I am just going to come right out and say it. Europe, hands down, has America beaten, when it comes public transit.
That’s not to say our nation does not have roads out the wazoo, but our European cousins run circles around us, when it comes to getting people around quickly via mass transit.
More specifically, the train system throughout Europe is something to be envied.
Essentially, there are not too many major, mid-major, or even small cities on the European continent that cannot be reached by train.
That is largely due to the fact that, while there are many passenger rail companies in Europe, they all connect to each other to form a web that spreads its way across the continent.
Meanwhile, Americans have developed a love affair with a different type of web — a web of roadways that continually have to be widened, or extended, all in the unobtainable goal of trying to quench this country’s thirst for pavement. When you think about it, Americans’ love affair with roads is really a two-way needy relationship: We always need more road space to drive on, and the roads are always needing repairs.
Yeah, rail lines need to be repaired from time-to-time, too, but they do not have an uncanny knack for developing one pot hole after another. They don’t always need repaving –– that clogs up traffic –– at exactly the wrong times, like when you’re already running late and find yourself crawling along like a snail for miles, because the road has been narrowed to one lane.
Nor do they need re-striping.
That is why you do not see me comparing rail lines to needy, whiny girlfriends that always demand our undying devotion.
The high-speed Chunnel train, which travels under the English Channel, is a perfect example of how efficient Europe’s rail lines are. A person can get from London to Paris, or Brussels, in only a couple of hours. From either city, a person could go virtually anywhere in Europe via one of the other train companies, such as Eurostar (the gold star of European passenger rail companies, in my opinion), or Thalys.
In fact, I am planning to get across Europe next summer via trains, from Amsterdam, to Brussels, and on to London –– and back. It is a very easy way to travel.
Let’s say someone was in Italy, in Rome to be exact, and they wanted to go see the ancient ruins of Pompeii. They would, technically, not have to get on a bus (at least not for very long), or take a taxi or rent a car. Rome doesn’t have a widespread subway system because of all the ancient ruins buried under the city, and therefore relies on a very widespread bus system.
If a person was near one of Rome’s few subway lines, however, they could take a subway to the city’s central train terminal, where all of the high-speed trains come into, and go out of, the city.
So, to get to Pompeii (which is more than two hours away), the person would take a high-speed train to Napoli. Once they are at Napoli’s train terminal, they walk down a flight of stairs, and hop on the local commuter train, called the Circumvesuviana.
The Circumvesuviana would then take them on a short trip to a small, rustic train station that is 100 feet from the entrance to the ruins of Pompeii.
If they wanted to go further south, the Circumvesuviana will actually take them all the way down to Sorento.
And, you don’t have to worry about hitting pot holes along the way.
Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.