Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Trains are the way of the future


There are many reasons behind my support for high-speed government subsidized nationwide trains. But first and foremost, it’s because trains are cool. After boats, trains are the hippest form of transportation. Trains have hobos and Agatha Christie murder mysteries, Alfred Hitchcock sexual innuendo and that fun montage in “Slumdog Millionaire.” If you don’t understand the instant allure of trains, you’re probably just not cool enough, and you might be driving a hummer.

 Seriously though, trains are the answer to our uncool hummer problem in this country. Or more generally our car/CO2 emission/oil guzzling/dependence on the Middle East/traffic jam problem in this country. You know what’s better for the planet and the economy than 100 people driving cars? 100 people on a train. You know what’s faster than 100 people driving cars? 100 people on a train. You know what’s cheaper than 100 people on an airplane? Hopefully, after we get our super bicoastal American train network, it will be 100 people on a train. If it can be faster than a car and cheaper than an airplane, there will be a market.

On the subject of trains solving all our country’s problems, let’s get to the root of the issue. America is a big place. There are a lot of different people, different cultures, different opinions, and different prejudices. All too often I hear my fellow Massholes lamenting their association by nationality with the redneck conservative racist South. Or Southerners complaining about the stuck up, mean North. Or New Yorkers complaining about everywhere that isn’t New York. Or the entire East Coast’s inability to place Idaho on a map. All I’m saying is that we might be one country but we are far from united, and this is partially due to the complete lack of understanding we have for each other’s regional lives. Imagine if you could pay 20 bucks, hop on a train and be in Louisiana by dinnertime. I’d certainly see my sister, who goes to school down there, more than two or three times a year,.And think of the food! We would all probably travel a whole lot more simply because we could, and nothing promotes understanding like experiencing the foreign and different first hand. If Americans felt a bit more united, maybe we wouldn’t have so many problems passing legislation to help each other out. If people from across the country became faces instead of ideologies, it might be easier to agree to universal health care or nationwide educational reform.

As far as bringing people together, trains are also a great communal space.

Sometimes you get to talking to the person next to you on an airplane and it’s pleasant, but more often than not you begin to feel slightly trapped with them. Heaven forbid you become air sick. On a train you are free to roam about the cabin whenever you’d like. There are often tables with seating for four, and a dining car where you can grab a bite to eat. In theory there would be sleeper cars on these trains too. What a fantastic way to meet new people and structure community. The networking possibilities are endless. Having been a solo backpacker traveling in foreign countries, I can attest to how easy and fun it is to meet fellow travelers if the conditions are right. On a train ride from New York to Los Angeles you would meet people from a whole swath of America, and if you like them, that’s a whole bunch of couches you can crash on across the country.

It’s true that this endeavor is very expensive in a time when our country has no money. But a massive project like this would create a ton of jobs, both in the construction and the operation afterwards. I think the benefits outweigh the costs when it comes to repairing our fractured nation. It’s not a coincidence that Barack Obama mentioned the high-speed trains with the expansion of high-speed internet in his State of the Union Address. These things are about bringing Americans together, putting us on the same page, helping us to understand our differences and work through them.

I must admit, I have wanted a high-speed public train network in this country for a long time, long before Obama made it cool. But I honestly believe it could be a step in the right direction for so many of the issues this country faces today. It’s not just about getting where you’re going. It’s about the journey. Second to an epic sea voyage where a big white whale destroys your boat, train journeys are the most beautiful, intriguing and social way to experience a country. Perhaps it is the way we will relearn exactly what makes the United States of America so cool in the first place.

Victoria Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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    MichaelFeb 11, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Hey, if you want to pay for it, donate to a fund. This government clearly does not know how to be responsible with money, this is yet another example.