A recent article in the Herald Tribune discusses Florida’s troubled history with high speed rail. The article is a good example of how DOT’s are wont to continue down the usual path of highways, highways, highways, which inevitably leads to more traffic, and how shortsighted politicians are unwilling to take the initiative to break this vicious cycle. What got my blood boiling is how former Gov. Jeb Bush effectively ignored a popular mandate to institute high speed rail in the state:
For more than 30 years, lawmakers and state officials have ordered studies proposing a passenger system to connect cities, including a 1984 report that said it was a necessity for the 21st century. Not one shovel has hit the dirt.
In 2000, voters approved a constitutional amendment mandating a high-speed rail system in the state. But Gov. Jeb Bush led a charge to veto the amendment in 2004, which effectively killed the high-speed rail authority as well.
The public desire for HSR is there. The challenge for politicians is to listen to and take a far sighted estimate of our transportation system rather than blindly obeying the dictates of the air and auto industries. Florida in particular could benefit from commuter and intercity rail, with its large elderly population who can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be driving, as well as its multitude of tourist destinations. Fortunately for the state, the article indicates that many seem to be gravitating again towards rail due to today’s usual impetus of sky high fuel prices.