Wednesday, September 9, 2009

High Speed Rail--My Thoughts

Antiquated. Unreliable. Costly. Congested. Overlooked. Nostalgic. Forgotten.

These are just a few words that come to mind when I think about our current public rail system here in the U.S. When someone is planning a domestic vacation, rarely do they say to themselves, "Hey let's look into taking a train to 'XYZ' destination." Taking a train from point A to B is something Americans seldom do with metro train and subway systems being the exception. But metro systems are not considered options for the leisure traveler as a rule. Amtrak is just not a viable vacation or transportation option for most Americans when you consider the cost of a round trip ticket and the time it adds to your trip. This fact puts the U.S. behind the transportation curve, so to speak, when you compare our Country to the rest of the developed world.

So imagine for a minute that you are sitting in a comfortable chair with a good book being whisked to your destination 3 States away at a quick 150-200MPH on a dedicated track with no slow downs or delays and at a cost less than what a round trip airline ticket would have cost. Are you seeing that as an option that you wish you had as a vacationer or business traveler? If you were in Europe or Japan, you would not have to be just imagining that option because high speed rail is a reality.

If you have ever spent time traveling through parts of Asia or Europe, you know for a fact that traveling by rail is a normal way of life for both traveler and resident. It is a fast and economical way of getting from town to town and even Country to Country. You can set your watch by the train system in Japan. In my 11 trips in and around Tokyo, I was never once late getting to where I was going because of some delay in their train schedules. They are fast, clean and reliable. The same can be said for the trains that carry passengers all throughout most of Europe.

So why does it seem that we (the U.S.) are stuck in the railway dark ages? Good question. lack of vision maybe? Tied too much to a transportation system built around the auto and airplane industries? Ahh...might be getting to the real issue now. An efficient and economical public rail system would offer a viable option that would compete heavily with flying or even driving to and from our vacation destinations. If high-speed rail options were introduced, even business travelers would have a great option to get them to their next out of town meeting potentially.

High Speed and more efficient rail systems here in the U.S. would open up travel options to so many who refuse to fly and who can't take the time off needed to drive to many vacation spots. Our nation is in dire need of a rejuvenated railway initiative. As time goes on...we are falling further and further behind other Countries.

My intent with this post is to draw your attention to a topic that is getting little press outside of the States where some of the high speed rail discussions are taking place. I want to make you aware of how this topic effects travel and tourism. I hope you will also see the connection between this topic and issues such as our environment.

More railway options also could mean less traffic on the highways which also translates into less pollution and a drop in fuel and oil consumption assuming the new rail infrastructure is operating on more energy efficient power systems. A viable and efficient public railway means there would be an alternative for travelers who are afraid to fly.

So here is what I ask you to do; take a moment and read some of these links that are devoted to shedding light on and who are promoting the idea of a high speed rail system and try to understand the benefits. Links such as:

California High Speed Rail Blog
Midwest High Speed Rail
Midwest High Speed Rail Association

Try to see how high speed rail would benefit the entire nation and not just those States who are currently investigating its implementation. Imagine then again how nice it would be to travel on less congested highways potentially. Let me know your thoughts and feelings concerning rail travel. Would you travel by train if it were quicker, more reliable and less expensive?

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