Our valley leaders are to be heartily congratulated over their decision to fund a study and continue to support the increase of passenger trains to and from our valley.
The proposal includes a yearlong study. In that time, I sincerely hope that all parties involved — our politicians both local and national, the public, the tribes and the freight train owners — will give it their full support.
I have lived part-time in Rancho Mirage for seven years and in that time have slogged my way in traffic back and forth from Los Angeles almost every weekend sometimes in two hours, three hours or four. In one devastating journey, I completely got the timing wrong and it took us five and a half hours nose to tail — well, it was the night before Thanksgiving! Fortunately I now live permanently here in our beautiful valley.
Regular train service at convenient times to and from Los Angeles will be a boon for the valley just as it was in the Old Days when the trains first crossed the continent. We currently have a station at Palm Springs. I will say that any time I have been there I am the only person and as the train pulls out I fully expect Lee Van Cleef to be standing on the other side of the tracks and the music of Ennio Morricone playing! But with the support of the tribes, a station could be built near the Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa and one at Morongo. I am sure that this would increase the attraction of these establishments.
We need to negotiate with the freight train owners to allow space on the tracks. A while back, they ran a 3,000-container train to see if it would work — having failed to tell the authorities, if I remember correctly — but it did work and if that is what is needed to create the space for the passenger trains then so be it. There has to be give and take.
I read in the report of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments meeting that it was suggested that a train from Indio to Los Angeles would take three hours. That is too long. What I believe is needed is an express train departing at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. from Indio with limited stops at Palm Springs, Riverside, Ontario airport and Los Angeles and returning from Los Angeles at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. again with limited stops.
This journey has to be completed in less than 90 minutes to make it viable. Then we need a further train in each direction, initially once a day, that will stop at all the stations. There has to be cooperation with SunLine for buses to meet the trains and adequate parking for those bringing their own car to the station. And I am sure some enterprising business will open a coffee shop and newsstand at each station!
If marketed correctly, the train service will be a huge boost to the valley. I believe property prices would rise, there would be increased employment with the increase in population and the weekend visitor numbers would also rise.
Imagine being able to sit back for 90 minutes and step off in to our wonderful desert. No hassle, no road rage, no stop-start and no use of gas!
Where can I buy my ticket?
Dermot McQuarrie is a TV executive and business consultant who lives in Rancho Mirage. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org