Why Do Conservatives Hate High-Speed Rail? 5 Reasons Right-Wingers Are Sabotaging Public Transportation Projects
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More money and a denser population in cities seems like a recipe for more progressive voters. And as if to prove this point, apparently some governors are perfectly happy with spending money on high-speed rail as long as it doesn't do anything to help cities that oppose them—Scott Walker first rejected federal funds for a rail project that would connect Milwaukee to Madison, and then requested money instead for a train from Milwaukee to Chicago.
As Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO noted, “So, apparently Walker supports the concept of high-speed rail and doesn’t mind federal funds, as long as it doesn’t help get people—especially those pesky protesters—quicker to Madison.”
5. High-speed rail will change our lifestyles—and we like them!
Conservatives who fear changes brought about by high-speed rail aren't wrong, of course, that transportation will change us. The shape of our cities and suburbs for the past 50 years or more has been largely because of transportation. Without cars, we'd never have had suburbs, let alone exurbs.
With Obama's stated goal of making high-speed rail accessible to 80 percent of the US population within 25 years, that probably means cities that look different than they do now. It'll be time to encourage urban density rather than suburban sprawl, shift away from cars, and create public transportation systems that make environmentally friendly transit accessible to all, regardless of income or social class.
James E. Moore II complained in the Los Angeles Times that cheap gasoline means that high-speed rail will never be able to compete with cars and planes, but this is a short-sighted plan even if he does pay lip service to the oxymoronic idea of burning gasoline and jet fuel “even more cleanly.” We need to move beyond small changes to our existing lifestyle and make investments in what our lifestyle will look like 50, 100 years from now.
Jon Rynn at New Deal 2.0 wrote:
“Building infrastructure is what governments do best. In fact, one could say that civilization started when the first governments constructed the irrigation and drainage systems that enabled agriculture to flourish. The United States, like every successful country, has a long and rich history of infrastructure building, without which the country would have very likely stayed poor. From canals like the Erie Canal before the Civil War, to the railroads after, from the dams that even conservative Republicans like Calvin Coolidge initiated, to the WPA that built libraries, schools, airports, roads, and other structures in virtually every town, to the Interstate Highway System championed by a Republican president, the United States has kept itself at the forefront of the global economy by making the building of transportation, energy, communications, water, education, and other systems the foundation of prosperity.”
Our society will be fundamentally shaped by a major change in our transportation and infrastructure like a new high-speed rail system. And that's not a bad thing, as we face down global climate change as well as bedrock changes in our economic system.
It would be a bad thing, though, if conservative politicians and fearful voters shut down innovative technologies that could help us live more sustainably and justify their refusal to change by claiming concern for spending. The lack of willingness to invest in forward-looking programs like high-speed rail shows the utter lack of positive ideas at the base of today's Republican party.
Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.