Add More Trains, Not More Lanes.
I recently came across an article that was titled, “The 10 Most Congested Highways In America.”
First of all, the headline is misleading because, when you get into the article, you discover that their survey included no less than 328 stretches of highway in the U.S. and all were legitimate candidates for making the Top Ten.
The list, and all the data used to compile it, came from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. The details of the study included how many bazillion gallons of gas we waste sitting in all those traffic jams, and how many tons of junk get pumped into the atmosphere. The ultimate irony is that the so-called freeways in this country—built to permit automobile traffic to flow freely—don’t do that at all. In fact, they are responsible for a hugely disproportionate amount of all that wasted gasoline and crap going into the air.
But here’s the thing: guess what’s almost always proposed as the answer to all that congestion and waste and pollution. Of course … more freeways! Assuming the human race manages to survive for another century or two, can’t you picture scholars in the 23rd century looking up from their research and saying, “Those damn fool Americans! What the hell were they thinking?”
It’s interesting that the study comes from a university in Texas and several of the congested freeways cited in the study are in that state. That’s interesting, because it seems more and more likely that this country’s very first legitimate high-speed rail line will open for business in Texas, linking Houston and Dallas.
And there’s really no question: once built, this high-speed rail line will be a success. And even the doubters and the nay-sayers will get to see what happens when, like freeways, rail lines reach capacity: You don’t have to add more lanes; you just add more trains!
Still the highway lobby will continue to do its thing and we’ll not only keep on spending billions to build more and wider freeways, we’ll pay cash. How come all those fiscal conservatives in Congress aren’t demanding that the highways break even?