Note: This is the second piece in a series that explores the connection between a robust transportation system and a stronger middle class. Read the first piece which sets the tone for a much needed national conversation.
Around the globe, the race is on to bring the world’s fastest trains — which top speeds nearing 400 miles per hour — to commuters, travelers and business professionals alike. China is devoting billions with hopes for leading the world in rail innovation. Japan is continually making improvements to its 50-year-old system. Countries throughout Europe are expanding upon thousands of miles of high-speed rail track, which run from the south of Spain to Berlin, Oslo and Edinburgh. Meanwhile, the U.S., once known for its transportation innovations, is struggling to catch up.
Instead of embracing the future of modern transportation, some elected officials in the U.S. fail to see the value of passenger rail as part of an integrated network. Many of those same officials are also more than willing to starve the rest of our badly aging transportation system. Our national passenger rail system is continually threatened with bankruptcy budgets by politicians who ignore their constituents and oppose federal support for Amtrak. Partisan bickering has sabotaged decades-long efforts to replace rail tunnels in the Northeast that were built 100 years ago and are in a shocking state of disrepair. And Acela, this country’s fastest passenger rail service, is only available to riders on the East Coast and the speed it reaches — 150 miles per hour — pales in comparison to train service found abroad.
While the rest of the world moves forward with innovative transportation solutions that have the ability to easily connect people with major economic hubs, the U.S. is still relying on decades-old transportation systems — and it’s middle-class Americans who are paying the price. By not investing in faster trains, we’re missing out on a critical opportunity to transform communities, create high-skill jobs and improve the quality of life for millions. An economic impact study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors shows that in communities large and small, high-speed rail would increase economic development by improving market access, offering greater geographic connectivity, easing congestion and increasing tourism and business development.
Read more in The Huffington Post.