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Public Transportation

September 28, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about public transportation today, after attending a Senate Energy and Public Works Committee Hearing on Transportation financing.  The hearing itself was a little mundane, to say the least.   The  focus was primarily on mechanisms for financing projects, which is not the most exciting topic.  Yet the over-arching message got me thinking; large-scale infrastructure projects need to be a priority in the United States, especially public transportation.

I have been lucky enough to have spent the past two years living in Dublin, Ireland, and had the opportunity to travel a good deal in western Europe during that time.  What always struck me while traveling was the magnitude, sophistication, and user friendliness of public transportation systems in many European countries.

I remember being awed by the Austrian trains (OBB), which silently, and in great comfort sped me through the Alps.  Or, the options I had for exploring Brussels, by Metro, Tram, or Bus (STIB).  Or, the assurance of knowing my arrival time down to the second as I traveled from Amsterdam to Harleem on the (DR).

These fond memories were certainly in contrast this past weekend when I took the train (Amtrak) down to North Carolina.  And maybe more indicative of the condition of public transportation in the United States was that when i got to the train station I had no way to get home without a car.

Now, I’m not saying all public transportation in the United States is bad, because many cities do have efficient reliable systems.  But most of those are resigned to urban areas on the East Coast, and many of those metropolitan areas have not figured out a way to successfully integrate more than one mode of transportation into a all-encompassing/overlapping system.    Furthermore, the United states lacks sufficient means to move across the country or even across regions, in a timely, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way.

Public transportation can be a really great way to travel!  Sometime its hard to realize that especially if one is not familiar with all the benefits, or has not had the opportunity.  I really hope in the near future more emphasis can be put on establishing a wide reaching public transportation system!

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