July 18 2011

How to Increase Rail and Train Use: Restructuring United States Transportation

Ever since the United States gave the bulk of their transportation duties to the highway system, with heavy subsidies, rail transportation has become comparatively expensive. For all others uses, besides long distance industrial uses, the highway has taken the reigns.

In the early 20th century, not long after this dominion, it was revealed to Americans that owning his or her own home was not only a right, but also a responsibility to liberty. This became part of the “American Dream,” and it was spread far and wide with the help of the single occupancy automobile and later, the GI Bill. A new philosophical paradigm, the suburban home and sprawl, changed the habitation structure of the country to one of a very disperse nature.

This rapid and sparse method of development is not necessarily a bad thing for nation building. However, for rail travel it was death. Highways were unfairly subsidized and suburban development made rail travel rather inefficient. Even though rail travel can transport much larger loads, longer distances, and for less, structural suburbanization in America made it a very tough sell.

Fast forward to today; the year 2011.

Oil prices are on the rise. This rise reflects a combination of economic normalization and a dwindling supply, thus the rise will not stop. Even with the use of subsidies, the suburbs are fast becoming unfeasible. The people who live here are screaming out for an alternative to the currently oppressive cost of travel.

Rail is the much-needed alternative to the automobile. The infrastructure has been neglected for so long that large parts are overgrown with vegetation and can only support low-speed transit, but there is also the issue of density. The denser an area is, the more efficient trains become. But even if it were inefficient in some areas, rail travel is far from prohibitively expensive. If the vast subsidies given to highways, oil, and suburbanization were given to rail travel, it would become competitive. Who knows, it may so much so that it would become “the way,” and diminish the power of the oil and automobile lobbies.

If architects and civil engineers designed “as if” efficient transportation was a matter of economic security, we would end our structural dependence on foreign oil one railcar at a time.

Should we re-envision our structural future with a more intelligent infrastructure? Are there any transportation methods more efficient than trains? Please respond with your thoughts.

Jeff P Jilek

Jeff Jilek has earned a B.S. in Architecture with a Minor in City & Regional Planning from the Ohio State University. He has been involved with architecture since his junior year of High School when he attended Eastland Career Center’s Architecture program. Sustainable Design is something that he is most interested in but also has taken many college level courses in psychology, political science, and philosophy. He will be attends Arizona State University for continuing education. He is pursuing both his M.B.A and Master of Architecture degrees. He blogged about pertinent issues in design and how design relates to global dynamics, culture, and economy.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011 at 5:37 pm and is filed under Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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