Americans often return from visits overseas asking the question, “Why can’t we have cool, high-speed trains like they do in Europe, Japan, and China?”
AMTRAK is America’s whipping boy. Passengers sometimes suffer mediocre service, meals, and uncertain departure and arrival times. Some in Congress want to shut it down, others grant AMTRAK just enough money to keep operating but not enough to improve it.
The only AMTRAK line that works and makes money runs along the East Coast corridor, linking Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC. Not only does that work, it’s beating the competition, the famous hourly shuttles operated by Delta and US Airways.
In 2001, a third of passengers between NY and DC went by train; today, 75% of them do.
And the airlines’ cheapest fare between NY and DC is $90 more than the average $145 fare on the high-speed Acela train (pictured). I use the term “high-speed” lightly because the ancient tracks keep the train from going anywhere near as fast as it is able to go.
Unless and until Congress commits to spending billions of dollars, America will always have a rail system way behind the times. And not much of it will turn a profit.
Urban art painted on the side of a five-star hotel in Boston? That’s what Simon Mais, general manager of the new Boston hotel, The Revere, permitted to promote an exhibition opening for two Brazilian artists who happen to be twins. When in Jerusalem, don’t miss a visit to Yad Vashem, the stunning museum dedicated to the history of the Holocaust. Guide Hazy Flint–who recently walked Rudy around the museum–describes why remembering the terrible past is so important.
Travel blogger David Rowell says California’s plan for a bullet train is overpriced and ill-conceived. San Francisco travel writer Chris Barnett offers a first-person report on riding the slow Amtrak train that runs along the California coast. And Rudy closes the show with a few deals of the week.
I just returned from a couple weeks of shooting two episodes of my public television series in a part of Canada I’d never been to: the Atlantic Provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Let me tell you a bit about them.
We began in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia. I didn’t know that in 1917, the town lost about 2,000 residents when it suffered the largest, man-made explosion prior to the advent of the atomic bomb.
A ship carrying a cache of wartime explosives collided with another ship while headed out to sea. The ship with the armaments drifted back toward Halifax’s harbor in flames. Because the lethal cargo was secret, none of the city’s residents knew what lay in its hold, and when the ammunition erupted with a massive explosion, it laid waste to an entire neighborhood, killing or blinding thousands of residents who had come to the harbor to watch the conflagration.
Boston was the first to send assistance, and to this day, Halifax provides Boston Commons with its annual Christmas tree as thanks.
Footnote: Halifax opened its homes, hospitals and cemeteries to the families and victims of the Titanic sinking and the Swissair crash in 2009.
The first guest in a new, occasional series of travel experts revealing their best travel secrets, Spud Hilton, travel columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, joins Rudy with his tips. Cornell University history professor Barry Strauss discusses visiting ancient battlefields in Italy that once saw conflicts by the stars of his new book, Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar and the Genius of Leadership. Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, explains why airlines don’t want to lower airfares. And Harriet Baskas, author of the blog, StuckAtTheAirport, explains why Boston’s Logan airport will pay your bus fare from the airport into town. Pus, Rudy delivers the latest travel news and deals.
This past March, Bedouin gunmen kidnapped Brazilian tourists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In India, Maoists set conditions for the release of two abducted Italian tourists. And on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali, security was increased after five suspected terrorist were shot dead in a police raid.
Should we all just stay home?
Some travelers, upon hearing these stories, may vow to cross Egypt, India, and Bali off their travel lists. But would you avoid visiting New York City, Washington, DC, or Oklahoma City because of the horrendous attacks that have taken place in those cities?
Would you avoid Toulouse, France, or Norway because of the much-publicized killings that have taken place there?
I believe random bad things happen whether you live in Duluth, Sandusky, or Boston. You and I have better odds of winning the Powerball lottery than becoming the target of terrorists.
So, please, don’t let those stories keep you at home. Remember that often-used phrase during the Bush administration—“Don’t let the terrorists win”? I agree with that. And, by the way that phrase grew not out of 9/11 but the domestic terrorist attack in Oklahoma City in 1995 that claimed 168 lives.