Mass transit is an investment in the future

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

For the typical American, using mass transit in China is like stepping a hundred years into the future.

Our national rail system, for example, once the pride, if not defining feature, of these United States has barely changed from nearly a hundred years ago. The trains themselves have changed little, if at all, for fifty years. The steel rails are a working relic.

Other nations, across Europe and much of Asia, have not waited.

China, for example has 34 metro systems in operation, including some of the largest and busiest subway networks in the world. Of the 12 largest metro networks in the world by length, seven are in China.

Shanghai has two major airports and two high speed rail lines to Hangzhou (a north and south line).   (1*)

Few of our airports have changed since the 1980s or ’90s.

Many of China’s train stations look like our best airports. And their airports look like something from another planet.

By Howchou [CC BY-SA 3.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons
By Howchou [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
The Port of Shanghai, by almost any measure, the largest and busiest in the world, and arguably the oldest, (being established in 1297) sets the bar for technology, speed and efficiency –

When they say high speed rail, they really mean it; some of their systems go up to 300 KPH (about 186 MPH).

There is no reason they have this and we don’t. We just haven’t put our attention (and our dollars) toward a transportation system that serves everyone.

My personal ideal regional transit system would be a high speed rail system from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland Oregon.

Instead of mass transit, our core transportational assumption is that everyone has – or should have – a car.

Besides not being universally affordable – or even preferable –  the reality of everyone having their own car is more like a transportation nightmare than a workable solution.

Any trip, however short, on I-5 should convince the casual observer that everyone around here does indeed have a car – and it is sitting in front of us with the brake lights on.

We all know that we  can do better than this. Some of us have seen – or experienced – the quiet, clean, fast and affordable transit systems of other countries.

Let your voice be heard as we literally build our future.


(1*)    Could you imagine two high speed lines running between Los Angeles and San Francisco?  Or Seattle and Portland?

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