freight. But the requirements for passenger rail (speed and predictability) conflict with optimizations for freight cost efficiency. And the tracks are owned by the freight companies. So passenger rail gets sidelined.


Berlin to Munich takes 3:37h per train. If you fly it's 1:10h plus transit to BER (ca. 30 min) plus transit from MUC to city center (ca. 45 min) plus ca. 90min check-in time (recommended). That's 3:55h. The catch? The train costs 157,40€ (regular price). The plane is at around 60€.


Where I live, the tax payers paid in to the city subway system to bring the commuter rail out to a western suburb. This was 20 years ago. The projected cost to run this *ABOVE GROUND* rail with several stations the 12 miles needed was $5B or so at that time 20 years ago. Now, today..the rail, having been continuously worked on these last 20 years still is not finished and projected costs are about $18B. Yes. An above ground rail costs a billion + dollars per mile.And takes 20 years for 10 miles.

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