Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Great Investment for America

President Obama wants to get the economy rolling by investing billions in the nation’s infrastructure. Here’s an idea for an investment that will pay off in a big way.
by Charlie Leck

I’ve got some good advice for our new President – for the fellow who wants to rebuild the nation – for the fellow who said he wants to get the economy rolling again by investing billions of dollars in our nation’s infrastructure.

One of the things I love about visiting Europe is its trains. Wow! They’re really wonderful. A few years ago, while visiting France, I needed to travel from Paris to Lyon. That’s a trip of approximately 310 miles. I boarded a trained right within the city of Paris and I was in Lyon less than 2 hours later. That’s an average speed of 155 MPH. Wow! I sat in splendid comfort. A steward came by with coffee and a croissant. I had a good book with me.

Bill Moses, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab in California, wrote on-line about his experience with French high speed train (TGV) from Paris to Lyon (click here to read).

“I can’t say enough good things about the TGV in general. Although the raw speed lies between that of a car and an airplane, it tends to be significantly faster than air travel because 1) you start and end in the middle of the town instead of at an airport 30 minutes outside of the town and 2) boarding (and disembarking) is so fast that you can arrive at the station without a ticket 5 minutes before the departure time and still have the train depart (on time) with you on it. I don’t necessarily recommend this, but from personal experience I can vouch that it can be done!”
In 2001, I did the same thing in Japan. I took a train out of Kyoto on approximately a 300 mile trip and arrived in approximately an hour and a quarter later – whoosh! It was a totally restful and relaxing trip.

You know where I’m going with this. It’s too late for me, but America needs this option for travel around our nation. We need seamless, smooth tracks, capable of handling high speed trains that travel at speeds greater than 200 MPH and connect virtually every major city in the nation. What a comfort it would be to travel that way.

Imagine! I could get on a train here in Minneapolis for a trip to Denver, 900 miles away. I'd been in downtown Denver in less than 5 hours later, having made stops in Des Moines and Omaha on the way. Frankly, that's faster than I could make it by air and I'd be able to sit in comfort all the way and, probably, for much less money. A side benefit is that it would take pressure off the airports in both these cities -- two of the busiest of all U.S. airports.

Or, I could board a train in Minneapolis and travel to Atlanta (a bit more than 1200 miles). I could make the trip in approximately 7 hours from downtown to downtown with 6 or 7 stops along the way in Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville and Chattanooga. The cars would be sleek and comfortable. Steward service would be available. There’s plenty of leg room and comfortable, reclining chairs.

Build it, President Obama, and they will come. It would be a thrill to start catching up with the other civilized nations of the world.

Imagine traveling from New York City to San Francisco on a high speed, comfortable train. 3120 miles in just about 15 hours. As it is now, by the time you get out to the airport, get through security, board and then go through it again at the arriving end, air travel would take about 8 or 9 hours. And, you wouldn’t be treated like branded cattle on a high speed train.

[Read what David Houle had to say about the future of high speed trains in America – that they “must, and will become an essential component of the U.S. transportation system during the next 20 years.”]

1 comment:

  1. I'll go with you. I love letting someone else do the "driving" when I'm traveling in a manner that allows me to absorb the countryside. I told someone this weekend I was thinking about taking the Megabus to Chicago one weekend and he couldn't understand why I would sit on a bus for 7 hours. There are not a lot of things I do where the only choice is to relax.