‘Amtrak Joe’, Pete Buttigieg and America’s train revolution

This US president and his Transportation Secretary are driving real change
America wants to lead the high-speed rail club. Map from the US High Speed Rail Association

It’s hard to think of America’s coming train revolution (click here and here for my blogs on that) without alighting on the Great Man Theory of History. Which is to say individuals in charge of something – a country, a project –  can affect the course of history for good or bad on account of their character, inclinations and behaviour.

Had ‘Amtrak Joe’ not been US president at this point of time, would America’s massive planned investment in its trains ever been seriously contemplated?

Had Pete Buttigieg not been Mr Biden’s Transportation Secretary, would the blue skies thinking have translated into action?

The map from the US High Speed Rail Association shows the extent of the change that’s coming.

What’s planned is more than infrastructural change. It’s a plan for shift of mindset. America has been car-dominated for decades with hundreds of billions spent to build the Interstate Highway System in the 20th century. The rise of the automobile, the push to build the highways system and air travel all but killed off the passenger rail industry, which had thus far thrived for a century.

Enter Mr Buttigieg, who has something of a track record of new thinking on transportation. When he was mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he worked to change the city’s downtown to focus on pedestrians and cyclists, rather than motorists. Now he’s brought that focus onto the broader national stage.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac

Also read:

‘Amtrak Joe’ will propel America’s trains into the 21st century

America’s train network is preparing for a high-speed future

Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited…American trains are grand