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View Poll Results: Should the US build or improve it's HSR network?
Yes 249 89.57%
No 29 10.43%
Voters: 278. You may not vote on this poll

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Old January 18th, 2010, 07:53 AM   #1101
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I revert to an earlier point of mine: during almost every major wave of consumer-directed innovation that I can remember (intra-industry innovation is a bit different) the Europeans have sat on their hands for quite a while. Cars in the 1920s? "Yeah, well. In America anything's possible..." Remote control televisions and mobile phones in the 1980s? "They are crazy, those Japanese..." Internet and GPS in the 1990s? "It's probably some underhand plot by Pentagon..." In Europe there was always an excuse for doing nothing, and if all other failed then the new technology was, somehow, "unadapted to European ways of doing things".
Actually you are wrong here on several levels. The Car was even invented in Europe, so it can never have been suffering from a "not invented here syndrome".
The differences in the way mobility devolved on both sides of the Atlantic can be best explained by geography.
When it comes to mobile phones Europe was ahead of the rest of the world most of the time too. The first mobile phones came on the market in Scandinavia. Japan later took the lead in gimmicks, and the US later developped a superior radio layer, that in the mean time Europe adopted for UMTS. But it's not as if Europe sat on its hands here.
Any institutional inertia in Europe is not caused by conservatisme, but more by the problems of getting 25+ countries to agree on something...
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Old January 18th, 2010, 07:59 AM   #1102
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Still, as a repeated visitor to US (my status at the moment), I have nothing to complain: parking fees in the most expensive area of US (Manhattan) are roughly the same what I'm extorted to pay in much smaller Dowtown Amsterdam, but every complain about that disappears when I fill up my rental car's gas tank.
A while ago, when oil peaked at 200$ a barrel gas went to above 4$ a Gallon in some places in the US. The low taxes on fuel make the price more variable, and commuters suddenly being confronted with a doubling of their gas bills were not happy.
In Europe gas prices are less sensitive to world oil prices, and european car drivers reacted to the high taxes on fuel by buying cars that consume less. So in the end the average European drivers spends as much on fuel as the average US Drivers. That is, when oil prices are low.
Once this financial crisis is over one can expect oil prices to go up again.
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Old January 18th, 2010, 10:34 AM   #1103
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A while ago, when oil peaked at 200$
JFYI, oil peaked at US$ 147 in 15/7/2008
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Old January 18th, 2010, 12:30 PM   #1104
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JFYI, oil peaked at US$ 147 in 15/7/2008
You're right. But nevertheless it caused much higher increases in gas prices at the pump in the US than in Europe, which meant that US motorists were hit much harder. That US cars consume more fuel than European ones only made it worse.
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Old January 18th, 2010, 04:47 PM   #1105
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Even with the n-fold price increase, and even taking into account far higher fuel comsuption of American cars, neither American or Canadians ever paid nothing close like the price of gas in France, Italy or Germany.

Fuel duties and excise taxes in Europe used to be a percentage of the price. After the price shocks of the late 70's, oil started cumbling down, but government didn't want to lose those taxes in a time of budget deficits, inflation etc. So, most European government changed those excises, taxes and duties from a % of price to a fixed ammount per volume, calorific unit or btu-equivalent. If oil prices dropped to under US$ 30/barrel, we wouldn't see nothing like € 0,40/liter diesel prices, maybe in Spain and some East European countries.

But taking into consideration that Europeans have been ripped off by outrageously high fuel taxes (like gas was tobbaco), your reasoning would ammount do say that is better being ripped off all the time because when an additional "rip" (oil skyrocketing to US$ 150, for instance), drivers are already used to be robbed at the gas pump so it is just a tip to the thief (the State). Sure, Americans feel the hit more because gas expenses are usually small item on their households' budget, while in Europe it can go high quickly.
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Old January 18th, 2010, 04:54 PM   #1106
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Even with the n-fold price increase, and even taking into account far higher fuel comsuption of American cars, neither American or Canadians ever paid nothing close like the price of gas in France, Italy or Germany.
Not per litre or per gallon, but what about "per km driven"

Quote:
But taking into consideration that Europeans have been ripped off by outrageously high fuel taxes (like gas was tobbaco), your reasoning would ammount do say that is better being ripped off all the time because when an additional "rip" (oil skyrocketing to US$ 150, for instance), drivers are already used to be robbed at the gas pump so it is just a tip to the thief (the State). Sure, Americans feel the hit more because gas expenses are usually small item on their households' budget, while in Europe it can go high quickly.
Gas isn't a higher household budget item in Europe than it is in the States. It is probably one that varies less.
And whether the heigher taxes is a "rip off" is debatable. Building and maintaining roads costs money too.
In the end because Europeans buy cars that are more economical they end up with about the same fuel budget, but less of it goes to maintaining Oil Sheiks' palaces...
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Old January 18th, 2010, 06:57 PM   #1107
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Heres a 130mph Section of the NEC in New Jersey form a Bridge, note the switches haven't been replaced yet. Future plans call form Catenary replacement and increased speeds along the entire NEC south of Newark to 190mph. Also more Tracks will be added and new bridges replaced.












