Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Off topic: Or is it? Trains... Yes, Trains!

Having recently traveled in Germany (a country with a wonderfully developed public transportation network; including an excellent train network), and having spent time with my 4 year old boy (who LOVES trains), I am convinced that trains are the answer to much of what ails us as a society. I'm dead serious. We are a society run amock with cars. Cars are an extremely inefficient, polluting and dangerous way to get around compared to trains. I say this at the risk (admittedly astronomically small) that I may suffer economic losses associated with a massive societal transformation toward mass transit over personal automobiles. Why? Well, because a good deal of my earnings have to do with driving; mostly driving under the influence of intoxicants; principally alcohol. If mass transit were competent to get people home after a night out where they may have tipped at least one too many, then I would suffer a serious economic hit. However, I would be happy to if it meant that our society were to do what Western Europe and parts of Asia have done already; pour money into public transportation and leave our domestic auto industry to either adapt themselves to that, or go bankrupt.
The benefits of a conversion to mass transit over automobiles would be limitless. Less dependence on foreign oil (clearly), less air pollution (clearly), fewer traffic fatalities (clearly), incerased productivity (particularly in today's society where work can get done with a PDA or laptop; not while driving an automobile), and, perhaps, better relations among divergent economic and ethnic groups (as is seen in large cities) due to the fact that people from all walks of life sit and stand side by side, as equals, in close quarters on trains and buses instead of, as here in California, whizzing by one another in their cocoons, never to share space, or a conversation, with someone who is not just like them. What's the downside? Those who love cars and driving would still have the opportunity to do so, in fact the roads would be less congested. Support all bond measures and politicians that move us, and our public funds, in favor of mass transit. We'll be better for it.