Americans in China have been known to complain a bit about how China doesn't measure up to the good ol' U.S. of A. In many respects this crew of whingers has a point, but in other aspects China is passing up my home country. Case in point: the rail system.
Around the New Year I was in California, and wanted to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I had waited too long to get a reasonably priced plane ticket and thought, "No problem, I'll just catch a train, zip up the coast and be in the Bay Area in a few hours."
Logging onto the Amtrak website, I found that the only direct train between L.A. and San Francisco (actually nearby Oakland) takes 11 hours and 17 minutes. And that's if you're lucky enough to catch the direct train. Most options require you to take a three-hour busride to the valley town of Bakersfield, then transfer to a train there. In other words, if you need to go L.A. to S.F. at the last minute, and can't waste a whole day, you really have no choice but to plunk down $150 for a fuel guzzling flight.
Contrast my California experience with my October Holiday experience in China. Returning to Beijing from the sea side town of Qingdao (famous for the beer), I caught the new bullet train and was back in Beijing in less than six hours, topping speeds of 200 km/hr (120m/hr) much of the time.
My train from Qingdao to Beijing
Qingdao to Beijing is 830 km (515 miles) and takes 5+ hours. Los Angeles to San Francisco is 559 km (347 miles) and takes 11+ hours. Shandong province (home of Qingdao) has a per capita income of $3,250. California has a per capita income of $38,956. What is wrong with this picture?
But China is not satisfied with a rail system that already thoroughly kicks the ass of the U.S. rail system, so they are investing $41 billion into railways this year. And China is not satisfied with trains that go 200 km/hr so they are building a system that will travel at 300 km/hr.
Over in "green" California, high-speed train proponents in the legislature had to battle to get $21 million to continue studying a high speed train system in the state in 2007-2008. The "green" Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has repeatedly stalled putting a ballot measure to California voters to approve a high speed train system. So the state that is the 12th largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet has been stalled in the "feasibility study" stage for high-speed rail for over a decade.
Meanwhile, China has 16 high-speed rail projects, stretching 5,600 km, under construction, with more in the planning stages.
Wake up Californians. Step out of your Four-runners and put down your lattes. C'mon Arnold, Austria has high-speed rail... Hebei province has bloody high-speed rail. Why can't California?
Luke @ 19:52 | .(3902) |
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