In the south, as everyone knows, trains don’t work right. We barely have public transit, and certainly not public rail (Atlanta notwithstanding). And you don’t take an Amtrak without planning to arrive at least two hours late for every six hours of travel time.
But I have this strange love-hate relationship with cars. I love them—I’d have been a race driver if that had been more of a path for women and something my family was into. But despite my love of cars, I hate commuting. Driving to get from point A to point B isn’t really driving. It’s a chore. It’s work. So I really like transport. I like buses, and I love trains. Even slow, broken southern trains.
I love trains for the reason that most people do, I think. I love looking down at a book, and then looking up and seeing the landscape—seeing it close, right there, changeable and real. Not the toy-like miniature landscapes you see from a plane window, but the real earthy landscapes adjacent to the tracks. And then I look down at my book again, knowing that forward progress is happening (well, usually, this being the south), knowing that when I look up again, the landscape will have changed. That’s the magic of trains.
Cities with subway transit have this same kind of magic everywhere. You step below, the train whips you away, and you emerge in a different world. From Inwood to Soho. From the Loop to Lincoln Park. From Union Station to Dupont Circle.
Yes, I know I’m romanticizing here. But sometimes we need to step back and recognize what a gift it is to be able to put our motion in the hands of greater power, a power serving the greater good.
Even if that power is the Red Line.