Recently, the problem of drivers texting while in a vehicle has been brought to the forefront of the news, shedding light on a vital issue that illustrates that driving is inherently a very dangerous activity. Road safety is something that should never be far from our minds, either in the car, or out of it, and every day on my drive to work, I see examples of poor training and practice amongst my fellow drivers. Two years ago, the issue was on the roads themselves, where cuts and transfers of funds to the roads took place, resulting in roads with plenty of hazards. Both issues taken separately are worrisome, but taken together, they’re both downright scary.
Thinking about this has brought to mind another initiative that has been making a bit of news over the course of the past year: high speed rail service. Currently, the nation lags far behind other industrialized nations, such as the United Kingdom, much of Europe and Japan, for large-scale access to a fast train system. In part, I suspect, that’s due to the sheer size of the United States, as well as competing for space with freight transportation across the country. Because of the size, a high speed rail system is going to be an expensive proposition, upgrading the current one to something far better.
However, despite the expense, I want to see a high speed rail system come to the United States. On my way to work, I cross a set of rail road tracks that have since been abandoned, and over a hill, follow alongside the major railroad track that runs from the Burlington area all the way down to Boston and down the East Coast. A friend once visited from New York City, and it took her just as long to get up as it would have been to drive. Driving alongside the railroad tracks this morning, I couldn’t help but think how much I would prefer to have the ability to make a short walk to a train station, get on a train and simply ride in to work. While I lived in England, in 2006, this was a common occurrence for me, and I found that I really enjoyed riding in to work and class via the underground and regular London transit system.
Maintaining a high speed rail system in the State of Vermont would be a good thing for Vermonters. Our long winters bring about hundreds of accidents each year on the highways that commuters use between Montpelier and Burlington, and hopefully, a rapid system would help to cut transit time for people who live a bit further away, and would help reduce the load on the roadways. With an increasing number of people texting and driving, deteriorating roads, moving more people off the roads into a mass transit system will help reduce some of the risks while on the road, and will help with the wear and tear on the roads. It’s an alternative that should be available, and as public transportation has increased as fuel prices have done the same, hopefully there will be the the perfect storm of dangerous drivers and accidents, federal spending and infrastructure and availability to Vermonters.
A system such as this would be good for the state as well, linking Vermont to the southern states and cities, allowing for the state to market itself as it has long done for weekend excursions during changing of the fall leaves to the ski season, as well as all of the other attractive reasons to visit our state. It’s easy to do that by car, but I’ve always seen taking a train ride somewhere as a sort of adventure, and have many fond memories of doing so while in London, travelling to Edinburg, Cambridge, Oxford, Eastbourne, Stratford-Upon-Avon and many other places. It was quick, allowed me to plow through fourteen books in four months and allowed me to see the rest of the country without requiring a personal vehicle.
Plus, mass transportation is a good, sustainable sort of practice. Thousands of people driving separately to their destinations is a woefully inefficient activity in the grander scheme of things, only going to highlight some of the issues that the country has when it comes to dependence on oil. It would be good to get used to the idea of having to limit ourselves and what we use before we’re forced to in the future by high price by becoming a more efficient society. Don’t get me wrong, I like driving my Mini very much – it’s one of the reasons why I bought a car in the first place. But I while I enjoy driving, I get very little joy out of my morning commute. I would much rather be reading a book and not having to worry about the other drivers around me.