There is a great YouTube channel called The Angry Astronaut that encourages the viewer to Stay Angry About Space. The host posts knowledgable videos about space exploration, the commercial space industry, and the possibility for outposts if not colonies on other planets in our solar system. But I want to borrow that vibe for this post about the sorry state of mass transit, including airlines, in the USA. This should be Part 2, as I want to rant about mass transit in the Washington DC area. And the slow passenger rail service from Atlanta to Washington DC. (See video below) That will be part 2. This is of course now Part 1.
I like the City Nerd YouTube channel and when I saw this episode I wanted to share it with you and the folks on the Arkansas Rail Riders FB group. In this episode the host went to Spain where he sampled riding the High Speed Rail network. He found it easier to use, cheaper, easier to board, and more fun than flying or driving. Carbon emissions for his trip were greatly reduced over flying or driving. And yes, he saved some time.
In the US we have Amtrak which was created by the Nixon Administration to fail. Only it didn’t. It is unaccountably popular with the American public. The truth is Americas love to ride the rails as much as anyone else. So why do we have slow expenisive Amtrak and not say, QUIGO? Notice that going about 250 miles on Amtrak takes over 5 hours, and that’s when they aren’t held up by a frieght rail train. And Amtrak costs from $100 to $200+ for the ride. In Europe or Japan, the same 250 mile ride is about $10 – $60 and takes a couple of hours. With lower emissions (I’m not letting that go)
Besides some cultural issues such as Amercians love affair with our cars, there are some reasons we haven’t built HSR in the USA yet. For one thing Europe and Japan were heavily bombed during World War 2. The USA wasn’t. So Europe and Japan had to rebuild and the USA didn’t have to rebuild our rail system. The USA also got our money’s worth out of our railroads, we have used them coming up on 200 years and they will last even longer. You can’t say that about a highway that needs to be constantly repaved and lanes added.
Some people have started to identify city pairs and start to build HSR between them. In Arkansas the logical pairing is Northwest Arkansas with Little Rock, the economic center with our state capitol. Also the home to 70% of our people. We can build out in all directions from there. The costs are quantifiable but the benefits less so. Go back and watch the video again and you will understand that the benefits of HSR in Arkansas and across the USA are worth it. Go back and reread the comment about how the City Nerd host saved some time, had more fun, and had a better experience on the Spanish HSR network than flying or driving. He didn’t cover it, but he saved a lot of carbon using HSR too. Just like we can do here in Arkansas.
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