By Ryan McGreal
Published March 12, 2009
While Canadian and American planners continue to kvetch over the supposed cultural obstacles to sustainable transportation infrastructure, other countries are getting on with the business of cutting over their systems.Spain, in particular, has made impressive strides in just a few short years
The Guardian reports that during the same period that Spanish domestic flights dropped 20 percent last year, ridership on its new high-speed rail line between Barcelona and Madrid grew 28 percent.
Travelling by high speed train produces only one-sixth the carbon as flying, costs less, and gets you there on time 99 percent of the time.
In before the predictable claim that Europe is compact and hence different:
In a country where big cities are often more than 500km (300 miles) apart, air travel has ruled supreme for more than 10 years. A year ago aircraft carried 72% of the 4.8 million long-distance passengers who travelled by air or rail. The figure is now down to 60%.
"The numbers will be equal within two years," said Josep Valls, a professor at the ESADE business school in Barcelona.
Two more lines just opened last week: from Barcelona to Malaga and from Barcelona to Seville. Construction is ongoing on lines linking Madrid with Valencia, Alicante, Basque and Galicia. As the Guardian notes, the Spanish government is committed to laying 10,000 km of track between now and 2020.
The goal is to bring 90 percent of Spaniards within 34 km of a station.
Now there's a country with a bold, achievable plan to modernize its transportation infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions even as it stimulates the economy through the current economic crisis.
Meanwhile, Canada is stuck with a scattershot, partisan budget geared far more to politicking than to sustainable development.