The need for high speed rail

September 29, 2020 2:18 PM

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A high speed rail train in Berlin, Germany. Photo courtesy of Daniel Abadia on Unsplash.

A high speed rail train in Berlin, Germany. Photo courtesy of Daniel Abadia on Unsplash.

Imagine this: you live in Boston and want to take a trip to New York City for the weekend. You have a few options: you could drive or take a bus, which although relatively cheap, takes upwards of 5 hours, or you could take the train, although it takes just as long as driving and is much more expensive. Or you could fly, which hardly seems worth the price and hassle for such a short time on the plane. In reality, there are no good options.

Now imagine this: there is a new track, allowing trains to move even faster than they ever have. You can pay a reasonable price and ride in comfort, arriving in New York less than two hours after you left. This is the new America, a web of interconnected cities chained together by a complex system of high-speed rail, allowing you to travel anywhere you want with ease. Wouldn’t it be nice?

The United States should invest in a nationwide system of high-speed rail that would connect cities and allow for quick, accessible, and affordable transportation. We already have train lines in the US, but they are nothing in comparison to the high-speed trains in countries like Japan and Switzerland. The Amtrak and Acela systems connect between cities, but they are slow, inconvenient, and noisy. Not only that, but they are simply old. The tracks and the trains themselves haven’t been updated in many years, and are simply not up to date with the newest technologies. 

Bullet trains would be able to connect cities easily and transport many more people in a more efficient way. Bullet trains differ from the current system of trains in the US as they are newer technology which has dedicated tracks to move much faster than the current system.

There are many important reasons that the US should invest in creating this type of infrastructure. It would reduce air pollution and the impact of climate change, help the economy by creating new jobs and revenue for the federal government, and be extremely beneficial for individual use for transportation, whether it be for business or pleasure. Yes, it would require lots of work and fundraising, but it would in the long term have many important benefits, such as reducing pollution, creating jobs, and helping the economic and political needs of the country by allowing for quick transport between major urban centers.

It’s easy to see that in the United States, we have a car culture. It is normal and expected that many people have their own cars, and driving everywhere seems to be the norm. Especially since the emergence of rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, many people opt to drive or be driven somewhere, as opposed to using public transit.

In the city of Boston, there are 300,000 more cars than there were 5 years ago, and more cars are joining the streets every single day  (Boston Globe). Not only does this cause major traffic issues, but this overabundance of cars contributes to pollution and climate change. Transportation emissions are the number one contributor to global warming pollution in the United States.  The creation of a high-speed rail would help to reduce this as it would allow larger numbers of people to be moved at a faster rate.

There are many arguments against developing a system of high-speed rail, but the positives outweigh the negatives in this case. One reason for opposing this system is that the US is much bigger and less densely populated than other countries that have complex systems of high-speed rail. While this is true, a web of interconnected cities would definitely be a positive for our country. It’s often hard for the average person to travel between metropolitan areas and a system of bullet trains would make fast travel, whether it’s for business or pleasure, accessible to all. The majority of Europe is connected by a series of bullet trains, which span a wider area than the United States. Although they are funded by each country’s government and not collaborative, they connect to each other to form a system that spans the majority of the continent.

Another reason many would oppose investing to create this kind of system is that it would be expensive. While this is true, the cost of creating new infrastructure and raising taxes to do so would eventually be paid back by a tax on the rail system itself or the government taking a share of the profits. If these train systems were federally funded, they would not be monopolized by private companies in order to maximize profits. The federal government would be able to control the pricing and scheduling of the train system and once it gained in popularity and ridership, they would easily be able to gain back the money that was spent to create the system.

Imagine you had a dream to travel somewhere, anywhere in the country. Maybe it had always been your dream to go to New York City, see the lights of Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. As it stands now, you might not have enough money or time to make that trip. It would take lots of planning. But with a system of high-speed rail, you could do it. You could go anywhere with ease at a reasonable price. The possibilities would be endless.

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