I suffer from a terrible case of transportation envy. Though I'm spoiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City, I still have a bit of longing. I'm grateful for the "7 train" and its ability to whisk me through Queens, but the constant delays are enough to drive me mad. I appreciate the quickness of the Long Island Rail Road but am annoyed at always passing through the decrepit, ugly, overcrowded and dismal Pennsylvania Station.
Even then I have it good compared to citizens in other American cities. Many other major cities lack extensive subway and light rail systems, and for many their bus service is limited at best. Furthermore, inter-city rail transit is in an even worse state. As of this writing there is most likely an Amtrak train somewhere in the country that is severely delayed. The state of public transit in the United States is dismal at best. Keeping all of these critiques in mind, it is truly difficult for me not to stand in awe of the transportation infrastructure other countries feature. An efficient and rapid transportation infrastructure is what moves the economy and ours could certainly use a facelift and speed boost.
While in Japan, I traveled in envy being able to ride on the clean, efficient and wide spread Tokyo metro, comforted by the knowledge that every single train ran on time and according to schedule. Lateness was not an option for trains in Japan, especially when you're dealing with the high speed Shinkansen, whisking passengers at about 180 mph, at top speeds. The closest thing we have is the Acela Express that runs throughout the Northeast Corridor, which operates at a top speed of 150 mph but goes on average 70 mph.
In European cities like London, Paris and Berlin, there are magnificent central stations that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also effective in syncing high speed, regional and local rail together, making our many Union Stations seem dumpy. It's clear that the United States is falling behind in innovative transportation construction, and it is imperative that, as a country, we start paying some serious attention to improving our own transportation needs.
Federal and state governments should put a serious effort into pumping money into new transportation projects. Helping to build some sort of public transit infrastructure, be it light rail or rapid bus services in city centers where it is lacking will go a long way to generating and improving productivity in a city. What's more, serious consideration should be taken into developing our own high-speed rail. The proposed high-speed line between Los Angeles and San Francisco holds great potential, has the means to generate new jobs and is revolutionary enough to whisk at least part of our country into the future. Other projects should be given the same consideration and should be pushed ahead post haste.
We should take heed as a country – it's one thing being late for a train, and another when the train is delayed for over an hour.