Faster than a speeding bullet
Spain's high-speed rail ridership takes off.
Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 01:38 PM
Who doesn't love a train ride — particularly a high-speed, timely, luxurious one? Passengers across Spain have been flocking in droves aboard the AVE (Alta Velocidad Espanola), a new high-speed rail connection between Barcelona and Madrid, according to the New York Times. Just two years ago, according to the article, more than 5 million people took to the skies to make this annual journey, but so far this year, the number of “train travelers on the route surpassed fliers, and the trajectory is ever upward."
The passengers' changing preferences are part of a political movement to lower emissions throughout the European Union. The Spanish railway helps this movement along, according to the article, by making the greener option more comfortable and convenient than the alternatives. Plus, unlike America's Acela trains, the AVE travels at around 186 miles per hour and emit one quarter the CO2 per passenger compared to an airline trip. Speaking of the convenience and comfort of the train trip, the article quotes Carlos Martinez, a lawyer who frequents the route, saying, "Why would anyone fly?"
The AVE is unlike other commuter rail services in terms of the price tag. According to the Times, the AVE tickets cost about $200 each way and offer movies, computer portals, and good food among other amenities. People are choosing this option, not necessarily because it's the green thing to do, but because the AVE offers an attractive way to travel (minus the security hassles typically involved in air travel). Despite what the Times calls "cattle-car flights" at extremely low costs, airlines might not be able to compete with the ease and planet-friendly appeal of such rail travel.
The article mentions that the United States has set aside $8 billion in "federal stimulus money for investments in high-speed rail, but the money will go to a limited number of states." In comparison, "By 2020 half of Spain's $160 billion transport budget will go to rail travel," according to the story.