We Need High-Speed Rail

By Antonio Caceres, Staff Writer

U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, recently tweeted an article about Gen Z and their dream of a high-speed rail system. I, too, share these dreams of quick and accessible transportation. The United States was once considered a leader in infrastructure. However, the public works projects of the New Deal era have long passed. The Democratic Party has a new opportunity to relive that golden age and bring this country’s transportation into the 21st century. 


In the eighth grade, I took a trip to Northern Italy and Southern France with my school. I learned a lot about art and architecture and enjoyed amazing food, of course. I was also struck by the public transportation system that was not only efficient but beautiful. On a particular day of our trip, we visited Cinque Terre, a region of the Italian Riviera that had five colorful villages on its coast. There was a high-speed train that we took that stopped at each village. The ride was picturesque and felt so smooth I still remember it vividly. 


Today, Europe and Asia lead the way in railway innovation. Whereas in the United States, and especially in California, the average American has hardly even stepped foot on an Amtrak. The domination of cars pushed the U.S. to shift investment from railways to highways, to varying degrees of success. The consequences of this change have become increasingly relevant as we grapple with the effects of climate change. Car emissions are one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the coming years, electric cars will become more prevalent but a revitalization of our railways would speed up the process of abandoning fossil fuels. 


American public transportation already exists and is a vital part of many people’s lives, particularly in cities. However, to those living beyond the cities, a car is the only alternative. The Amtrak and MetroLink are both wonderful experiences that I have enjoyed in the past. Yet they are more for leisure and cannot compare to the efficiency of a car. High-speed trains would actually be useful to the average person, especially to communities like the Antelope Valley that house many workers who commute to Los Angeles for work.


California has had a disappointing start to revitalizing its public transportation. When Gavin Newsom was running for governor in 2018, one of his major plans was for a high-speed railway that would travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just a few hours. The plan ran into countless regulation issues and the cost only continued to balloon until it was scaled back to only include a line through Central California, a project that would still take years and millions of dollars. As President Biden begins negotiations for a new infrastructure bill, hopefully, the administration will set the foundation for a vibrant high-speed rail system for future generations.