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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... railroads.


CURWOOD: One hundred and sixty six years ago, the first railroad timetable to be published in a United States newspaper appeared in the Baltimore American. It told when to catch the nation's first passenger rail line, which had just begun running between Baltimore, and Elliott's Mills, Maryland. Since then, both the Baltimore American and Elliott's Mills have disappeared, but railroads prospered, helping speed travel across the continent and sprouting cities and towns along the way. Today 169,000 miles of tracks crisscross the nation. Compared to highways, railroads are an environmental bonanza. Two sets of tracks can carry as many people as 16 lanes of highway. Shipping by rail generates 90% less pollution than trucks. And trains are 3 times more fuel-efficient. Still, few things can beat a truck for short-haul delivery or getting to an out of the way spot. Combining trains with trucks can get us the best of both, some transportation planners say. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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