The idea that's been floating around about a Memphis-to-Bristol rail line is something I've wanted to talk about for a while, but I've been out of pocket and this is the first chance I've gotten.
Let me first say that I use mass transit almost exclusively when I travel in the northeast. The Metro subway system is invaluable in D.C. I take the regional trains and trolleys in Philly. When I go to New York there's no better way to do so than to take the train into Penn Station. In Boston there's the T. Even in Chicago, I happily take the train from Midway Airport into the city and back rather than go through the hassle of driving a car or taking out a second mortgage to pay ridiculous fares to cabbies who usually know less about where I am going than I do.
But Nashville is not Chicago. Or Washington. Or New York. And Tennessee is not the Northeast Corridor. The reason I (and many people) take the trains in those places is because driving a car in those places is a hassle. Traffic sucks. Parking (if you can find it) is atrocious. Car rental fees are sky-high. It's just not worth it. I don't take the train because I have a love for trains. I take the train because it's less expensive and often gets me where I'm going faster than a car would.
But driving to Memphis from Nashville is not a hassle. It's about a two-and-three-quarter hour ride on a good day and I've never had a problem with traffic. I can't imagine that a train would get me down there much faster than that; even if it does, I'm still stuck having to take ground transportation to where I need to go in Memphis and Shelby County. That means I have to take a cab or rent a car down there anyway. And that's Memphis, which at least is a big enough city to offer some ground transportation options. How much luck am I going have finding a cab right away in Knoxville or Bristol? Better to just take my own car.
For an alternative viewpoint, take a look at this typically vanilla editorial
from The Tennessean
I doubt I'm in the minority here in terms of whether I would actually use the railway, but I may be in the minority in terms of the desirability of the project. I don't know...but I'm sure someone will tell me.
Oh, did I mention that the estimated cost for this thing is $1.24 billion?