Having spent a decent amount of time living and traveling throughout Europe I consider myself an avid enthusiast of passenger rail. Each time I return to the US I am almost disappointed that I have to climb back behind the wheel of a car to go anywhere instead of hopping a train. When President Obama announced his pursuit of high-speed rail expansion across the country, I was needless to say, jubilant but in the end unsurprised when Republican lawmakers crucified the effort and state governors refused their portions of federal funding. This refusal to invest in rail service, or public transportation in general, appears to be based on long-held inaccuracies about its performance, ill-informed opinions of its public perception and denial of its overall successes across Europe and Asia.
For anyone who has returned home exhausted from a long road trip, has grown weary of the hassle to even board an airplane or is tired of dealing with an hour long, bumper-to-bumper, 15 mile trip home from work, would you not relish the ability to simply step onto a train and let someone else do the driving? For those on the West Coast wouldn’t be nice to catch a train, leave L.A. and head to San Francisco for the day or hop a late train for an overnighter and spend a 3 or 4 day weekend in Portland or Seattle? Those options are already available for people on the East Coast along the Northeast Corridor. It’s an easy way for someone in Connecticut to head up to Boston for a couple of days or to take a trip down to Washington DC. It also services thousands of commuters heading to all points in between and offers connections to Chicago. I worked on the electrification project of that railway and was able take a number of non-stressful weekend trips on that line. It is well worth the public investment and the benefits of cross-country travel are enormous for everything from job creation to local community growth to tourism.
The editorial here delves into some more detail of the benefits of high-speed rail;
High-speed rail’s many benefits
Even as Congress looks into a new surface transportation bill, U.S. transportation systems confront daunting challenges of overcrowding and disrepair. Delays and waste cost the nation more than $100 billion per year in lost time, productivity and energy.
The U.S. needs modern public transportation not dependent on oil or traffic patterns. Most developed nations now have high-speed rail, sleek trains that reach more than 200 mph. Here, this option would be most viable in two distinct corridors on the East and West Coasts – the Northeast Corridor, from Boston to Washington, and California.
Whenever the topic of public transportation or passenger rail is broached the usual suspects of reasons not to pursue it are marched out. CNN compiled a list of the inaccurate perceptions and addressed them here in this article from April 2011.
U.S. high-speed rail ‘myths’ debunked
Are proposed multibillion dollar high-speed railway projects in the United States a smart move or a huge waste of taxpayer dollars?
CNN.com users are challenging politicians, policymakers and each other about whether the Obama administration’s push to build high-speed rail lines in the Midwest, West Coast and elsewhere is on the right track.
Many users want proof that high-speed rail can be a profitable, efficient job generator to help raise the sagging U.S. economy when compared with other types of transportation.
Experts — including the two most powerful congressional lawmakers on rail issues, think-tank specialists and policymakers at the Department of Transportation — have directly responded to CNN.com user comments.