There are a couple articles out today that discuss the potential benefit that an investment in American railways could have. While a full-fledged investment in high speed rail would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and would create many jobs in the long term a different kind of investment could provide relatively quick tangible benefits. Were some of the money from Obama’s economic stimulus plan to go toward the smaller rail projects around the country jobs could be created and a sincere commitment to an overhaul of American transportation would be shown.
For me it simply boils down to what the future is: is it roads, rail, or some other form of transportation. I cannot believe that 50 or 100 years from now America can still thrive while being as reliable upon cars as we are now. While hybrids are a good start they still in part rely upon gasoline and the simple production of cars for every individual citizen eats up a tremendous amount of resources. At a time when billions of dollars are being invested in projects to create jobs I would love to see efforts made to create a rail system that runs on electricity and is actually something that is practical to use for much of the country.
While an electric rail system would currently also consume vast amounts of carbon (after all, much of our electricity comes from coal power plants) in the future it would provide for a much more sustainable transportation system. Were we to come to rely upon electric rail we would at some point in the future be able to overhaul our entire transportation system by changing the power grid: something that would bring benefits to far more than just transportation. It just makes more sense to simplify our transportation into something that can be made more sustainable through a few large measures instead of many small ones. Here’s hoping that at least some of Obama’s stimulus funds go toward mass transit and the rail system.