I finally got back from the UK on Sunday. Between the cold, the jet lag, and the start of a new term at school, I haven’t made any posts in the past few days, but now I’m ready to jump back into the fray.
The Los Angeles Times and Wired’s Autopia blog have stories about new Japanese plans to build maglev tracks that are faster than the country’s famous 186 mph Shinkansen bullet trains. Attempting to explain why a country with an already near-flawless HSR system would go to the trouble of such an expensive new project, the LATimes points out that building fast efficient trains is something Japan prides itself on, a mark of achievement.
It seems that in America, we focus our pride on our own private possessions. We spend hours polishing our new cars, but couldn’t care less how the local mass transit system looks. The projects we do take pride in seem to, paradoxically enough, be the things that we use the least. The Empire State Building is an office building, it’s a private space, something even a New Yorker would only go inside as a novelty.Us provincials may only see it on postcards.
So why is it so hard for politicians to support transportation improvements that will directly affect their constituents? We don’t need superstar trains to write patriotic songs about, but we should at least be aiming to provide the sort of humble civic satisfaction that comes from a convenient, timely, and comfortable train trip.