When you think of railroads in the US, what do you picture? For city dwellers and tourists, it’s probably the rapid transit systems that move people around major cities, from the dark depths of the New York City Subway to the cathedral-like platforms of the Moscow Metro. Others may envision commuter rail systems, the heavy trains that transport suburbanites in and out of city centers for work and recreation, arriving at magnificent public halls like Grand Central Terminal or Chicago Union Station. But in North America, as automobile travel has superseded railroads in all but a few select metropolises, freight is king. Valuable goods and commodities travel along the rails, bringing coal from Appalachia, cars from Detroit, and lumber from Canada. We’ll look at the importance of railroads in the freight industry and why maintaining this infrastructure is so integral, even as people have traded their train tickets for cars.
Watching locomotives belch diesel exhaust into the air, it may come as a surprise that rail transit is an eco-friendly alternative to trucking. However, the hauling capacity of those locomotives means that that fuel goes further, with as much as four times the fuel efficiency of trucks and as much as 75 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. If the American logistics industry moved more freight to railroads, we could keep millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere—a concern that looms large as we start talking about a Green New Deal.
Rails Keep the Roads Clear
Drivers dread finding themselves behind trucks—and truckers aren’t too happy about civilian traffic, either. Our interstate highways and truck routes are crowded—imagine how much worse they would get if we allocated more freight to the roads. Keeping our pavement as free of congestion as possible is one of the most important roles our rails serve.
More Affordable for Clients
With fuel prices on the rise, efficiency isn’t just about saving the planet—it’s about saving money. Railroad clients save money by sending and receiving goods via rail. While goods may travel more slowly this way, the financial effects make it more than a fair trade.
How Do We Maintain the Railroads?
Given the importance of railroads in the freight industry, we must keep the physical rails in good condition. While long stretches of trackage are the responsibility of the rail companies themselves, businesses’ freight spurs—the “driveways” of the rail system—should also stay in good condition. Grapples, magnets, and other tools of the trade can switch out old trackage and lay down new material, ensuring that freight rail journeys have strong beginnings and endings. With an increased emphasis on American infrastructure, firms can find a niche repairing these segments.