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Old January 18th, 2010, 09:09 PM   #1108
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Suburbanist, you said you didn't want to discus fuel prices here, but since you continued on the topic, I'd like to point out that there are solid economic (as in; non ethical, environmental or coloured) reasons for a high tax to cover the full economic cost of using a car. It's been argued that north-western European fuel prices represent these full costs better, and that any fuel price below this level effectively subsidises the use of cars. Also there are significant economic reasons why it is not only prudent, but actually fair to use the gas tax to subsidise public transit.

I'd be more than happy to expand on this, if you want me to, or you can just take my word for it and stop complaining.
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 09:51 PM   #1109
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Even with the n-fold price increase, and even taking into account far higher fuel comsuption of American cars, neither American or Canadians ever paid nothing close like the price of gas in France, Italy or Germany.

Fuel duties and excise taxes in Europe used to be a percentage of the price. After the price shocks of the late 70's, oil started cumbling down, but government didn't want to lose those taxes in a time of budget deficits, inflation etc. So, most European government changed those excises, taxes and duties from a % of price to a fixed ammount per volume, calorific unit or btu-equivalent. If oil prices dropped to under US$ 30/barrel, we wouldn't see nothing like € 0,40/liter diesel prices, maybe in Spain and some East European countries.

But taking into consideration that Europeans have been ripped off by outrageously high fuel taxes (like gas was tobbaco), your reasoning would ammount do say that is better being ripped off all the time because when an additional "rip" (oil skyrocketing to US$ 150, for instance), drivers are already used to be robbed at the gas pump so it is just a tip to the thief (the State). Sure, Americans feel the hit more because gas expenses are usually small item on their households' budget, while in Europe it can go high quickly.
I don't think you realize that transit users contribute to less congestion on the road. I'm from Seattle, Washington, and we have a total of 15 miles of rail transit, which is utterly embrassing for a city this size. Of course, we're also the nation's number one most congested city.

I think you are taking for granted Europe's large network of rail public transportation and its effects on you as a driver. What's London's daily ridership on the tube? Something like 3 million? Imagine squeezing 3 million cars (yes one-car-per-commuter is common in the U.S.) onto the M25, M1, M3, M4, and M11 motorway in Britain. Oh and keep in mind that I-5 in Seattle only handles 240,000 motorists per day and it's already a parking lot.

So I really have a hard time seeing why you would be complaining about taxes, since you are essentially paying for less congestion. I'm not saying that congestion doesn't happen, but transit does quite a bit to control it.

And also, don't forget that the U.S. has an undermaintained road infrastructure mainly due to the lack of funds. Do these pictures in Washington State say something about the level and quality of roadway maintenance?







That highway is 40 years old and there still isn't funding to replace it. If you live in the U.S., you would understand that our taxes are unreasonably low and absolutely inadequate to take care of what we have. Look at the big picture, not just what's around you.

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Old January 23rd, 2010, 11:52 PM   #1110
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It's always a trade-off: in Western Europe, average taxation as a proportion of GDP is 44% of GDP, while in US it is less than 26%. For a variety of reasons, sociological, cultural and historical, such high taxation levels would never be tolerated by American mainstream voters. If that were to happen, the Tea Party would long before seize control of the Congress. So, US will have to find a different way to invest in expensive high-speed rail, not necessarily a pure private enterprise, but some arrangement where most of money do not come from tax revenues.

Something that could work would be development and windfall taxes charged from capital gains collected from landlords whose estates are subject to above-average valuation due to HSR services being provided nearby. If, for instance, instead of focusing on downtown stations, HSR projects contemplate major hubs in (now) undepeveloped land that could be turned into massive high-hise neighborhoods, that would be feasible. Other solution might be integrate HSR major hubs with major airports (something the "Average Joe" uses), to gather public support, with spur lines to inner cities.

