High-Speed Rail: Why Opposed by Right?


It’s always surprising when high-speed rail projects are rejected by people who call themselves conservatives, since they are, when compared to cars, a much more efficient mode of transportation.

In an effort to stimulate jobs, President Obama proposed high-speed rail for Florida, between Orlando and Tampa, and from Milwaukee to Madison in Wisconsin, but right-wing Gov. Rick Scott of Florida rejected his plan, and Wisconsin’s Tea Party Gov. Scott Walker likewise pushed away the Badger State blueprint.

To wealthy Republicans like Florida’s Rick Scott, transportation is no problem, for he has always had his own private jet, and can go wherever he wants without delay. Money is no object for him. The problem with Scott Walker of Wisconsin is he examined only one part of the equation, the start-up costs, while failing to consider the international risk of oil and gas embargoes, the plight of youthful or impoverished people who don’t own cars, and the many environmental costs created by gas-combustion engines.

Europe has always been a much easier and efficient continent, when compared to the U.S., in terms of transportation and travel. Trains generally run on time and connect all the major cities in the Old World. One can connect on buses at train stations, without all of the hassles or expenses related to cars. A little walk or bike ride now and then in Europe keeps them from becoming obese, like their overweight American counterparts.

So what happened? When did the conservatives in America stop caring about conservation? In the early years, it was the Republican Party in the industrial north that expanded the network of railroads. The Union Pacific, started in 1865, was connected to the West Coast in 1869. Businesses needed trains to remove lumber from the forests and resources from the mines. They hauled coal, livestock, and machinery, just to name a few items.

The advent of the electric subway and elevated trains around 1895 was a major source of efficiency for our major cities, as they provided a relatively cheap way for millions of ordinary people to travel in places like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago.

While the airplane has replaced the train for some purposes, and the mail for example can be delivered more efficiently by air, trains still have a purpose, and they should be used in the U.S. much more than they are at present. They are not obsolete.

America would be a much more efficient and better place if all of our major cities had subway systems, and if our national passenger trains were improved so they could enter the class of high-speed lines used in France, Japan, or China, for example. The first step in moving in the right direction, would be to elect people from the left, who have a vision of what the U.S. could be.

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