Last week when the Icelandic volcano erupted, making the skies un-navigable and canceling flights all over Europe, many travelers were able to quickly shift gears and get on a train.
There were, of course, many inter-continental trip delays and some small inconveniences. A relative of mine from L.A., who is on vacation in London right now, had his flight to Paris canceled, so he ended up not going. Serves him right for not taking my suggestion to use the Eurostar. Still, he had the option to get there if he had changed his mind.
I couldn’t help thinking, as I listened to the news, how much more convenient it would be not only if we had a similar rail system in the U.S. but also if we were more conditioned to actually use it. A recent NPR story talked about how many Europeans are big train-takers anyway and automatically flocked to the rail stations. Maybe I am being cynical, but I don’t see Americans doing that, at least not in most parts of the country.
I know that the Northeastern region of the U.S. is more set up for high-speed rail than the rest of the country, and that there are already several alternative and public transportation options many Americans just don’t think to use. Living in L.A. the past few years has really driven that point home for me.
Obviously, a U.S. high-speed rail and the attendant feeder transit systems won’t be in place anytime soon. I just hope that by the time they are, we Americans can change our thinking and actually take advantage of the system we will have invested in so heavily.