Birthday greetings are in order for Amtrak, which began operations 40 years ago on May 1, 1971.

Riding trains is a far different and better experience today than it was then, but not 40 years' worth of better. Over the span of four decades, this country could have made a lot more progress than it has, and most of the blame goes back to us. As travelers, voters and taxpayers, we have placed too low a value on this mode of travel, and our government has responded accordingly.

The Obama administration, to its credit, has tried to take transportation planning in a new direction, but what momentum it has achieved may be dissipated by looming political and budget battles.

Train travel is not for everyone, and it's not for every place, but this country has so many places where trains make sense that overseas visitors are still confounded by their scarcity.

Here's hoping we can pick up the pace over the next 40 years.
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