7 ingredients for awesome train service (slideshow)

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trains

credit: Simon Pielow

On my recent trip to Switzerland for the unveiling of Solar Impulse 2 (a solar plane that will be the 1st solar plane to fly around the world), I ended up riding some of Switzerland’s trains from Zurich airport to Payerne (approximately 2½ hours away) and back. The good train service brought me back to a question I’ve asked myself for years — what does a train service need in order to be awesome and really attract broad ridership?

I’ve come up with a list of 7 ingredients to awesome train service. Aside from my recent trips in Switzerland, they come from my own experience riding trains in the US, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France, the UK, and India, as well as discussions and lessons from my days studying transportation planning in graduate school.

Regarding the US, since I imagine most people reading this article will be American, I would also like to make one important note: there’s a bit too much hating on US trains in the US, in my humble opinion. There are certainly things that should be improved. US passenger trains aren’t “awesome.” However, they do have some considerable rider benefits compared to other transportation modes, which I will touch on a bit in the coming slides.