I love European trains…

I’ve heard several times that only about 20% of Americans own passports. That’s such a shame. If they were over here they would be wondering how we ended up with such a lousy public transportation system when Europe got such a nice one. The trains are quiet, smooth, fast, affordable, and in our experiences on several trips so far, run on time.

We’re about to hop into one of those to head to Geneva.

In other news, over on ScobleShow, we have the CEO of Wellsphere talking about and demoing his new service, which is aimed at getting you motivated to doing some exercise. I sure know I need that.

Someone asked me the other day how companies get on ScobleShow. They simply ask via email at robertscoble@hotmail.com. I can’t get to everyone (I try to have three or more companies on a week, though). There is no charge. It helps if your company is doing something unique, particularly for the Web, although I like development tools too.

Each video has two segments, the first is an interview where I try to learn something about you and your company. The second is a demo where you talk right into the camera and give us all a short (hopefully about five minute) look at your product or service.

I’m still behind on email from the past month, though, but I put highest priority on ScobleShow stuff (I have about 70 still to go in just that folder).

It really helps if you’ll be in San Francisco at some point, or at a conference that I’ll be attending.

Thanks to everyone who’s been on my show so far. I’ve been learning a lot about the tech world and hope you all enjoy these videos too.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. That’s interesting
    In Hong Kong (while it was part of the UK), the subways seemed to be decently clean. I might be wrong, though, because I didn’t look too hard (too crowded in the subway to look around).

  2. That’s interesting
    In Hong Kong (while it was part of the UK), the subways seemed to be decently clean. I might be wrong, though, because I didn’t look too hard (too crowded in the subway to look around).

  3. Its always kinda funny to me that when americans come to Europe they are always – and I mean always – blown away by the quality of public services, e.g. public transportation, public hospital, education etc.

    However, once you tell them what the taxes are like in most european countries the americans go OH MY GOD! And like magic they are no longer sure they like the fast trains so much anymore ;)

    Robert I dont know the exact tax level in Germany. However, I know it is alot higher than where you live.

    I know the tax level in Denmark where I live (even though I much rather live in the us). We pay somewhere between 40 percent and 68 percent in income tax. Yup thats right if you’re in the top tax bracket (and most people are because the limit is so low) you will be handing over more than twothirds of your income to the government. On top of that the VAT (sales tax) is 25 percent and we have a bunch of other high taxes on just about anything, e.g. because of taxes one gallon of gas will you just under 6 us dollars.

    I bet those fast trains doesnt seem that great anymore:)

  4. Its always kinda funny to me that when americans come to Europe they are always – and I mean always – blown away by the quality of public services, e.g. public transportation, public hospital, education etc.

    However, once you tell them what the taxes are like in most european countries the americans go OH MY GOD! And like magic they are no longer sure they like the fast trains so much anymore ;)

    Robert I dont know the exact tax level in Germany. However, I know it is alot higher than where you live.

    I know the tax level in Denmark where I live (even though I much rather live in the us). We pay somewhere between 40 percent and 68 percent in income tax. Yup thats right if you’re in the top tax bracket (and most people are because the limit is so low) you will be handing over more than twothirds of your income to the government. On top of that the VAT (sales tax) is 25 percent and we have a bunch of other high taxes on just about anything, e.g. because of taxes one gallon of gas will you just under 6 us dollars.

    I bet those fast trains doesnt seem that great anymore:)

  5. Robert, Remember where you are in Europe… seriously, in Switzerland, if they say the train is leaving at 11:47, then save for the declaration of war (and even then) – it’s leaving at 11:47 and not a minute later.

    That’s not to say they don’t have a good rail system, but it’s not exactly cheap, either :)

    What Kasper says above though is true too.

  6. Robert, Remember where you are in Europe… seriously, in Switzerland, if they say the train is leaving at 11:47, then save for the declaration of war (and even then) – it’s leaving at 11:47 and not a minute later.

    That’s not to say they don’t have a good rail system, but it’s not exactly cheap, either :)

    What Kasper says above though is true too.

  7. In many parts of europe the rail infrastructure was completely destoryed during WW2; the reason it’s so good is that most of it is only 60 years old :-)

    The exception is the UK where the much of the rail system is *very* old.

  8. In many parts of europe the rail infrastructure was completely destoryed during WW2; the reason it’s so good is that most of it is only 60 years old :-)

    The exception is the UK where the much of the rail system is *very* old.

  9. “I’ve heard several times that only about 20% of Americans own passports. That’s such a shame.”

    That’s because >90% of Americans have to _pay_ for their own travel, and they’re spending their money on other things. Like X-Box 360s, HDTVs and Second Life subscriptions. And Seagate hard drives.

    Seems hardly a “shame” now, doesn’t it? Given that you hawk all those things.

    YOU wouldn’t be owning a passport unless they did.

  10. “I’ve heard several times that only about 20% of Americans own passports. That’s such a shame.”

