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The Daily Planet's Opinion: March 2019
Wednesday, 06 March 2019 11:29

Riding a bus to Salisbury to catch train? Not test

Could anything be more absurd than the report that Gaston County GOP Rep. John Torbett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said in mid-February that he will give serious consideration to a request for two years of funding — of up to $890,000 — for an Asheville-to-Salisbury bus run by Amtrak?

Under the proposal, passengers would catch an Amtrak Thruway bus from Asheville to Salisbury, where there are connecting trains to Washington and New York. With a bus connection, passengers would buy one ticket to cover bus and train travel.

Torbett told reporters he is waiting to see if Gov. Roy Cooper includes the bus money in his proposed budget.

Sadly, passenger rail service ended 43 years ago in Asheville. The last passenger train reportedly left the Paris of the South on Aug. 8, 1975.

If enough interest is shown by support of the bus line/passenger rail connection, then officials will consider spending to upgrade to passenger rail standards the tracks between Asheville and Salisbury.

Regarding the proposal, postings on social media responded mostly negatively, including, “Yay? A bus to Salisbury! How depressing....”

Another wrote, “I’d always imagined a train ride to the coast would be popular (both directions)... “

Yet another posting stated, “Hell, the city already had/spent the federal money for a station.... Wonder whose pocket that went into?”

Yet another wrote, “One thing I have not seen mentioned is, will this theoretical bus to Salisbury have any stops along the way? If it does have stops, like a Greyhound does, then it would be more like a four-hour trip. I can see no reason why someone wouldn’t already be taking the Greyhound to Spartanburg (S.C.), as that would be much quicker of a bus trip.”

Another writer posted, “If it’s just a direct bus ride to Salisbury with no stops in between, it still will be roughly the same amount of time as it takes to ride a Greyhound to Spartanburg.”

As for Spartanburg, it should be pointed out that the South Carolina city is closer (70 miles)  to Asheville than Salisbury (130.4 miles), but reportedly significantly more costly track work would have to be done to connect reconnect Asheville with Spartanburg, than to reconnect Asheville with Salisbury.

Also, someone posted, “Seems like a novel idea on the surface, but it doesn’t really make sense (time-wise) to add a new bus line ... except, of course, if it’s an Amtrak bus, then they get the money for the ride and Greyhound doesn’t. It sounds like Amtrak would basically be subsidizing these bus trips just to get more riders on their trains.”

Regarding the possibility of a return of rail passenger service to the Asheville area, another write posted, “That would be amazing, but just getting the land / right-of-way to put the rails on would be so incredibly expensive here... And then it wouldn’t be all that useful until they could run a train at least every hour. People won’t use public transit unless it’s convenient to their schedule.”

Perhaps most darkly, a witty writer posted, “We will be dead before this happens. Should have been born in Europe.”

From our perspective, passenger rail service would be a major asset to Asheville, drawing even more tourists and generating more business and employment. However, we think the $890,000 subsidy of a bus line would be a waste of money and a non-test, as it is hard to imagine many people with the time and desire to ride a bus to Salisbury in order to catch a passenger train to some destination to the north. 

 

 



 


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