President Obama recently announced a plan to develop and improve high-speed rail service between major American cities. The investment could transform the U.S. transportation system in the same way that the introduction of light rail changed local driving habits, reducing the number of individual vehicle miles traveled by 5 to 30 percent annually. In addition to reducing congestion, trains also give parts manufacturers, steel workers, rail layers and others in the construction industry some needed work.
It may take time for consumers used to pumping gas or standing in airport lines to make the adjustment, but train travel is one of the most energy efficient ways to get around.
It could be a while before the Recovery Act investments make high-speed travel from Chicago to St. Louis, or Los Angeles to San Francisco a reality, but taking the train or bus in town is also a great and inexpensive way to go green. Transit ridership is already way up—and former drivers enjoy the free hands to catch up on a book or balance their checkbooks, while avoiding the stress of gridlocked traffic.
If you must drive (and we know you love your ride), try parking at a light rail station before commuting to work; look for carpooling options (some employers sponsor public transit passes for workers who live far away), or make a pledge to commute by rail one or two days a week. The planet—and your wallet—will thank you.
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.