From Albany to Buffalo…

A great article in the New York Times today on the resurgence of the Erie Canal in these times of high fuel costs.
In a similar vein, I’ve found it interesting to see the preponderance of CSX ads on television lately, in particular the way in which this freight company is framing itself as the wave of the future. The “how tomorrow moves” slogan — juxtaposed with a view of a train moving into the distance, stacked double-high with shipping containers — offers what seems to me to be a fascinating attempt to modernize a technology (rail) that is usually associated with the past. It’s a very pleasing sort of dissonance, to me at least.

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2 thoughts on “From Albany to Buffalo…

  1. I’m a huge fan of rail as the future of long-distance cargo transport tech. It’s a nice anachronism, but much more importantly it’s far and away more efficient than trucking, has a separate and independently-financed infrastructure (which eliminates the implicit trucking gas tax subsidy given the disproportionate amount of damage trucks do to the interstate system), and provides an orthogonal vector towards reducing rural interstate congestion.
    Obviously the “last mile” solution is still trucks, meaning that more efficient trucking will also be necessary, but the shorter distance over which these trucks operate enable the use of cleaner technologies that piggyback on existing, e.g., natural gas delivery infrastructure. Doesn’t a series natural gas hybrid sound pretty awesome?

  2. Yes, yes, agreed! I’m not arguing with the contention — it seems sensible to me, and I’m sure it’s much more efficient. I do like the general turn to the 19th-century transportation technologies with a new twist, since it seems to be a trend.
    The CSX ad is also interesting — as you imply in your comment — in that it manages to make two arguments, one about efficient freight transit and the other about individual car drivers. It’s an appeal to efficiency (for the company, and, implicitly, accruing to the consumer) on the first count and convenience/pleasure (for the driver) on the second. What is left unspoken is the question of passenger rail, which has been left in the dust in this country: the ad assumes that, in this potential future, the person wishing to travel will continue to do so by car, even if the stuff he buys has switched over to rail. You don’t see many (any?) TV ads for Amtrak — though I’ve noticed that they do advertise their northeast corridor service a fair bit in the pages of the NYT. Not so in the Midwest…
    I think there’s something interesting to be written on the shift of working landscapes to recreational ones, and then back to working. The canal fits this bill, as might rails-to-trails projects — with the twist that the “working” landscape they often return to is one of bicycle commuting. Though, who knows, if rail freight really starts to have a monster resurgence, we might see companies eyeing those converted railbeds once again…
    Does anyone know anything about how land tenure works on rails-to-trails projects? Who owns the right-of-way?

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