By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
David Peter Alan, a visitor at the Santa Fe Depot in Gainesville this week, has logged over 500,000 miles riding the rails across the United States and Canada in order to find ways to improve railroad transportation and the rider’s experience.
Alan, a native of New Jersey, is on the board of the Rail Users Network (R.U.N.)
The main objective of this organization is to improve railroad transportation and enhance the customer experience on Amtrak sponsored passenger services across America.
Alan believes that increasing the development of rail service will contribute to the infrastructure of the transportation network, allowing residents who don’t own motor vehicles, the ability to explore new areas of the country.
“Texas and the southwest have been dominated by the automobile,” Alan said. “If the Heartland Express would extend service up to Newton, Kan., a whole new part of the country could make connections there to come down and visit North Texas. Tourism would mean an extra boost to the economy and great for towns like Gainesville.”
“Urban revitalization is happening all across the country,” Alan continued. “Improved rail service would be a great thing for Texas and other automobile states.”
Alan writes for several entities within the transportation industry and since retirement as a patent attorney, has set a goal to visit every Amtrak community railhead.
“The Depot Museum and Morton Museum are great places in Gainesville,” Alan said. “ I have already eaten peach pie at the Fried Pie. The city has a lot of potential to be a major tourist attraction but no one knows much about it. With additional train service, it could open up a whole new place for visitors to discover.”
“I would also see if there was a way a scheduled bus service working in conjunction with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART) could pickup visitors in Denton county to bring them to Gainesville for the day.”
Alan believes that where rail service is expanded on, growth in population and the economy will follow.
“Look at Plano,” he said. “They have extended the DART service and the exponential growth north of Dallas has taken off.”
Alan has some favorite rail services such as the Zephyr service from Chicago to San Francisco.
“The landscape is just beautiful when you get past Denver,” he exclaimed. “You can’t see that part of America by a plane or a car, only by train.”
Jayleane Smith of the Morton Museum of Cooke County is encouraged by Alan’s commitment and fervor about the future of expanded train service across the United States.
“I have seen pictures of passengers who stopped in Gainesville decades ago,” Smith said. “ It was an exciting time then and it would be great to see this depot as a major attraction for Gainesville and North Texas. It only takes resources and a plan to start making strides in this direction.”
As part of expanding the interest in the depot, Smith said that an educational lecture series will also be offered.