A Real Train System

What if the US had a modern state of the art train system like other developed countries?  The trip from New York to Washington would take one hour rather than three plus hours.  The trip from Atlanta to Washington would take three hours rather than thirteen hours.  This would be a great boon to personal productivity.

What if we had modern state of the art subways, streetcars, and buses?  What if our transportation infrastructures — roads, bridges, tunnels, and airports — were efficient, safe, and fully functional?  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  This would be another boon to personal productivity.  Travel might be enjoyable again.

It is unlikely to happen, though. We have gotten used to a steadily deteriorating transportation system.  Enormous wastes of time and energy have become grudgingly acceptable. We expect derailments, crumbling freeways, and three-hour trips that become ten-hour trips or much, much longer. Two to three hour commutes each way to work are not common, but also not a surprise.

We do not seem to have the will to fix things.  Deferred maintenance – in other words, no maintenance — has become the norm. We only fix things, patch them up, when they totally fail. We wait for things to collapse. Then we build a new one. Sometimes leaving the rusting hulk of the decaying predecessor still standing along the side of the new structure.

Symptomatic of such neglect are litter strewn transportation infrastructures. Garbage strewn streets, underpasses, and ramps are all too common.  Such litter should be socially unacceptable but for unknown reasons it is not. We accept living awash in plastic bags, fast food refuse, beer bottles and occasional shopping carts, tattered sofas and dismembered dolls.

What would it take to change all this?  It would cost a lot on money, but create an enormous number of good jobs, plus a first-rate transportation system.  We did this with the Eisenhower Highway System and with Medicare and Medicaid, with very strong leadership from Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson, respectively.  President Obama showed glimmers of this type of leadership.  The current administration seems more bent on dismantling things.

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