Saturday, October 13, 2012

US investment in high speed rail non-existent

If you are lucky enough to travel, you find your self making frequent comparisons between home and the place you are visiting. This time we were fortunate enough to go to visit Italy.

Most people compare the people, the food, the weather and the general environment. We compare the economic and business climate, employment opportunities and infrastructure. Always a tall order in a country where you don't speak the language.

But some things do jump out immediately. One is how good the roads are. They all seem to be built in the last 20 years. The second is the number of people using public transit especially trains. The united states has virtual no passenger rail infrastructure, while Europe's is extensive.

The US has completely ignored passenger rail service and infrastructure for the past 40 years. All the big countries: Spain, Italy, Germany and France, have high speed rail.  The Italian high speed service travels from Milan to Rome (a little more than 320 Miles) in 3 hours.

What we also don't see is the extensive web of industries behind the scenes making this advanced equipment.

The global industry is huge.  Here are some publications that cover the industry.
Railway Gazette.
Railway Technology

In contrast, the US has focused on the Airline and Car industries.  We are still the leader in airline equipment and technology

We believe the reason the US has not developed a mid range transportation infrastructure is due to low energy prices. The US has very low gas prices and airline fuel prices compared to the rest of the world.  Right now fuel prices in Italy for Jet Fuel A-1 is around $4.00 dollars a gallon.  Car gasoline is about $7 dollars a gallon.

A second reason is the low density of the population in the US outside of the Boston to Washington corridor.

Third, Europe has many incentives to discourage driving: higher gas taxes, road tolls and vehicle taxes.

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