How cool would it be to travel from Philadelphia to New York in 37 minutes? I don't know. Truth is, we may never know. I would put high-speed rail -- the subject of an interesting multi-part series that began in the Inquirer today -- near the top of the great ideas of 2008 that is surely getting lost in the kill-all-government-spending-except-the-Bush-and-Obama-wars-and-Bush-tax-cuts-for-the-rich frenzy of 2010.
As I'm sure Glenn Beck will say sometime in the near future, show me one place where the Founding Fathers said anything about high-speed rail!!!
Here's the crux:
Want to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours, 40 minutes? Or from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in 21/2 hours? Or from Philadelphia to New York in 37 minutes?
Want to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 71 percent per passenger-mile compared with car travel, or 76 percent compared with air travel?
Want to cut travel fatalities to zero? That's how many people have died in high-speed train accidents in France or Spain or Japan.
Want to escape airport security lines? Want to get out of seat belts? Want to elude traffic gridlock?
Want to spend $10 billion a year?
To the Tea Party crowd, you lost them at $10 billion. What a shame. This is a program that would create literally thousands of manufacturing jobs in the private sector in the United States, as contracts are awarded, and then would create thousands more jobs for mechanics to maintain the trains and the tracks, and for people to operate the system once it is running. Frankly, the global warming and traffic and safety benefits, while importantly, are tangential to the jobs right now. But it doesn't really matter because America has lost its nerve, especially our leaders.
One other quote from the article stuck with me:
"This is what the rest of the world is doing," said Robert Yaro, an urban planning professor at the University of Pennsylvania and president of the Regional Plan Association, a New York-area research group. "We're behind not only France and Spain and the U.K. and Japan and China and Korea, but now Morocco and India and Vietnam are building high-speed rail. This is what we have to do.
The rest of the world isn't paralyzed by fear.