What the Hell is the Matter with Us?

I was going through a lot of my photographs yesterday—photos I’ve taken in my travels—and I came across this one:

It was taken in the Moscow train station and that’s the train that carried me to St. Petersburg. This was back in 2011 and at the time this particular rail service was quite new. It wasn’t nearly as fast as the French TGV, but it was modern and quite comfortable. And the Russians were exceedingly proud.

But as I was looking at this photo and remembering that whole experience, I suddenly found myself getting pissed off.

Everywhere else in the world, ordinary people are zipping from city to city and from country to country at speeds up to 200 miles per hour on high-speed trains.

Here in the U.S., Amtrak is reducing each of its inter-city passenger services from 14 to six trains a week, each operating at a maximum speed of 79 miles-per-hour. And so, Amtrak has made intercity train travel in the U.S. significantly LESS convenient just when ridership had been increasing.

Meanwhile, our government keeps urging Amtrak to achieve “break even” so federal financial support will not be needed when, as I have often noted, every other form of public transportation in this country is heavily subsidized—from the airlines to bike lanes.

How can we Americans be leaders and innovators at some things and so damn slow and stubborn at others?

But getting back to Amtrak’s drastic cutback in service, the clear implication is if more people don’t start using their intercity trains in spite of the more inconvenient schedule, well then — Fie on us! — they will just have to make the inconvenient schedule permanent.

As a fiend of mine is wont to say, it’s enough to piss off a preacher!