If you want to feel embarrassed to live in America, take a trip to Germany and ride its rail system. The trains are clean, safe, speedy, efficient, timely, and go to just about anywhere you would want to be. Contrast that with the American train system. Regular delays, train cars left over from the 1970s, limited options, and periodic crashes and accidents that could be easily preventable. Instead of subsidizing mass transit, Congress has gutted it.
Things aren’t any better on the state level. I rely on New Jersey Transit to get to work in New York City every day, like hundreds of thousands of others who will now be facing major fare hikes brought by Chris Christie, the same man who squashed a second tunnel beneath the Hudson. Now I hear that tracks in the main tunnel will have to be shut down to repair Sandy damage, meaning that I will soon be paying more money for a much shittier service.
This is all happening despite the fact that New Jersey’s economy is dependent on its transit links to New York, and also that the state has the second lowest gas tax in the country. Just like on the national level, mass transit is neglected in favor of the automobile. This is being done despite the contributions of cars to the greenhouse effect, the cost of expanding highways, and the high number of traffic fatalities.
I am increasingly convinced that our mass transit policy is the result of a kind of social insanity. Conservative politicians want to privatize Amtrak, effectively stripping it of all subsidies, saying that its cross country rail service does not “turn a profit.” That is an absurd statement when made in context of the billions and billions of dollars spent every year on highway construction and maintenance. Those highways have gutted neighborhoods in our cities, spew pollution, and see thousands die each year in automotive carnage. On what planet is the war on mass transit not a horribly stupid thing?