Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

A need for stimulus that works

It starts off as an analysis of the Chicago area commuter trains, so I nearly moved on. The Medill Reports item on rail transit is highly informative and deals with all the current issues. The proper points are well made.

“The temptation is much greater to bail out the automobile industry,” said Anthony Perl, an urban studies professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the author of “Transport Revolutions.” He advocates electrical mass transit powered by renewable energy as the solution to our twin problems of climate change and energy.

The United States once led electric rail technology, stringing interurban rail lines across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Americans abandoned many of the lines and stalled any new rail development with the coming of the Great Depression and the rise of the automobile.


Today, as Chicago makes do with an aging ‘L’ system and America chugs along with Amtrak, European passenger trains run on electric power and can travel at much higher speeds. France’s TGV (train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train) runs entirely on electric power and can regularly reach speeds of up to 200 mph. American Amtrak trains run mostly on diesel, and the network’s fastest electric train rarely breaks 150 mph. The typical Amtrak train runs at about 80 mph.

The American passenger rail system isn’t as extensive as Europe’s, a continent where countries have collectively built an efficient, clean rail system after the devastation of two world wars.

“In Europe, you can go from the north of Sweden to the tip of Italy all on electric trains,” Perl said.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

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December 2008


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