High-Speed Rail? Most Americans Have No Clue.

My niece, Keri, is here visiting for the weekend. She’s eleven and cute and smart and … Well, you know, a pretty typical modern day kid. Except she’s been to Paris four times. (Maybe five. She’s not sure.)Her dad, you see, works for Hawaiian Airlines and they have agreements with other airlines that permit him and his family to travel almost anywhere for almost nothing. I guess he goes free if on airline business and there’s just a modest add-on if his wife and daughter go with him.

Anyway, my niece has been to Paris four times (maybe five) and traveled around the country while she was there. I’ve been there three times. That includes my first trip there when I was 17 and didn’t go to the trouble of seeing a damn thing. The last time, we simply changed trains and went right through Paris to Chartres and, after a couple of days, headed down to the Dordogne from there.

Keri is learning French at her school and simply takes it for granted that there will be return trips to France and to the European continent in her future. She’s going to become an adult with an understanding and an appreciation of other cultures and what a gift that is!

By contrast, the American people as a whole have almost no understanding of what’s going on in other countries. I was shocked to learn that only 19 percent of Americans have passports … and one can assume that a large percentage of those are for travel to Mexico or Canada.

No wonder there is so much skepticism and outright opposition to high-speed rail in this country. Most Americans have no clue about what it is and what it can do because only a tiny percent of our people have ever had the opportunity to see it (let along ride it) and to realize that it and conventional rail is the transportation mode of choice throughout most of the rest of the world.

Keri knows.

Isn’t it a pity she can’t vote.