You have probably heard the rumors about high speed rail coming to Texas. If you haven’t then you have likely been under a rock somewhere. Even with the recent keystone rulings by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration that provides basic regulatory framework and environmental review measures for the high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, it is likely that places like Corpus Christi seeing the benefit of the proposals won’t be anytime in the near future. But it does leave one thing—something to think about.
If you could imagine being able to get on a train in Corpus Christi and be at work in San Antonio an hour later and then do the same thing in reverse to get home you might actually consider it a viable option. You could live here on the coast and commute to San Antonio or Austin without even much of a thought.
“I wish we had something like that here connecting us to the outside world,” says Arnold Garcia, a business professional working and living here in Corpus Christi. “Not just for the business aspect of it but just also to give us another way to get out of town for the weekend or something without a hassle.”
Garcia and his wife both lived in the Washington, D.C. area before moving back to Corpus Christi and they are no big stranger to commuting via rail. For them it was a way of life—one that they only wish they had access to here.
“We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia and I worked inside the beltway,” Garcia says. “Every single day I took the bus or the train. For me it was just a simple expense that was worth it because we could live out there and commute to the city rather cheaply.”
While for Garcia “rather cheaply” might be a matter of interpretation, a quick search of available online tools show that Amtrak Northeast Regional operates a train from Washington Union Station to Fredericksburg Amtrak 5 times a day. Tickets cost $35 – $70 and the trip takes just over an hour. There are a couple of other option for this route if you want choices. If you really wanted to cheap it then you could always consider taking the Greyhound bus from Washington, D.C. to Fredericksburg 4 times a day. Tickets cost $13 – $19 and take roughly an hour and a half each way. These aren’t even high-speed rail options either.
“Yes, it is cheaper to drive but then you have that headache and wear and tear on your vehicle,” Garcia says. “It also allows you to get work done or just sit back and relax on your way home. That made it very nice. I wish we had this option here.”
Corpus Christi is a city that many say has a talent recruiting and retention problem. The truth is that that while there are some very talented graduates coming from both Del Mar and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, they are not staying here. Some argue that they might actually live here if you make transportation to and from the population centers easier.
Alecia Flores says that she wishes that she could stay at home here in Corpus Christi and find the kind of jobs that she can find in Houston, San Antonio or Austin.
“I love Corpus,” Flores said. “But what I don’t love is being forced to look at other cities for jobs because I know I have to make a choice of either to stay here or go someplace else.”
Alecia works in healthcare and says that she has had offers from Houston and San Antonio that pay almost $10 dollars an hour more than what she is making here in Corpus Christi. With student loan debt, the cost of living and other regular expenses she is forced to consider her options.
“It is funny because I was looking and I found an apartment near the medical center in Houston for $850,” she Flores says. “The job I am interviewing for there pays almost $33. Here I am making $21 per hour. I know that sounds greedy but when you have student loans and stuff you need to take all of it that you can get.”
Flores says that she would commute to Houston if it was an option.
“I would work 2 hours to to pay for my fare and spend an hour each way commuting,” she says. “I could deal with that and I think a lot of people could.”
Of course the idea of high-speed rail in Texas still has a lot of hurdles to overcome and getting to Corpus Christi is an even longer shot most would assume, but it is something that people are talking about.
The new bond package for 2020 that voters are being asked to consider has some pretty impressive ideas on it that could really benefit the community as a whole—like the design and improvement plan for Bill Witt Park over here on the south side. But it is still jobs that people want and money that people need. Giving them access to that money in the bigger cities while maintaining the coastal quality of life in a not-so-major urban center is something that many people feel is worth exploring even if it is a very long way off—if even in our lifetimes.