A major flaw in the "selling" of HSR to American taxpayers is that most projects deal with providing service linked to "renovation" or "revival" projects of run-down station areas and downtowns, when it should be far more lucrative to build lines avoiding densely constructed areas and putting stations near interstates to where people can drive easily and where high-hise development can take place. In some cities, this could be linked to projects to definitively "shut down" some run-down inner city areas who could enter a planned shrinkage program as in the 60's, instead of spending millions in ailling areas - but that is a tough sell to hard-core "revitalize is good, develop farmland is bad" crowd.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 01:07 AM   #1111
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Suburbanist, the real "flaw" is you. Who do you think you are, trying to tell how and where people should live on both sides of the Atlantic? All your blabbings are about how the world should adopt itself to the way you would like to live.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 01:32 AM   #1112
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I'm trying to discuss things under a multidisciplinar approach. Disqualifying the others you are talking with is very uncool. I have no pretension to dictate how people should live, only things I have are my votes (in multiple countries as I have multiple nationalities with corresponding voting rights) and my words. You don't have to agree with me, you don't even have any obligation to counterargument my propositions, but "who you think you are" is really, definitivelly, not a cool way to engage in healthy discussions whatever subjects are involved.

As for my anti-transit personal preference, it is stated on my signature, and there is nothing wrong with it. I'm just amused that some people react to it like it was almost imoral, like if it were being on the "wrong" side.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 01:50 AM   #1113
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Your preference isn't wrong. It's just faith-based on a topic that should be fact-based. It's a very American thing to believe in, even if you're European. Now notice that I used the word believe.

The problem with the U.S. is that we have shifted our minds to a belief system, rather than a fact-based system.

The fact is that more cars lead to congestion. The fact is that any public transportation line has a higher capacity than highways. The fact is that highways cost more to maintain per capita than transit. The fact is that roads do not pay for themselves.

But Americans are always willing to pretend that those facts don't exist, as if our car culture is some sort of religion. Our politics, and therefore the direction of our country, now acts on a faith-based system. The only thing I wish for right now is that the U.S. would shed its short-term memory and conservative belief-oriented foundation and focus on cold hard facts.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 03:26 AM   #1114
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Please don´t bring up morality. Buried beneath the fountain of your words is the simple message: "I think driving is the best lifestyle for the world." You "multiple" nationalities have nothing to do with this discussion. There is nothing wrong with people who want to drive badly at all; they just have to pay the very high price of driving without all the nonstop complaining.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 08:49 AM   #1115
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The fact is that more cars lead to congestion. The fact is that any public transportation line has a higher capacity than highways. The fact is that highways cost more to maintain per capita than transit. The fact is that roads do not pay for themselves.

But Americans are always willing to pretend that those facts don't exist, as if our car culture is some sort of religion. Our politics, and therefore the direction of our country, now acts on a faith-based system. The only thing I wish for right now is that the U.S. would shed its short-term memory and conservative belief-oriented foundation and focus on cold hard facts.
Your walking a very fine line in calling out a lack of facts, there are few things that are fact in this world. There is nothing wrong with cars, FACT says they are cheaper than high-speed rail. That's a fact, you can't dispute it. High-speed rail would never be profitable in most parts of the country today. I agree regular old mass transit is needed in many places, but even that could be stretching it. There is nothing wrong with cars, I'm pretty sure building roads and using gas is still cheaper than a solid train network. Until that changes its unlikely the US will embrace rail travel. The US will probably move on to the next phase eventually, nearly leap-froging rail travel altogether.

There are other advantages to having a car too, like not having to travel with other people, the ability to carry more things around, and easy access to wherever you’re going. It's not all negative like you make it out to be. You really need to think outside the box, that lies in America's success. The fact that we already have a system in place...well it doesn’t really make sense to go overboard building something else, when we don't have the population density to use it.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 09:28 AM   #1116
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Oh I love my car, don't get me wrong. It's my daily commute. I'm not anti-car, in fact I'm quite the opposite. I was a journalist for a car-enthusiast site autosavant.com.

What I'm going to propose though is a multi-mode transportation system. But I highly doubt it can be disputed that owning a car does cost more than taking rail for commutes (the purchase of the car, gas, insurance, not to mention replacing the car every 8 years or so).

A monthly pass for transit (where I live at least) is less than $50.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 09:35 AM   #1117
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Your walking a very fine line in calling out a lack of facts, there are few things that are fact in this world. There is nothing wrong with cars, FACT says they are cheaper than high-speed rail. That's a fact, you can't dispute it. High-speed rail would never be profitable in most parts of the country today. I agree regular old mass transit is needed in many places, but even that could be stretching it. There is nothing wrong with cars, I'm pretty sure building roads and using gas is still cheaper than a solid train network. Until that changes its unlikely the US will embrace rail travel. The US will probably move on to the next phase eventually, nearly leap-froging rail travel altogether.

