High-Speed Rail—Seeing Is Believing.

Years ago, before I moved to Hawaii, I was working in Hartford, Connecticut. One of my co-workers was a woman I remember quite clearly because she had no interest whatsoever in travel. And I mean any travel. She had never been as far south as New York City or as far north as Boston. I was shocked. This middle-aged women had never been more than 100 miles from home and was perfectly content with her life.
There are still a lot of Americans like her. In fact, many Americans, probably most, are shockingly ignorant when it comes to the world around us. I remember seeing video clips of random people being asked very simple questions about geography. How simple? One young woman was asked to name the country Canadians came from. She hemmed and hawed and finally took a wild guess: “Canadia?”
Most Americans have never and will never leave the country. Only about 35-percent of us own passports and many—probably even most—of those people have passports only because they are now required for travel to either “Canadia” or Mexico.
And that, in my opinion, is one of the reasons there is still opposition to high-speed rail in this country. Most of our fellow citizens have never seen one of those trains and they have no conception of how a system like the TGV in France can transform the transportation infrastructure of an entire continent.
I had a very discouraging, but very typical conversation with an older gentleman over lunch in the Sunset Limited’s dining car a few weeks ago. He is adamantly opposed to the high-speed line linking Los Angeles and San Francisco that’s now under construction.
“How fast will one of those high-speed trains go?” he asked.
“About 200 miles per hour,” I told him.
“See? That’s why it makes no sense,” he said almost triumphantly. “A jet plane goes more than twice as fast as that!”
Those of us actively involved in the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), which promotes more and better and faster trains, have sure as hell got our work cut out for us.