The Case for Not-Quite-So-High Speed Rail: The Bad News: Republicans have Torpedoed Plans for American Bullet Trains. The Good News: The Obama Administration is Quietly Building a Slower, But Potentially Much Better, Rail System (Viewpoint Essay)
Washington Monthly 2011, July-August, 43, 7-8
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After concluding some business in Frankfurt, Germany, recently, I found myself with a day to kill and decided to use it to tour the historic Cologne Cathedral, about 120 miles away. I could have rented a car and driven through traffic on the autobahn for about two hours, but instead I decided to walk a few blocks from my hotel and board Intercity-Express #616. The sleek bullet train left Frankfurt's magnificent nineteenth-century main terminal on time and sped along a superengineered, beeline right-of-way completed in 2002 at a cost of $5.6 billion. The scenery wasn't much, as we were often in tunnels built to keep the line straight and fast. But the ride was smooth, quiet, and comfortable, even at 180 miles per hour, and in a mere fifty-six minutes the train arrived on time to the second within steps of the Cologne Cathedral. The fare was $109. You might expect me at this point to proclaim, like so many Americans who have sojourned in Europe, Japan, or China on gleaming bullet trains, that what the United States needs now is a crash program to catch up with our peers in building highspeed rail for the twenty-first century. And, for the record, I will proclaim that. It's a vision almost all progressives have come to share, even as conservatives increasingly denounce it as creeping socialism, social engineering, or worse. But I'll make an important qualification that should inform the increasingly partisan debate about high-speed rail in this country--one that is illustrated by my trip back to Frankfurt later that afternoon.
- Category: Reference
- Published: 01 July 2011
- Publisher: Washington Monthly Company
- Print Length: 13 Pages
- Language: English