High Speed Rail: how to sell it?
I’ve never watched Mad Men before, but I love this:
(Go ahead, click on it. Give it a watch. I’ll wait.)
The thing is, they are so right…mostly. But the only reason people don’t “get” how great train travel could be is that we don’t have enough trains, they aren’t fast enough, and they are too hard to get to.
I grew up near Washington, DC. and went to college there. I had a car, many of us did, but it was almost unheard of for us to actually drive anywhere in the city–there was no point, the Metro would take you pretty much anywhere you needed to go. Okay, sure, it was sort of a pain schlepping cellos through the system to get to the Kennedy Center, but it worked and it got the job done. That was just how you got around DC. And that was over 20 years ago; the system has way more stops now and can get you many more places, much faster. I live near Chicago now; there is no place I could want to go that would not take at least twice as long (usually more) via public transit as it would driving. As a result, I rarely take public transit. But I miss the Metro.
When I spent a week in Europe about ten years ago, I was amazed at how effortless it was to go almost anywhere via train. Fast, pretty cheap, comfortable, and just sort of fun. To get anywhere near an Amtrak station here involves an hour or two of driving on this end, and usually some contortions at the other end as well (although we are lucky in that my parents’ house is ten minutes from one of the Amtrak stops). The kids and I took the train to visit my folks at Christmas, and once again it took considerably longer to take the train than to drive, let alone fly, though in our case it sort of broke even since we would have stopped mid-drive to sleep somewhere. But what if we had faster trains, and more of them? What if we actually could get where we’re going at some speed? How awesome would that be?