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Welcome to my email newsletter. Thank you so much for subscribing! I look forward to using this medium to keep you apprised of what I’m thinking about, writing and working on, and show you how I can help you or your company/organization/agency get on the ‘write’ track through professional writing, editing and multimedia communications services backed by a deep knowledge of, and passion for, transportation, particularly passenger rail and public transit. 

My rebuilt Website is still under construction, but I expect it to go live by next Saturday (Jul. 29). In the meantime, my older, out-of-date website is still accessible.

What I’m thinking about and writing

This week and last have been scorchers here in DC, as has been the case in much of the US. I’m not doing as much walking and bicycling to get around DC as I usually do, opting to beat the heat by riding Metrobus to and from the office and using Metrorail or rideshare when I might have otherwise biked. Assuming most urbanites, like me, are opting for air-conditioned motorized transport instead of active mobility when the mercury climbs (along with using more AC in general), as climate change results in hotter, longer summers, the problem could compound itself. This is why clean fuels and electricity sources and alternatives to driving go hand in hand as climate solutions.

But more than the weather has affected how I get around town. I discussed at Greater Greater Washington how the DC Metro system’s recent fare increases have subtly affected my travel decisions. Adding a quarter to the fare certainly hasn’t made me more averse to transit philosophically, and I understand that WMATA had several good reasons for it. But I like to make frugal decisions in my day-to-day life under the mantra that a penny saved is a penny earned for things I want to do, particularly travel.

So, when the weather is copacetic, I’m finding myself on my bike or on foot more often, and am a bit more likely to opt for rideshare for certain trips — though I do limit my use of this option that contributes more to congestion and pollution and is being subsidized by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

One theme of the week in passenger railroading is the continuing discussion around how to ensure fair and enforceable on-time performance standards for passenger trains in light of last week’s Eighth Circuit court ruling. I weighed in on the topic in Trains Magazine’s Observation Tower blog. Another has been both the promise and the fulfillment of service expansions, including the announced start date of the Northeast Regional extension to Roanoke, a new Thruway Bus connection to the Cardinal between Charleston and Morgantown, WV, and the operation of an Amtrak inspection train between St. Albans, VT and Montreal, another step towards the re-extension of the Vermonter route north of the border (the Vermonter replaced the Montrealer, which was discontinued in 1995).

What I’m Reading

Of course I’ve read a lot of coverage and commentary about Elon Musk’s fanciful tweets yesterday saying he got “verbal govt approval” to build a New York to DC Hyperloop. Sorry, Elon, there is no such thing as verbal approval from the government. It’s a lot more complicated. And while I wish luck to those trying to promote revolutionary new transportation technologies, I strongly believe that we have to walk before we can run when it comes to developing a world-class multimodal transportation network. We have to work our way towards where western Europe and Japan are now first.

There is a lot of outside-the-box thinking in the travel space that I applaud, however, such as this outdoor “zero-star” hotel in Switzerland’s Appenzell region, which enchanted me when I visited in summer 2015 (the region, not the hotel). Innovators like this force the industry’s old guard to make consumer-friendly enhancements.

As an evangelist for greater blending of the natural world with the urban environment, this CityLab post felt like a challenge to my worldview. In reality, though, it does not disprove a link between access to nature and human well-being, but shows that this subject, like most in social science research, is very complex and context-dependent.

Finally, this photo gallery of ten of the “world’s quirkiest train rides” is certainly piquing my wanderlust. The only one of these I’ve ridden is the Wuppertal suspension railway. The others are on my bucket list. Sweden’s Inlandsbanan sounds particularly intriguing.

 

Where I’m going next

I’m taking a weekend jaunt up the Northeast Corridor this weekend with a friend to visit the off-the-beaten-path Hindenburg Disaster Memorial in Lakehurst, New Jersey (looking forward to checking out a full-size model of an airship, which must have been a fun way to travel while it lasted) and revisit (for the first time since childhood) the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Connecticut, with a quick stop on the way in New York City for dinner with my aunt who lives there.

Next, it’s 10 days at the beach in Emerald Isle, NC with my father’s side of the family starting Aug. 3, then a 2-night visit back in NYC with my mother, then a 2.5-week jaunt to the West Coast, starting in Kansas City (where I’ll take in the full solar eclipse on Aug. 21) and joining the #NerdTrain crew on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Los Angeles. After three nights with a friend there, I’ll ride the Coast Starlight up to Washington State, from whence I’ll join several friends for a Labor Day weekend driving tour around the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta, taking advantage of free admission to Canada’s National Parks this year for the country’s 150th anniversary.

Take care and best wishes,
Malcolm