Thursday, May 15, 2008

So I like transit! So What?

Imagine if you will driving to your local metropolitan area (Seattle for me) and hopping on a train that can whisk you ac cross the land incredibly fast. like 150MPH fast. For what seems like a trivial ($30 or so) amount you could live in a city like Portland, and work in a city like Seattle... with something like an hour's commute! http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/map.htm It is an intoxicating idea, I'll admit. In the California 800 mile track system is estimated to cost around $40Billion. Which is a lot of money, admittedly. However I think there is good reason to consider broadening such a project into something national. I'll give 3 reasons, though these are just the ones I can think of right now... I'm sure there are more that I haven't though of.
  1. A national project would show a commitment by the U.S. to fundamentally change the way we consume energy.

    A serious change in the thought process and consumption patterns of Americans is needed in order to show to the world that we are serious about addressing the ways in which we impact the environment. A national mass transit solution that has been working well for Europe is one step towards that commitment.
  2. A great opportunity to boost the economy

    Like all large public works projects such an undertaking would allow the US to employ a large number of skilled people, and foster an era of research into high speed rail related fields. We did this before with the Highway system in this country, why can't we do it again?
  3. We deserve it

    We spend $620B or so on defense alone in this country. We nearly spend more on our defense then the rest of the world combined http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States. That is a lot of cash that we are spending... and I can't exactly figure out what our justification is for such a high limit... "defense" just is not cutting it. I would really like to see at least some of that money re-directed into some large public works projects around the country. Things that will impact many citizens and improve quality of life.
    1. Why don't we have options like this in our country? Are we not dense enough (people/sq mile) to make this a good solution? Do we have other alternatives (airports & cars). Do we need to keep spending so much on war and defense? Or can we re-direct some of our spending into something that will more directly benefit citizens? *UPDATE* 5/21/08 While $40 B is a lot of money, be assured... it is not so much when you consider the amount it would cost to expand critical road infrastructure. According to the folks over at The Seattle Transit Blog the cost to add 1 lane of highway to I5 through Seattle would run roughly $25B. Compare that to an 800 mile high speed train track and cost is a drop in the bucket. The issue... we were not planning on spending $25B to expand I5... but it is good information to have when you are talking to people who want us to vote down any ST transit proposals that we put on the ballot this November