Why Trains Suck in America

My very first trip on a train didn’t occur until after graduating from college in the U.S. and visiting Europe for the first time. Since then, I’ve been on many trains, but only one of which was in the United States.

Train travel, if not already dead, is certainly in the terminal state in the United States. Very few people bother to ever jump on a train and when they do, they discover and antiquated system of delays, inconvenient terminals, and expensive tickets. Amtrak–the major American train service in America–is an embarrassment.

In other countries around the globe, however, trains are not only a lesson in efficiency, but already existing networks and rolling stock are constantly being upgraded into the 21st century, laments David Wolman, writing for Wired Magazine.

Take, for example, the Paris-to-Strasbourg super train which zooms between the two cities at 357 miles per hour. The company which built this high speed rail is now looking for other customers in China and India. But not the United States.

Wolman points out a couple of reasons why train travel is not as popular in the United States;

Distances are much farther between cities than they are in Europe
American roads tend to be in better condition
Gas is cheap

High speed rail is not an impossibility in America, however. There has been talk for years about building a line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. And currently, there is a bill floating around the California legislature for a high speed rail between Sacramento and San Diego. But don’t get too excited. Wolman points out that the last time such an idea was under consideration in Texas, it was squashed by a powerful Southwest Airlines lobby.

Don’t you just love America at times?