Having ridden the Amtrak in southern California, Chicago, and now Ann Arbor to Detroit, I can see many reasons why they aren’t highly utilized in much of America.  They are usually late, don’t come often, and expensive.  Though perhaps those are less reasons that we don’t ride trains much here, and more a result of a lack of funding and use.  It would be easy to see the argument on either side for which caused which; the point is, where we stand today, the U.S. is miles behind other countries like Japan, the UK, Germany, and now Spain, in rail technology.  It isn’t that we don’t have the engineers or the skills- its a lack of diverting funding towards the cause.

And thats really a shame, because once you ride faster, smoother, more reliable, and cleaner trains in other countries, you realize that if those things were to change, you probably would ride the train more.  At least, I sure would.  In my visit to Scandinavia this summer, every train we rode we a pretty enjoyable experience.

Inside + out of the trains in Stockholm, Sweden- May 2010

Looking at the high speed trains sprouting up in Spain, its easy to see how much public transportation like this can increase mobility, connectivity, and accessibility of a city.  Spain has been doing interesting things with rail since the 80’s, and all over Europe, trains have been much more central to daily life than here- where a large sprawling mess would seem a lot closer together if it was traversed on high speed rail.  On the other hand, what city today can afford something so expensive?  In California, we voted for the high speed railway along the entire coastline, but without funding, its never going to happen.  So the big question is, how much of a priority is high speed rail for America and its people?  Can we really allocate money towards these when we can’t fix the roads we’ve focused on so heavily for the past sixty years?