It doesn't make any sense, the millions of shipping containers passing through the Port, the daily lineup of trucks idling on Maritime Road, and the train tracks slowly rusting away like the ruins of a lost civilization.
I've heard people say that there are problems with rail, that it's too inflexible, that the "first and last miles" are a logistical challenge, that freight only makes sense for bulky industrial products. I just don't buy it. If we really prioritized rail, and stopped subsidizing freeway construction, none of these problems would be insurmountable. I recently came across a fascinating interview with Michael Dukakis, of all people, talking about this subject:
"In Massachusetts, the governor wants to build a four-mile light-rail extension using existing right of way [tracks and property that are already in place], and it's going to take six years to complete. How can that be? Chinese and Irish immigrants were laying four miles of track a day on the transcontinental railroad, and that was in the 1860s."The transcontinental railroad had its terminus point in Oakland, reshaping the city forever. Both the black and Chinese communities in Oakland grew out of their connections to the railroads. (The mostly black Brotherhood of Sleeping-Car Porters union had a chapter in Oakland, while the Chinese of course built the railroads.) The character and visual layout of Oakland was determined largely by the existence of streetcars and passenger rails. Sad to see the means of all that history turning to weeds.