23 February 2007

Derailment

The Wallstreet Journal last week had an article on how China has started a massive project to extend their train system throughout the country, with numerous highspeed tracks as well. I also recall the line in An Inconvenient Truth about how the mileage requirements for new Chinese cars are far below even those being proposed in the U.S. This all makes me think that the U.S. leadership has really been moving the country in the wrong direction. If some poor, overpopulated, totalitarian nation on the other side of the globe can do this, why can't we? The half-trillion that we've sunk into Iraq thus far would buy a hell of a lot of train track and high-speed lines. And yet the U.S. finds it hard to keep even their limited Amtrak trains running on schedule. A half-trillion-dollar mass-transit overhall would also create an enormous demand for domestic labor (Even in the case of China, the large project is creating something of a boom in certain U.S. industries. You can just imagine what it would be like if the construction were going on here.) The U.S. is definitely not on track.

4 comments:

CyberKitten said...

High speed trains in the US are *such* a good idea. Just think of all those air-miles/carbon emmisions you could save...

Trains are the future.

Karlo said...

And they're even fun to ride. You can read the paper or talk to the stranger next to you (quite a radical idea, really).

BadTux said...

Uhm, Karlo, where exactly do you live? I ride Caltrain to commute between San Francisco and San Jose regularly, and it's like sardine-land. They're just like the effin' airlines, they cram the seats so close together you really don't have room to open a newspaper and if you were gonna talk to the fat dude beside you who is spilling over into your seat, it would just be to curse him out....

Don't get me wrong, trains are great stuff. A day pass for Caltrain costs a quarter of what the gas to drive between SF and SJ would cost. But they're hardly "civilized" once they're turned into cheap economical mass transit, they're just another way to get from point A to point B. Life ain't an Agatha Christie cozie!

-Badtux the Transit Penguin

Karlo said...

I guess I was projecting my experience of riding trains in Asia. Trains can be great. The mentality in the U.S. seems to be that mass-trans if for poor people so they can wait around for broken-down trains and cram into cattle-cars on their way to their minimum-wage jobs. I don't understand the mentality. I get the feeling that mass-trans is a conservative's nightmare--it's something that makes sense in terms of longterm considerations but doesn't manage to transfer massive amounts of wealth from the poor to the rich.