I have just returned from a week and a half in Europe. I visited Switzerland, Germany and the UK. In every country I had the pleasure of using their railway system. It is convenient; the stations are in the heart of the city, fast (especially on an express train) and fairly economical. I have also ridden the trains in Asia. The high speed rails are just fantastic. I love being able to sit across the table with a co-worker and be working on projects as the world speeds by through the window.
So I return home to the land of SUVs, $4 plus gas, and airport security and delays and I wonder; how did the USA lose all our passenger trains? Yes, I know we have Amtrak. On the east coast it is a bit more viable than here in the west. But we all know it is a bit of a national joke. Why is that so? Are Americans so in love with our cars that we can’t give them up? Do we really prefer the hassles of flying over riding the rails? Why aren’t we embarrassed that China has a better passenger railway system than we do?
I know that the President’s plan for high speed rail has been met with a lot of controversy, especially with our current economic issues. But here is the rub, putting in a passenger rail system will never be cheap, and putting it off into the future won’t make it any cheaper, in fact the cost will just get higher. Long term I think we have to realize as a nation that we need more mass transit infrastructure. So let’s just bite the bullet and make bullet trains part of our USA reality.
As for me, if they build I will use it. Yes it will be a cultural shift for Americans, but if built correctly, I think we will all come around.