Not all that long ago, produce moving from the West Coast to New York was shipped almost exclusively by rail: potatoes and onions from the Northwest, fruit from California, for example. However, as trucking became more competitive and efficient (in part due to the interstate highway system) and rail service deteriorated, the tables began to turn. Today, only a minority of produce moves into the New York region by rail. But transcontinental rail freight is trying to make a comeback, with clean, refrigerated cars (“reefers”) and more reliable train scheduling. Though cross-country rail transit times are roughly double those by road, the cost of moving by reefer is roughly half that of trucks thanks to labor shortages, rising fuel costs, and increasing highway congestion. As a result, rail is making inroads with the more durable types of western produce: carrots, onions, potatoes, broccoli, and citrus fruits.
Ascher, Kate, and Wendy Marech. The Works: Anatomy of a City. New York: Penguin, 2005. Print.