Obama: High Speed Rail in US


Obama unveils a plan to add an additional $5 Billion to fund high speed rail in the US [on top of the $8 Billion in the stimulus]. The message here? “Imagine an America that has the technology that Europe and Japan have had for something like 15 or 20 years”.

Bringing the United States into the late 20th century through infrastructure!

Seriously, though – this could be really exciting. Working to ‘undo’ what the mid 20th century did to mass transit is a noble cause – bringing our transit systems [on a national scale] up to date is a great project to undertake, especially when the auto companies are too broke to con us into buying buses or something instead. The real issue that I see here is funding the system after it’s built. We have the ‘T’ here in Boston – and the ‘commuter rail’ extending to the ‘burbs – but now with money tight [and beauracratic / legislative bullshit running rampant] they’re reducing the number of trains and cutting services even though ridership is at an all-time high.

The problems we’re having in MA got me thinking that Obama’s plan could make a significant difference to transit as a whole, by providing connections to rural areas. The ‘T’ is having funding issues, and the proposed solution [a gas tax increase] has been shot down in the legislature by the Western parts of the state – they feel they shouldn’t pay for services they don’t receive. While I’d argue they receive services that don’t benefit the cities, the fact is that connecting these rural areas to the transit system could serve to ease their feeling ‘left out’ – and encourage more taxpayers to ‘get on board’, so to speak, with transit funding.

My only question is: who is Obama referring to in the video, who says ‘this won’t work’? The plan i expensive, yes – but other than the cost, this isn’t a ‘big deal’. This isn’t rocket science here people – and we’re not setting any trends. We can look to Europe as a successful model, and go from there. We have the workers and the technology to lay the tracks and build the trains – and people will obviously ride trains if they’re running [mass transit numbers are up in just about every city, aren’t they?]. People love cars because they’ve been told to love them – and because they’re convenient. If we give them convenient trains – that create systems with similar [if not shorter] commutes that put passengers within a few blocks of their destination – people are going to love it.

Now we just need to find the Robert Moses of high speed rail [not really – that would be terrible].

Posted: April 16th, 2009
at 6:25pm by orangemenace

Categories: architecture,my ninja, please,transit

Comments: 4 comments


4 Responses to 'Obama: High Speed Rail in US'

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  1. I hope this plan will work. We cannot continue to build larger highways. If the train system in North America was on time with a flexible schedule (meaning lots of options per day), I also believe that people could become accustomed to use them. Time will tell.


  2. YES! it’s about time…


    16 Apr 09 at 8:28 pm


  3. I think you hit on something rather important, the post construction funding will be nonexistent.

    We should also consider that 8 billion wont cover the “environmental impact” studies needed for half of the proposed expansion.


    17 Apr 09 at 12:38 am


  4. I think the main reason this is likely not to work is that there won’t be enough money poured into it. If we’re going to try to change tracks and make trains an actually workable and cost-effective option in this country, the up-front investment would have to be Huge. I would rather go massively, head-over-heels into debt and hope that the war-level spending will stimulate the economy and create jobs and leave us with something useful…rather than a train that barely goes faster than my car–but provides less convenience and costs more….

    John Tantillo has a marketing and branding blog on which he publishes weekly brand winner/loser post. Last week, he named “The Train To Nowhere” the loser, and he makes some very good points, asserting that it does not respond to any real need but instead follows the “build-it-and-they-will-come” model adopted by the now infamous American automakers. But with the added side-effect of disincentivize the development of alternatively-powered vehicles, with any (unlikely) success also putting further strain on already-struggling airlines. Since the supposed “high-speed” rail would not even be considered as such in other countries, Tantillo characterizes this proposal as greenwashing: “Thus another sin against marketing: window-dressing your brand as something it is not.”
    Full post: John Tantillo’s Brand Winner… And Loser: The U.S. Navy and the Train To Nowhere.


    21 Apr 09 at 6:36 pm



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