There is also growing research that younger generations do not relate to the automobile as enabling "freedom." Instead, their electronic and social media devices--whether a smart phone, small lap top computer, music player, etc.--provide an alternate means for self expression and being free to do what they want. In the United States, kilometers driven by 18-34 year olds is declining, and this is likely the case in Canada as well (Neff, 2010). Younger generations seem to have less interest in automotive use, making apartment living in dense, walkable and transit-oriented urban areas a more natural fit for their lifestyles.
Are we sticking our heads in the sand, ignoring the immense economic benefits of high-speed rail — the potential, says Secretary LaHood, “to transform transportation in America, much like the Interstate Highway system did under President Eisenhower”? And that at a very time when interest rates for capital borrowing are at an historic low, and unemployment at record post-World War II highs?
The communications director for California’s outgoing governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, notes trenchantly of current GOP candidate Meg Whitman’s opposition to high-speed rail funding: “To say ‘now is not the time’ shows a very narrow vision.”
The reluctant Republican governor candidates should tour the stunning railway pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. It’s a powerful high-tech vision of rapid rails undergirding and advancing the economy of our new and major international competitor. True, China lacks personal liberties or environmental protections to match ours. But the new American patriotism has to look reality in the face: it’s primarily economics, not military power, that will determine the wealth and welfare of nations in this century. It should be intolerable to think we’ll accept second-class status.