There are other advantages to having a car too, like not having to travel with other people, the ability to carry more things around, and easy access to wherever you’re going. It's not all negative like you make it out to be. You really need to think outside the box, that lies in America's success. The fact that we already have a system in place...well it doesn’t really make sense to go overboard building something else, when we don't have the population density to use it.
Your Wrong , Mass Transit is making a comeback. The Fact is your state caused this whole mess to begin with, and most states are being smart and building Rail. Almost every state and province has a 2030 or 2050 plan, most include 2000 miles of New Passenger Rail. Cars will become bad forms of Mobility of 90% of Urban areas by 2025. So Mass Transit & High Speed Rail is needed and i beleave it will happen one day. Your Ignorance is starting to become not welcomed here and i suggest you change your tone or go and form ur own website because the ppl of SSC are smart thinkers and think ahead and not to the past.

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Old January 24th, 2010, 03:06 PM   #1118
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Cars will become bad forms of Mobility of 90% of Urban areas by 2025. So Mass Transit & High Speed Rail is needed and i beleave it will happen one day. Your Ignorance is starting to become not welcomed here and i suggest you change your tone or go and form ur own website because the ppl of SSC are smart thinkers and think ahead and not to the past.

~Corey
I'll skip the part that recommends people "leaving this forum", it is quite uneducated and disrespectful. According to US Census Bureau, 52% of American population live in suburbs. Average area of newly built houses is well above 2000 ft. No matter how gentrified a given area becomes, it is a fact that most households in US comprises at least one parent and one children living together.

So, unless you are thinking that Americans will give up on their well-chosen suburban lifestyle, and unelss suburban-style developments were stopped nationwide tonight, there is no way that in 15 years we would see "90% of Urban areas" becoming unwelcoming of cars.

Because suburbs and mass-transit cannot coexist without heavily subzidiation, and because suburbs are the choice of living for a majority of American households (and a majority that have far more political clout than the mostly poorers that rely on transit, save for a handful of cities), transit will just not get such a pervasive expansion in US, I'd say.

Shifting from car commuting to transit commuting is relatively easy if a comfortable and stigma-free system (i.e., trams or nice trains, not buses associated wiht illegal imigrants, homelessness and unruly people) exists. Reducing car ownership from 3 or 2 vehicles to 1 per household is somehow feasbile if work commuting could be done by transit, but giving up cars altogether just won't happen - you will need cars to buy huge volumes and appliances, to travel with your kids, to avoid freezing in train station during winter storms, to rush to an ER, to vitist the countryside or state parks etc..

However, the hardest change would be to change from suburban-style housing to inner-city dwelling costing the triple an having one third of space. Singles, young high-earning couples can afford fancy studios, whilst midde-class families with 2 children who need to provide them and save for college cannot. I'd say love for space, and unwillingness to trade big houses for cramped apartments where parents need to share bathrooms with their children etc., will prevent massive transit expansion in US to a greater extent than car-loving culture.

Cars exist and are abundant in any wealthy country, even if they are smaller and far less used to commute like in Germany or Switzerland. Cars do not depend on suburbs to be an attractive product, but suburbs cannot exist as they are today, quiet, peaceful and offering high levels of privacy with plenty of parks, gardens, pools and so on, without massive use of car or equivalent vehicles (self-driven, highly flexible, small scale).

If a comprehensive and extense transity system were to be built, the bill would start increasing heavily. One thing is to pass a ballot increasing sales tax by 0.6% to fund projects like the T-Rex in Denver.

Other situation is presenting the public with a billionaire bill to fund a system that is never expected to break even if it is a system designed to cater efficiently to the suburban housing Americans love. I'm willing to wait a metro area try such ballots like "15% sales tax increase and you'll get a tram every 15 minutes whithin 1500 ft of your house Mon-Fri 6AM-9PM".

As for high-speed rail, such projects don't cater to comutters like light rail. HSR is a completely different thing, meant to provide medium-distance fast and convenient travel. Some people commute by air daily, some people would commute by high-speed train, but they are costly and those "passes" sold in Europe do not recover much more than marginal costs for their holders, at most.

I think some HS projects will go on, truly HS - not improved CSX tracks to allow 120 mph trains -, but I'm kind of skeptical that taxpayers will quietly support massive investments whose opration would never be expected to break even.

Anyhow, it will be interesting to see what happen. In Italy, for instance, the massive HSR bill was footed only after another decent project for highway enlargment and expansion got the go-ahead, even if as tollways.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 06:02 PM   #1119
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So, unless you are thinking that Americans will give up on their well-chosen suburban lifestyle, and unelss suburban-style developments were stopped nationwide tonight, there is no way that in 15 years we would see "90% of Urban areas" becoming unwelcoming of cars.

