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The Green Life: Obama Wants to Get Americans on High-Speed Rail

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February 09, 2011

Obama Wants to Get Americans on High-Speed Rail

Bullet train It's no silver bullet, but the president's plan to spend significant cash on developing a high-speed rail system is a major move toward putting the job market, energy policy, and our infrastructure back on the right side of the tracks.

Joe Biden went public with the proposed $53-billion, six-year plan yesterday, pointing out that this investment will create much-needed manufacturing jobs and revitalize the currently feeble public-transit system.

Obama has long touted high-speed rail as an opportunity for job creation and, during last month’s State of the Union address, set a goal that within 25 years, 80% of Americans will have access to this efficient, sustainable form of transportation. Eventually, high-speed rail should provide an appealing, viable alternative to cars or planes, reducing traffic congestion, fuel consumption, and pollution.

The U.S. lags far behind many countries in its rail infrastructure: Japan built its first high-speed network in 1964 and its bullet trains now carry more than 1 million people every day. And many European countries are famous for efficient, enjoyable train travel. Admittedly, the geographic scale is grander here, and populations centers more dispersed, but that’s no reason to endure endless commutes and ever-rising gas prices. 

There's already vocal opposition to Obama's plan, so while this all shakes out, imagine your morning commute by train — latte in hand, chatting with a neighbor, traffic forgotten as the outside world flies by at 200 miles per hour. It’s the future. 

--Zoë J. Sheldon

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