High-speed Trains

Am I the only American who thinks it’s absolutely criminal that we don’t have high-speed trains in the United States like they do in Europe?  Let’s look at some times on a trip from Rome to Florence:

Car: 2 hours, 56 minutes
Plane: 55 minutes
Regular train: 4 hours
High-speed train: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Taking the high-speed train is faster than driving your own car plus you don’t have to worry about what anyone else is doing on the road.  The only faster option is flying but flying comes with a higher cost and the hassle of getting to and from the airport. A train meanwhile will take you from city center to city center. On our high-speed journey from Rome to Florence we enjoyed seats that were larger than the average airplane seat plus we had  free wi-fi.  What’s not to love?

Not much from my experience and I’ve ridden on multiple high speed routes.  However, the United States remains free of high speed trains.  Rumor has it there will be a high-speed line opening in 2021 between Boston and Washington D.C.  Population density along the East Coast is the reasoning behind why the East Coast will be the first part of the country to get them.

Still.  There is resistance against the idea here in the States.  My personal theory is that those who resist the idea have never ridden on one.  Still, here are some arguments against:

  • NIMBY – Not in my backyard
  • A huge investment
  • Cars are freedom, trains are socialist

The truth is property values go up when there is a passenger train station nearby.  Yes, there is money needed for investment.  However, if those who think if it’s in Europe it must be bad but building a wall along the Mexico border is a good idea then I would argue that investing in our transportation infrastructure instead of a wall that would solve nothing is a better investment. Finally, the idea of a car on the open road may epitomize freedom but I would argue having the CHOICE to take a faster train and leave the car at home is true freedom.

This is not to say that there aren’t any legitimate concerns. Unlike places like China, the United States doesn’t have the option to ignore the rights of property owners without proper compensation.  This can get really expensive really fast.  Of course, replacing existing rails would skirt this problem – assuming there aren’t freight trains using the same lines.

However, we’re talking about the country who first sent a man to the moon and helped Europe get rid of Hitler.  High-speed rail is something we can have if we have the will to have it.

Feed the blogger: Love the idea of high-speed rail here in the States?  Hate it?  Comments are welcome.


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