    That’s because >90% of Americans have to _pay_ for their own travel, and they’re spending their money on other things. Like X-Box 360s, HDTVs and Second Life subscriptions. And Seagate hard drives.

    Seems hardly a “shame” now, doesn’t it? Given that you hawk all those things.

    YOU wouldn’t be owning a passport unless they did.

  11. I’ve heard several times that only about 20% of Americans own passports. That’s such a shame. If they were over here they would be wondering how we ended up with such a lousy public transportation system when Europe got such a nice one. The trains are quiet, smooth, fast, affordable, and in our experiences on several trips so far, run on time.

    Population density and size has a lot to do with it. You can, IIRC, fit pretty much all of europe into Texas. If you add russia, you might need more space, but not much more.

    The tax thing is interesting, because our taxes here, (especially if you include *all* the taxes you pay at every level, including mandatory fees), are not that much lower than Europe’s.

    The difference is, we don’t get fuck – all for them. Hell, I almost consider that $300 or more a month I pay for medical and dental to BE a tax, for all the real choice I have about it.

  12. I’ve heard several times that only about 20% of Americans own passports. That’s such a shame. If they were over here they would be wondering how we ended up with such a lousy public transportation system when Europe got such a nice one. The trains are quiet, smooth, fast, affordable, and in our experiences on several trips so far, run on time.

    Population density and size has a lot to do with it. You can, IIRC, fit pretty much all of europe into Texas. If you add russia, you might need more space, but not much more.

    The tax thing is interesting, because our taxes here, (especially if you include *all* the taxes you pay at every level, including mandatory fees), are not that much lower than Europe’s.

    The difference is, we don’t get fuck – all for them. Hell, I almost consider that $300 or more a month I pay for medical and dental to BE a tax, for all the real choice I have about it.

  13. I’m Scottish living in Germany and commute everyday with the train and tram. I also used to commute with the train in England before I moved over here 3 years ago. The difference is night and day on punctuality, cleanliness and cost – all in Germany’s favour. I ma now almost getting as bad as the Germans if a train is a couple of minutes late – which seldom happens. My colleague was complaining recently when we got a train that it was 2 minutes late!!! My connection time between train and tram is 3 minutes and I have maybe missed the tram on 5 or 6 occasions in the last 3 years. It proves it can be done.

    Cost – I pay €25 / month and can travel with up to 4 adults after 19:00 at night and all weekends and public holidays for free within a limited area. The area is about 150 km by 50 km. I’ll get of my soap box now.

  14. I’m Scottish living in Germany and commute everyday with the train and tram. I also used to commute with the train in England before I moved over here 3 years ago. The difference is night and day on punctuality, cleanliness and cost – all in Germany’s favour. I ma now almost getting as bad as the Germans if a train is a couple of minutes late – which seldom happens. My colleague was complaining recently when we got a train that it was 2 minutes late!!! My connection time between train and tram is 3 minutes and I have maybe missed the tram on 5 or 6 occasions in the last 3 years. It proves it can be done.

    Cost – I pay €25 / month and can travel with up to 4 adults after 19:00 at night and all weekends and public holidays for free within a limited area. The area is about 150 km by 50 km. I’ll get of my soap box now.

  15. @10 “…fit pretty much all of europe into Texas.”

    I’m under impression that everything in Texas is big by default. But I did not know that you can fit 10400000 square kms of Europe into 695622 square kms of Texas. [wikipedia]

    But, I guess the square kilometers are larger in Texas too. ;)

  16. @10 “…fit pretty much all of europe into Texas.”

    I’m under impression that everything in Texas is big by default. But I did not know that you can fit 10400000 square kms of Europe into 695622 square kms of Texas. [wikipedia]

    But, I guess the square kilometers are larger in Texas too. ;)

  17. #10: “Population density and size has a lot to do with it. You can, IIRC, fit pretty much all of europe into Texas. If you add russia, you might need more space, but not much more.”

    You are aware that Russia is the biggest country in the world, right? Yes, bigger than Texas. Even bigger than the whole USA.

    (Admittedly European Russia is rather smaller, but it’s still a big place.)

  18. #10: “Population density and size has a lot to do with it. You can, IIRC, fit pretty much all of europe into Texas. If you add russia, you might need more space, but not much more.”

    You are aware that Russia is the biggest country in the world, right? Yes, bigger than Texas. Even bigger than the whole USA.

    (Admittedly European Russia is rather smaller, but it’s still a big place.)

  19. I’ve heard several times that only about 20% of Americans own passports.

    I’d call it embarrassing, especially considering how the rest of the world sees our attitude towards them as arrogant. Most who make these statements haven’t even left their home state, much less the country.

  20. I’ve heard several times that only about 20% of Americans own passports.

    I’d call it embarrassing, especially considering how the rest of the world sees our attitude towards them as arrogant. Most who make these statements haven’t even left their home state, much less the country.

