The Argument For High Speed Rail

Predictably behind on my reading, I looked at the October 2015 issue of Hightower Lowdown yesterday.  The newsletter didn’t take a lot of time to read, and it gave me an idea for today’s blog post.

Some parts of the U.S. are more densely populated than others.  I live in San Francisco, where developers can’t build fast enough. Somehow, the half million dollar condos they’re building aren’t helpful to most of us, but developers can make money because those units are often sold to investors outside of the U.S. who don’t show up personally even to view the property.  Companies such as Airbnb really clean up on those investments, too, but heck, this post is meant to be about transportation.

I’ll get back on track, if you’ll excuse the pun.  It’s about getting from Point A to Point B efficiently, and without spending too much of the money we need to cover other necessities, such as housing, food and electronic devices which help us sharpen our Candy Crush skills.

If I’m lucky, my planned flight to JFK this fall (which I haven’t reserved yet) will cost under five hundred dollars round trip.  That’s possible only if the cheapest airline has flights during the times I need them.  It’s a good thing my time of arrival doesn’t have to be precise, since airline timetables are never a sure thing.

Sadly, necessities as well as luxuries are guaranteed only to the very wealthy.  If they need (or just want) to travel on short notice and the airlines have no vacant seats in First Class, they can charter a jet and ignore the carbon footprint.  It’s an entitlement for them and a burden for the environment.

In last October’s issue of Hightower Lowdown, Jim Hightower explains how we can phase out some of the problems, even if the private jet thing isn’t addressed.  Other countries have tremendous success with high speed rail, and it should be an option for the United States.  He points out that currently some Americans take shuttle flights to and from work, when an efficient train may be less expensive and easier on the environment.

I won’t idealize electricity.  Depending on how it’s produced, it can be filthy.  However, powering a train with electricity is cleaner than filling an airplane with jet fuel.

In his newsletter, Mr. Hightower documents the political resistance to high speed rail, and he describes how that resistance is so strong Amtrak is lacking some safety features in its current system.

Please take a look at this.


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