Elisabeth Rosenthal writes about the growing popularity of AVE (Alta Velocidad Española, or Spanish High Speed) trains that have cut the 6 hour drive between Madrid and Barcelona to a relaxed, upscale 2 hours and 38 minutes from city-center to city-center.
Two years ago, nearly 90 percent of the six million people traveling between Madrid and Barcelona went by air. But early this year the number of train travelers on the route surpassed fliers, and the trajectory is ever upward.
Heeding the economic and political advantages – carbon dioxide emissions per passenger on a high-speed train are one-fourth of those generated by car or airplane – the Spanish government is moving decisively toward rail as a key transport strategy:
In the United States, President Obama 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, including Florida, California and Illinois. By 2020 half of Spain’s $160 billion transport budget will go to rail travel.
President Obama’s support for high-speed rail is the most significant in decades. Let’s hope it’s the start of a major strategy shift in American travel.
Photo Credit: Renfe AVE crossing the Ebro river near Zaragoza, Spain.