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Thread: American Rail Vs. European Rail

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    American Rail Vs. European Rail

    Does anyone here have an explanation as to why America's rail system is not as extensive/elaborate as that of Europe?
    I would find better (and quicker) rail service in America if I just hopped an empty grain car like some hobo.

    Example: If I wanted to travel from Texas to Miami by train I could not just zip across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and then Florida. I would first have to head north to Chicago, then onto Washington D.C. and eventually to Miami. This would mean traveling over 2600 miles. By comparison if a train were to travel across the southern states mentioned above it would only be around 1400 miles.

    With such a wonderful rail system in Europe why has America not followed suit and constructed something similar along those lines?

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    Higher population density & a more compact area would explain the extensive/elaborate system in Europe as compared to America. England & the Netherlands have 1,000 persons per sqm, Belgium 900, Germany 600. America has 100 per sqm in the lower 48 states. In 1950 it was 1/2 that amount. An extensive highway system was what was best for America back then & that highway system is why we have fewer miles of track then at the end of WWII.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronan View Post
    Does anyone here have an explanation as to why America's rail system is not as extensive/elaborate as that of Europe?
    I would find better (and quicker) rail service in America if I just hopped an empty grain car like some hobo.
    Yes!
    Airplanes!

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    They say airplanes replaced rail travel but I think they are also replacing bus travel.

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    trains

    IMO we Americans have a unhealthy love affair with our cars.

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    Here in the midwest there used to be a rail station in every town (towns meaning 100+ people)

    Most of these rails have been replaced by roads, being built right on top of them sometimes. Only 1 city in my region still has a railstation that I know of. Airports don't work well here, no reason to build one in the middle of a cornfield.

    Of course, Europe is smaller and more densely populated than America, so there would be more rails and they would be better linked.

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    Rail Transportation Networks

    It's called "Profit & Loss".

    The U.S. at one time had a tremendous rail network that covered the Continent. But, in order to understand the differences between the U.S. system and the Euro system lies in the method of organization that was used. In a nutshell, the U.S. system was based on private enterprise and the development of small private rail lines. These can be broken down into "personal transport" and "goods transport". During its Heyday, the "personal transport" system linked just about every major city and small suburban/rural towns along the rail network known as the old interurban system. With the development of the auto and the National Highway system, the "personal transport" system began its slow decline in ridership and use resulting in falling profits and eventual bankruptcy. These small private "personal transport" systems were either allowed to collapse or the larger goods transport rail systems bought out the rail line right of ways and the personal transport systems shut down. There was also the issue of the New Auto industry and Energy industry buying up "personal transport
    systems, either interurban or intraurban, and shutting them down so that the consumer was required to purchase their products. As for the "goods transport" systems, these are still viable and profitable today.

    As for the European Systems, these are heavily underwritten and subsidized by the various governments, National and Local. So the issue regarding "Profit and Loss" is not as important to the continued operation of these systems. At the same time, there is not the major issue regarding government subsidizing and regulating of business activity as there is here in the U.S.. So, their inter/intra urban rail systems were not allowed to collapse into bankruptcy, shutdown, disassembly and continue to work today.

    It's kind of like our anarchic and archaic Health Care system that the Government is trying to fix as of late.

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    We live in a society that consumes products with the speed of light. The need for such things as buses or eighteen-wheelers came into being when the quality of products were replaced with quantity. They needed faster, more efficient modes of transport to haul all of the mounting consumerist crap from one place to the next.

    (The decline of craftsmanship in this country is parallel to that of the decline of trains.)

    Another theory is that trains were replaced because they evoke a nostalgia for the past, when life seemed much less chaotic. In the big cities the same example can be found with the replacement of the quieter, quainter trolley with noisy subways and buses. Replacing trolleys with buses is about as tacky as slapping aluminum siding on the walls of an historic building.

    If people are given the option of a more stress-free way of conducting their life then they will begin to demand it for other stressful situations as well. For those who are raking in the cash it is better that people be kept wound up. The consumerists can only make their money if they keep upping the pace. Where this will stop is a scary prospect to contemplate.

    Also, you would think that they would have built up a rail system in this country as a way to spread immigrantion faster and over a wider area.

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    Last month Schwarzenegger went to China seeking possibilities for convincing Chinese to build high-speed rail in California. And to think that a century ago, USA together with Germany was factory of the planet...

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    Quote Originally Posted by wittwer View Post
    It's called "Profit & Loss".
    It is also called network effects. For a decentralised network the continued function of the network as a whole depends on the profitability of each and every individual part or sub-network. If some parts are unprofitable and go out of business that will reduce demand in other parts of the network and drive formerly profitable components out of business too. Thus a network that is on the whole profitable can be driven out of business if some parts of it are unprofitable and there are legal, financial, organisational or other impediments to e.g. horizontal integration or financial coordination.

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