Despite leading the world in technological innovation, generated wealth, and military dominance, the US is notably behind everyone else in one major area. That area is rail transit. Not only do very few cities in the US have intracity rail transit, but there are few plans to build more. In our nation of over 300 million, there are only 64 cities with rail-based transit systems. Presently only 7 new city railway transit projects are in the works. There’s also only one single high speed intercity transit project, and its future is unclear at best.
China has about 18,000 miles of high speed rail, much of it built in the last 10 years. Japan and nearly the entire European Continent have been using high speed rail since the 1960s and 1980s respectively. Taiwan, Turkey, Russia, South Korea….all have it as well. So what’s holding the US back?
The benefits of high speed rail
Before we get into why exactly the US isn’t working on this, let’s examine what the particular benefits of high speed rail are.
- Reduced dependence on oil and gasoline. The US has become a net oil exporter over the last decade. Using less cars means less people purchasing gas. This means fewer imports from other nations and more exports of our own energy.
- Eased stress for passengers. High speed rail doesn’t have to be built outside of the city center, like airports. It also doesn’t have the same stringent security requirements. This means that passengers don’t have to arrive 2 or more hours early, like they do for flights. Rail in general is also easier to keep on schedule. Riders can expect far fewer delays and cancellations than they can with domestic flying. In many countries, people prefer high speed rail to flights for anything less than 300 miles. Even thought the train is slower than an airplane, the ease of use, comfort, and punctuality make up for it. Finally, not having to drive to a nearby city simply gives commuters and passengers more free time.
- It’s safer. Statistically, high-speed rail is one of the safest ways to travel. It’s far safer than driving automobiles. Although there are high-speed rail accidents, they are few and far-between. Every year, over 1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world. Meanwhile, in France, 11 people have died in the last decade in high speed rail accidents. In Japan, there have been 0 fatalities since its inception.
- Fewer cars on the road. Are you sick of giant road hog semi trucks boxing you in on the highway? Ever heard the term “L.A. traffic?” A high speed railway is a more efficient way to transport people, and cuts traffic significantly.
It’s the economy, stupid
High speed rail is a gigantic boon for the economy of the area it’s in.
- Commercial contractors be drooling at the idea of landing a massive government contract for building these systems. They will keep any contractor busy and making money for years.
- People without cars can suddenly travel to nearby cities for work. Imagine if getting from Lubbock to Fort Worth only took 45 minutes or one hour. Not only would that be faster than driving, but suddenly those without their own transport could work in a different city from where they live. Simply put, it’s better for the economy when people can travel to work and find work more easily.
- Less cost on the consumer. Owning a car means that almost every aspect of transport is a cost borne by the owner. Repairs, gasoline, highway tolls, insurance… the list goes on. A train ticket is a cheaper option in more ways than one.
So what’s holding the US back?
What are the main reasons we don’t have high speed rail already? Where is the opposition coming from?
False argument: The US is too big for high speed rail
Sure high speed rail makes sense in small European and Asian countries, but not in a big country like ours. This is simply untrue. China is 1.37 times the size of the contiguous United States. That size hasn’t stopped China from building nearly 20,000 miles of railway.
Politics is everything
As early as 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act. While the project got off to a good start, it wound up having mechanical issues and running out of money.
The simple fact is that automobile companies wield undue power in the US. They know they would lose money and market share if high speed rail were to take off. So they lobby politicians to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Ask yourself this: can a country that affords trillion dollar-per-year wars really not afford to take care of, and improve its own infrastructure?
Things are looking up
There are plans in the works. Various states have plans to build fast railways connecting cities. We could even see high speed railway become common in the next few decades in the US. But if we really want high speed rail throughout the country, the federal government will have to make it a priority.
Well, Reliable Commercial Construction will be waiting. If you want a forward-thinking construction contractor who focuses on solutions rather than problems, look no further. Reliable has been serving the Arlington Texas area for over 35 years. Our team of 200+ can handle large-scale and complex projects. Our services range from foundations to renovations to industrial construction and far more. We look forward to the day when we can help improve our state by helping to build an efficient, and lightning-fast transportation system. In the meantime, we are here for you. Contact us today for a free quote and to find out how we can build for you.