Monday, July 15, 2013

Along for the Ride

When I was a young kid, my parents owned a mom and pop butcher shop. Both of my parents worked very hard and my being out of school for the summers was a real complication for them. For a number of these summers, my parents did without any vacation whatsoever for themselves so that they could afford to send me to a sleep away camp in Pocono Pines Pennsylvania.

The first year I went to camp, early in my elementary school years, the trip to camp was made by train. My parents transported me and my classic camp trunk to Penn Station. It may not have been the Hogwart's Express but it was nevertheless a great experience and a very efficient way to get from here to there.

Between now and then, I have been on the Long Island Railroad many times and on the Acela Express a few times. But for all practical purposes, train rides, especially covering any real distance, were part of my youth. That is until this year. In the last two months, I have been on a new high speed train in China as well as the Eurostar train which goes under the English Channel, from London to Paris. In both cases, what a comfortable and convenient way to travel. The train in China, which travels to Sanya, the Hawaii of China, is a smooth quiet riding train with speeds that easily match the Acela. The convenience is also unmatched. The Chunnel train, which both left and arrived precisely on time, was equally effortless. With train service this good, cars become a second best alternative.

Our country already had train tracks in place that makes much of the country, especially major metropolitan areas, easily accessible. What we don't have are attractive, efficient trains, except for the Acela. We have made substantial progress in driving more efficient cars but to make the kind of overall transportation progress we need, we can't do so without having an efficient attractive railroad network that transports not only products but also people. I am not advocating for the end of cars, just advocating for a more comprehensive system that provides alternatives. It's a proven attractive alternative.

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