High Speed Rail: Europe's Revolution that needs to Spread to the U.S.

President Obama has pledged $8 billion in stimulus funds for high speed rail--a great start, but in all likelihood short of what is needed to truly amp up and make the U.S. a leader in high speed rail like Western Europe already is.  While the U.S. is just getting started, the European's have already established a foothold and made a much larger commitment to high speed rail than the U.S.  Instead of stopping with what they already have, Europe has pledged to make trains even faster and the network system far more expansive.

For example, in Europe what is happening is nothing short of a continuing revolution in innovation of the high speed rail system from which the U.S. can learn, whereby "national governments and the European Union are pouring billions of euros into high-speed rail networks that are almost triple-from 3800 miles today to 11,000 miles by 2025.  High-tech new tracks are traveled by ever-faster trains, with the latest generation designed to make trips of 620 miles in three hours."  By contrast, the U.S. lags far behind with their rail system in terms of having trains like Amtrak which are relatively slow by comparison.  Nevertheless, President Obama's 8 billion is clearly a good start, but there is no way that it is enough to get a large network with those types of dollars up and running.

In particular, the U.S.'s commitment of $8 billion falls very short as Spain, for example, "In the next 10 years, plans to spend $150 billion, half of the nation's transportation budget, on rail infrastructure."  As such, what Europe is doing that the U.S. is currently not is making both a financial commitment and laying the groundwork not only for faster trains than they already have.  Europe's innovation can be seen in their commitment to go even faster so that people can travel between major cities even faster than they have been doing for the past few years.

Furthermore, the fact that some European Countries like Spain are devoting a lot of their transportation budget just to rail shows a serious commitment, initiative, and drive to go green in the 21st Century by taking even more people off the roads in favor of taking high speed rail.  While a poor economy may be a convenient excuse among some politicians to say that it is too expensive to invest in public transit, what they fail to see is that with investments in innovative technologies come thousands of jobs which in turn improves the economic situation in the U.S.  Therefore, high speed rail makes both environmental and economic sense to invest in--far more than $8 billion already allocated by the Obama Administration.

Photo Credit:  Miroslav.broz