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the decision by the Eisenhower administration to push for creation of a federally funded national network of superhighways did several things.
It made highway travel more attractive for both motorists and commercial
operators of buses and
the demand for more
and better motels and
And, along with the
growing appeal of air
travel, it drove another
nail into the coffin of
U.S. passenger railroads,
Megabus, a no-frills, intercity bus service, goes to 21 midwest cit- which were entering the
ies. For travelers who book early enough, tickets are only $1. final years of a long de-
cline in patronage. In
1958, the legislation creating Amtrak was only a dozen years away.
The highway legislation also created a dedicated and perpetual funding
source for building additional highways by dedicating a portion of the federal
gasoline tax to a highway trust fund.
The effect on interstate commerce has been incalculable. Over the ensuing
50 years it has financed over 40,000 miles of road building.
Railroading has not been so lucky.
Throughout the 1960s the privately owned railroads focused more and
more attention on their lucrative freight business and gradually lost interest
in serving passengers.
Route abandonments became routine. The symbolic capstone event came
at the end of 1968, when the legendary Pullman Co., the premier operator of
sleeping car services on the nation’s railroads, ceased operations.
Then in 1970, the financial world was rocked by the bankruptcy of the
Penn Central, formed just two years earlier by the merger of two once-mighty
East Coast lines, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central. It was,
at the time, the biggest bankruptcy in history.
The government responded by creating the National Railroad Passenger
Corp. in a law signed by President Nixon on Oct. 30, 1970. It took over the
operation of most of the nation’s remaining passenger routes on May 1
the following year, under the trade
The value that our society places
on speed has given the airlines a
privileged position in the travel industry, relegating road and rail travel
to supporting roles, particularly over
That was foreseen 50 years ago.
What cannot be foreseen today
are the new technologies for surface
transport, new ways to travel, that
are yet to come, particularly given
today’s energy and environmental The hottest train going today is the modified TGV
in France, which recently set a steel-wheel speed
concerns. record on a new stretch of track on the TGV East
One thing is certain, however: line to Strasbourg. The next generation is likely
We’ve been making roads of dirt going to be the new Maglev technology, in which the
and stone and steel for thousands of train is elevated by electromagnetism so it glides on
years, and we’re not done yet. a cushion of air, causing no friction.
— Bill Poling
© EURO TUNNEL
The loading operation of vehicles on a Channel Tunnel passenger shuttle. The tunnel runs under the
English Channel, connecting England with France.
Jack Taylor launches
Co. in St. Louis,
the predecessor to
Taylor adds business division
for customers whose cars are being
Taylor seeks expansion but can’t use
Executive Leasing as corporate name
in some markets; names company after
aircraft carrier Enterprise, on which he
served in World War II.
Enterprise decides to focus on
neighborhood, rather than airport,
Fleet grows to 6,000 vehicles; company
launches customer pick-up services.
Enterprise changes name to Enterprise
Rent-a-Car. Fleet grows to 50,000 at
500 locations in the U.S.
Company hits $1 billion in sales,
Enterprise opens first international
location in Canada; fleet tops 200,000
at 1,500 locations.
Company opens first airport location
at Denver Airport.
Enterprise opens 200th airport location.
Enterprise acquires Vanguard Car
Rental, owner of Alamo and National
car rental brands.
Amtrak begins operations on May 1,
taking over the operations of all surviv-
ing passenger railroads in the U.S. Two
notable exceptions were the Denver & Rio
Grande Western Zephyr route through
the Colorado Rockies and the Southern
Railway’s Southern Crescent, from New
York and Washington to New Orleans.
Following the collapse of the Penn
Central and the creation of Conrail,
federal legislation enables Amtrak to
take possession of the main Northeast
Corridor, including the high-speed line
between Washington and New Haven.
Previously it operated over rails owned
by the freight railroads.
Amtrak takes over operation of the
Southern Crescent and puts the first new
bi-level Superliners into service.
Amtrak adds two new routes that
were big hits with leisure travelers,
absorbing the scenic Zephyr service
through the Colorado Rockies and
launching the Washington-Florida Auto
Train using auto-ferry rail cars and other
assets obtained from the defunct Auto-
Amtrak begins offering access to its
availability and fares data through TWA’s
PARS reservations system, a forerunner
of Worldspan. It would later appear in
Sabre and other systems.
Amtrak becomes the first non-airline
transportation company to join ARC, for
the first time enabling agents to handle
rail transactions with the same standard
tools used for air.
Viewliner sleeping cars go into service
in the Eastern U.S. Designed by Amtrak,
they are the first new, single-level sleep-
ing cars built for use in the U.S. since
Amtrak began service.
Amtrak begins its long-delayed Acela
Express service in the Northeast
Corridor. The six-car train sets built
by Bombardier enable express trains to
provide New York-Washington service in
under three hours, with stops.