SOTU gives glimpse of tomorrow’s rail, but what about transit today?

Posted on January 26, 2011 by Nicole Schlosser

Looking to the future and making exciting, inspirational and, maybe, even sometimes grandiose claims of what can be and the “big things” we are capable of when we all work together, is part and parcel of almost every State of the Union Address, and it seems we Americans are more than willing to eat it up nearly every time.

Having said that, I thought President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night was great. I liked his emphasis on innovation as a crucial tool for making the U.S. more competitive. I was glad to hear that he is calling for Congress to cut the “billions in taxpayer dollars” our government hands out to oil companies. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own,” he quipped. “So, instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

And, he did point out that, being the nation that “built the transcontinental railroad; brought electricity to rural communities; and constructed the interstate highway system, which created jobs not by just laying down tracks or pavement” but by enabling businesses to “open near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp,” the U.S. has continued its progress “rebuilding for the 21st century” by replacing our well-worn roads and bridges.

And, he included high-speed rail in that plan. “Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you [to] go places in half the time it takes to travel by car,” he said. “For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down.” 

So, public transportation was cited as an important piece of tomorrow’s thrilling innovations, which will make us more successful and competitive. And, the cameras trained on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for a few seconds, which was also exciting.

“Hey, that’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood!” I got to say to my husband, before the caption came up, saying who he was. “I write about that guy!”

Still, as happy as I was with the high-speed rail plug, and all the other “big things” we will do in the future, I was left wondering about the now. What about public transportation right this minute and its need for support, with so many states still struggling and unemployment still sinking ridership in many places? I wish that a few words could have been afforded for supporting our existing transit system.

What do you think?

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