In 1910, Lowndes County had railroads running every which way:
Yep, that looks like a road map, but those are railroads, including where Bemiss Road and old U.S. 41 North run now. Most of the tracks are still there; you can see them on Google maps.
Just a few days ago three people from Lowndes County told me they’d taken the SAM Shortline, which runs through Cordele, Americus, and Plains. It’s a “rolling park” for tourists, but what about commuter rail for workers, shoppers, and tourists?
The RR rights of way already exist in Lowndes County. The Georgia Southern and Florida Railway parallels old U.S. 41 North and the Georgia and Florida Railway (now Central of Georgia Railway) parallels Bemiss Road. After all, it was a railroad that caused Valdosta to incorporate in its present location in 1860. I don’t know if the G&F is still active, but I can hear trains on the GS&F from my house, and I get stopped for them often enough in Hahira.
Why not run a commuter service in addition to the freight trains already on that line? Run it from Hahira in the north to Lake Park in the south, stopping at Valdosta several times at the morning and afternoon rush hours, maybe with lunchtime and evening extra trains. Stop in Mineola (all aboard, Stone Creek golf carters!), Remerton, Dasher, and Melrose, too, like the GS&F used to. That would connect all five incorporated cities in Lowndes County with an efficient rail service. Less road traffic, fewer accidents, no need to widen any road, less gas money, and less pollution. Encourage development close to those cities without sprawl. What’s not to like?
Sure, it would cost money. More than the $6 million the DOT’s old US 41 widening scheme would cost? I suspect not. And once it’s running, let it pay for itself in fares. Save some gas. Save some houses, farms, and woodlands. Attract more customers and tourists to north Lowndes county and to Valdosta and the other cities. Be a leader to the rest of the country.
Numerous additions would be easy. Remerton is less than half a mile from the mall: add a shuttle bus between the mall, Remerton, and VSU. The airport is only a few miles from the tracks: add a stop at south Inner Perimeter and shuttle bus to the airport, or have a shuttle run between downtown Valdosta, a train station on West Hill Ave., and the airport. Wild Adventures could subsidize a further leg out to their place. And of course, add commuter service to Moody on the G&F, with stops at Bemiss and Barretts.
Valdosta is very proud of having a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Use the old lines to Brooks, Echols, and Lanier Counties. But people come to shop in Valdosta from farther away than that. GS&F goes to Adel and Tifton, too. Eventually provide service to Atlanta in the north and Orlando in the south. Go on down the Valdosta Southern Railroad to Clyattville and Madison, Florida. Make Valdosta a rail travel hub.
That would even attract more airline passengers to the airport, because they could take the train in and fly out. Connect rail service to Jacksonville and Savannah and let Delta compete with Southwest and Jetblue.
Start small, Hahira and Lake Park to Valdosta. Now that people are looking at TitleTown, let’s leverage that attention with a new title, this time for making money with environmentally friendly rail service.
Call it the TitleTown Express!
Updated 10:12AM 1 Aug 2008.