Did you know that Japan has had a bullet train since 1961? I kid you not. Eight years before America sent a man to the moon. Two years before the British Invasion. In Europe, high-speed rail started during the International Transport Fair in Munich in June 1965, when DB Class 103 hauled a total of 347 demonstration trains at 200 kilometers/hour (124 mph) between Munich and Augsburg.
Exactly three years ago to the day (April 16, 2009), President Obama proposed a plan to fight the economic crisis with a focus on infrastructure. He proposed high-speed rail. It would create jobs, fight gridlock, save lives on the highway, oh, and cut down on our oil dependency. So, what’s happened since then? Good question.
What does high-speed rail have to do with Hanging Chad subject matter? Well, doesn’t high-speed rail relate to creativity and innovation? I was 10 and living in California when I conceived the idea: a capsule that travels at high speeds and takes you anywhere. Sure, I had a lot of space-age ideas, too, but this was grounded in real possibility. Or so it seemed. (And apparently it wasn’t really as innovative as I thought way back in 1982.) Because here we stand—the U.S. of A. in 2012 (some 30 years later), without a single high-speed rail line.
What are we missing? Where does one begin? Maximum commercial speed is about 300 kilometers/hour (186 mph) for the majority of national high-speed railways (Japan, China, Taiwan, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, UK). The Shanghai Maglev Train reaches 431 kilometers/hour (268 mph). What would it be like to travel from Chattanooga to Atlanta in 30 minutes, all while sipping a cup of joe and composing a blog post? Pick your cities. Cut your travel time by 25 to 75 percent. Relax and thank your lucky stars that you’re alive and traveling in the 21st century.
Currently, California is attempting to resurrect this transformative idea, but for some reason, it continues to meet with a surprising amount of resistance and political footballing. You can believe the hype that the project is a bag of “lemons" and that the costs have been wildly overestimated. However, it seems, as so many other issues related to the American economy, that we’re stuck by the powerful vested interest of the oil companies who have created a think tank to spread the word that high-speed rail would lead to “bigger government” and mismanagement and who knows what other obfuscation. I’m sorry, but Hanging Chad has had enough. Let’s get some high-speed rail in the land of freedom and innovation before I die a bitter and resigned old man!
Chad writes on cultural topics, including trends in publishing, creativity, writing, parenting and life as a hanging chad. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @chadprevost. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.