There Go the Damn French Again!

Assuming you’re a passenger rail enthusiast, you can click here for a story about two new high-speed lines that just went into service in France. One is a 187-mile run from Paris to Bordeaux built at a cost of about US$9 billion; the other runs 112 miles from Paris to the western part of the country and cost US$4 billion.

 The article notes that these two new lines will drastically reduce travel times. An equivalent in the U.S. would be reducing the travel time between Washington, DC, and Charlotte, NC, from the current eight hours to just over two.
On second thought, you might prefer to skip the story because it will not brighten your day. The writer notes that the opening of two new high-speed rail lines is barely worth a mention in the French media and around most of the rest of the world. Good heavens! When and if the first true high-speed line opens in this country, there will be brass bands and it’ll be the lead story on all the network newscasts.
What the hell is wrong with us, anyway? Have you read the letters to the editor bashing the California high-speed rail project? Or the one proposed for Texas? Or the anti-high speed rail comments on Facebook . . . in op-ed pieces . . . and in the articles in “The World’s Most Trusted Newspaper”? An epidemic of willful stupidity has infected this country. The entire rest of the developed world figured out that high-speed rail is the way to go a half century ago and here we are, with our alleged “leaders” in government and industry saying that it’s not a good idea … that it won’t be successful … and—God help us!—that we can’t afford it.
Of course we can afford it! We can afford high-speed rail so people can travel quickly and in comfort. We can afford health care so hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans won’t die of curable afflictions. We can afford to make sure that little kids have clean drinking water … not contaminated sludge that affects their capacity to learn. And we can afford to educate our young people.
How can we do all that? How did the French do it? And the Japanese? And the Spanish and the Germans and the Chinese? They decided what was important for their society and they taxed the people to pay for it. Please don’t tell me we can’t afford to provide our citizens with good public transportation, adequate health care and a good education. Of course we can!