What Riding Trains Taught Me About Americans

Rail Travel Induces a Reverie and Intimacy Among Its Diverse Passengers

Amos, a one-legged Amish man, was having trouble with his new prosthesis. He left the leg in his sleeping compartment and came to the diner on crutches—a hazardous ambulation on a moving train.

Because Amish do not buy health insurance nor take Medicare or Social Security, he rode The Southwest Chief from Chicago to California and went to Mexico to see a doctor. He paid cash for the leg in Tijuana.

“A van picked us up at border and took us to a clinic,” he told me. “They have everything down …

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All Aboard, Bay Area, on Your Fast Train to Wasco

This Kern County Town, a Conduit for High-Speed Rail, Has a Lot to Offer

Dear Bay Area,

Welcome to Wasco.

You may never have heard of this small city of 25,000 in the San Joaquin Valley. You probably can’t pronounce it (it’s WAW-skoh).

But you and …

Train From New Mexico

In the Lamy train station, passengers lean stiff
hips against wooden benches. Hear that old creak.
An attendant heaves my green trunk onto an antique
scale made of wood and …

Whatever Happened to the Little Red Caboose?

Manufacturing of the Iconic Train Car Stopped in 1981, But They Still Hold a Special Place in American Pop Culture

Americans have many icons. But those dealing with the exploration and expansion of the United States seem especially beloved: stagecoaches, steamboats, trains—and the railroad caboose. From the mid-19th century through …

When You Ride the Bus, You Ride With Big Data

Will Public Transit Apps Create Customers or Citizens?

When I first arrived in San Francisco in 1988, I often took a bus called the 22 Fillmore, which ran from Potrero Hill, made a right turn near the Castro, …

California’s High Speed Rail Should Look Like Germany’s

Stations Can Be Vital Public Spaces That Provide Space for People to Gather, Shop, and Be Entertained

Will California’s high-speed rail system be German enough?

That question is not a joke, as I learned last month while riding Germany’s popular high-speed rail. In fact, it’s a more important …