Vacation version: China for a day
China is presenting grave challenges to democracy, but boy, they have an amazing train system
I had a lot of tough things to say about China in my last post. But during my vacation this week, I had occasion to recall my amazement and envy of China’s nationwide network of high speed rail when I lived there in 2018. As this photo shows, the trains reach speeds of over 300 km/hr (186 mi/hr). Amtrak’s “premiere” service - the Acela train on the northeast corridor makes the trip from New York to Washington in about 3 hours - a pathetic average of about 75 mph (perhaps a tad faster if you consider time at stops). Imagine how great it would be if you travel the 226 miles from NY to DC in less than an hour!
I thought about this on vacation this week traveling from NY to Rhode Island on Amtrak’s pathetic clunker regular service - averaging 44 mph over the course of the trip including stops. And then 2/3rds of the way we stopped and were informed that there was a disabled Acela train ahead of us. After waiting 20 minutes, we had to pull up to the Acela and become the “rescue train” for the stranded passengers. Our 160 mile journey took 4.5 hours.
Tom Friedman has often opined how nice it would be to be “China for one day” and overcome the messiness and dysfunction of our democracy to efficiently and effectively address some of the huge challenges we are facing. I have no fondness for China’s system of government, but it sure would be nice to have China’s rail transport system.
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