Because suburbs and mass-transit cannot coexist without heavily subzidiation, and because suburbs are the choice of living for a majority of American households (and a majority that have far more political clout than the mostly poorers that rely on transit, save for a handful of cities), transit will just not get such a pervasive expansion in US, I'd say.

Shifting from car commuting to transit commuting is relatively easy if a comfortable and stigma-free system (i.e., trams or nice trains, not buses associated wiht illegal imigrants, homelessness and unruly people) exists. Reducing car ownership from 3 or 2 vehicles to 1 per household is somehow feasbile if work commuting could be done by transit, but giving up cars altogether just won't happen - you will need cars to buy huge volumes and appliances, to travel with your kids, to avoid freezing in train station during winter storms, to rush to an ER, to vitist the countryside or state parks etc..

However, the hardest change would be to change from suburban-style housing to inner-city dwelling costing the triple an having one third of space. Singles, young high-earning couples can afford fancy studios, whilst midde-class families with 2 children who need to provide them and save for college cannot. I'd say love for space, and unwillingness to trade big houses for cramped apartments where parents need to share bathrooms with their children etc., will prevent massive transit expansion in US to a greater extent than car-loving culture.

Cars exist and are abundant in any wealthy country, even if they are smaller and far less used to commute like in Germany or Switzerland. Cars do not depend on suburbs to be an attractive product, but suburbs cannot exist as they are today, quiet, peaceful and offering high levels of privacy with plenty of parks, gardens, pools and so on, without massive use of car or equivalent vehicles (self-driven, highly flexible, small scale).

If a comprehensive and extense transity system were to be built, the bill would start increasing heavily. One thing is to pass a ballot increasing sales tax by 0.6% to fund projects like the T-Rex in Denver.

Other situation is presenting the public with a billionaire bill to fund a system that is never expected to break even if it is a system designed to cater efficiently to the suburban housing Americans love. I'm willing to wait a metro area try such ballots like "15% sales tax increase and you'll get a tram every 15 minutes whithin 1500 ft of your house Mon-Fri 6AM-9PM".
Try that again?
The greater area of Tokyo(Saitama, Chiba and, Yokohama with a radius of about 60Km from Tokyo central station) is one big suburb with a population of about 40 million in which 90%+ commuting to Tokyo by train.
The train operators are mostly private and making big profit each year without receiving subsidy from the government.
Osaka and Nagoya are mostly in the same situation.
Try doing some more research before saying it is IMPOSSIBLE.
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Old January 24th, 2010, 06:42 PM   #1120
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So, unless you are thinking that Americans will give up on their well-chosen suburban lifestyle, and unelss suburban-style developments were stopped nationwide tonight, there is no way that in 15 years we would see "90% of Urban areas" becoming unwelcoming of cars.

...

Cars exist and are abundant in any wealthy country, even if they are smaller and far less used to commute like in Germany or Switzerland. Cars do not depend on suburbs to be an attractive product, but suburbs cannot exist as they are today, quiet, peaceful and offering high levels of privacy with plenty of parks, gardens, pools and so on, without massive use of car or equivalent vehicles (self-driven, highly flexible, small scale).

...

If a comprehensive and extense transity system were to be built, the bill would start increasing heavily. One thing is to pass a ballot increasing sales tax by 0.6% to fund projects like the T-Rex in Denver.

...

As for high-speed rail, such projects don't cater to comutters like light rail. HSR is a completely different thing, meant to provide medium-distance fast and convenient travel. Some people commute by air daily, some people would commute by high-speed train, but they are costly and those "passes" sold in Europe do not recover much more than marginal costs for their holders, at most.

...

Anyhow, it will be interesting to see what happen. In Italy, for instance, the massive HSR bill was footed only after another decent project for highway enlargment and expansion got the go-ahead, even if as tollways.


Exactly, "try that again."

Define "urban" areas.

Germans are very used to/willing to commute. Just do not misinterpret Germans´ unwillingness to move away from their birthplaces as their unwillingness to commute. Many German families with children are "one-car" families.

"Convenience" alone does not make car attractive to many people in "wealthy" countries.

You describe 0.6% increase of sales tax as massive tax increase?

In fact, many airlines sell passes to multinational corporations.

Indeed, it is very interesting to see how Americans change their lifestyles, as people and governments in most countries around the world try all they can to prevent cars from becoming the only available transport options in their lives.

Please do not make your own news in order to justify your claim on how flawless cars are. I know for a fact that Sweden reduces highway lanes in order to build more railway tracks.

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