  21. 20% passport usage doesn’t surprise me. This isn’t Europe, geographically-speaking. Until recently, we didn’t even need passports to go to Mexico, Canada, and the Carribean, and that pretty much covers travel outside the United States for 1000 miles or so. We can’t hop a train and go over to the next country in an hour or two; we do that from state to state (albeit in cars usually)
    I don’t think it’s arrogance so much as convenience; we simply don’t have 10 countries that we can choose to visit on a weekend.

  22. 20% passport usage doesn’t surprise me. This isn’t Europe, geographically-speaking. Until recently, we didn’t even need passports to go to Mexico, Canada, and the Carribean, and that pretty much covers travel outside the United States for 1000 miles or so. We can’t hop a train and go over to the next country in an hour or two; we do that from state to state (albeit in cars usually)
    I don’t think it’s arrogance so much as convenience; we simply don’t have 10 countries that we can choose to visit on a weekend.

  23. @16 Ah, yes. The arrogant, ugly American argument. Reminds me of a PJ O’Rourke column that is spot on!

    http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a3b88412e7ce9.htm

    “….Every person in America came from, or is descended from someone who came from, somewhere else, even if it was 30,000 years ago on a land bridge across the Bering Strait. Of course we’re unilateral. If we Americans had wanted to be ordered around by English wig-tops, French functionaries, bossy Germans, disorganized Italians, tin-pot Latin American dictators, and Ice Age Siberian bureaucrats, we would have stayed where we were. And in the case of us Americans who were shipped here, due to slavery or exile, we could have gone back. Both the history of Liberia and the type of American who lives in Paris indicate this is a bad idea.”

    “…Being foreigners ourselves, we know what you other foreigners are up to with your Faustian bargaining sessions, your venomous covenants, lying alliances, greedy agreements, back-stabbing ententes cordiales, and trick-or-treat treaty ploys. Count us out.

    And, while we’re counting, let’s count all the nations on the face of the earth that really count. The number seems to be one. Russia used to be a superpower but resigned “to spend more time with the family.” China is supposed to be mighty. But the Chinese leadership sweats and trembles when a couple hundred Falun Gong members show up in Tianamen Square for a mass tai chi workout.

    The United States, with 4.5% of the world’s population and 6% of its land area, produces one-fifth of everything in the world. And we consume even more than that. No nation compares to America in wealth. Certainly not Japan. Japan turned out to be a macroeconomic Pokémon craze. Impoverished citizens of the developing world do not wade the Pacific in the middle of the night seeking a better life in Japan.
    No nation compares to America in influence. American fashions, entertainment, aspirations and ideals dominate the planet the way Chandra Levy dominates Fox News Channel. Britain, France and Germany are obscure branch offices of American culture and may be closed in the interests of rational consolidation.

    As for comparisons in matters of life and death, America spends more on defense than the next 12 top defense-spending countries combined. If the U.S. is going to be involved in military multilateralism, it should ask its partner nations that ancient question of diplomacy, “You and what army?”

  24. @16 Ah, yes. The arrogant, ugly American argument. Reminds me of a PJ O’Rourke column that is spot on!

    http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a3b88412e7ce9.htm

    “….Every person in America came from, or is descended from someone who came from, somewhere else, even if it was 30,000 years ago on a land bridge across the Bering Strait. Of course we’re unilateral. If we Americans had wanted to be ordered around by English wig-tops, French functionaries, bossy Germans, disorganized Italians, tin-pot Latin American dictators, and Ice Age Siberian bureaucrats, we would have stayed where we were. And in the case of us Americans who were shipped here, due to slavery or exile, we could have gone back. Both the history of Liberia and the type of American who lives in Paris indicate this is a bad idea.”

    “…Being foreigners ourselves, we know what you other foreigners are up to with your Faustian bargaining sessions, your venomous covenants, lying alliances, greedy agreements, back-stabbing ententes cordiales, and trick-or-treat treaty ploys. Count us out.

    And, while we’re counting, let’s count all the nations on the face of the earth that really count. The number seems to be one. Russia used to be a superpower but resigned “to spend more time with the family.” China is supposed to be mighty. But the Chinese leadership sweats and trembles when a couple hundred Falun Gong members show up in Tianamen Square for a mass tai chi workout.

    The United States, with 4.5% of the world’s population and 6% of its land area, produces one-fifth of everything in the world. And we consume even more than that. No nation compares to America in wealth. Certainly not Japan. Japan turned out to be a macroeconomic Pokémon craze. Impoverished citizens of the developing world do not wade the Pacific in the middle of the night seeking a better life in Japan.
    No nation compares to America in influence. American fashions, entertainment, aspirations and ideals dominate the planet the way Chandra Levy dominates Fox News Channel. Britain, France and Germany are obscure branch offices of American culture and may be closed in the interests of rational consolidation.

    As for comparisons in matters of life and death, America spends more on defense than the next 12 top defense-spending countries combined. If the U.S. is going to be involved in military multilateralism, it should ask its partner nations that ancient question of diplomacy, “You and what army?”

  25. “If they were over here they would be wondering how we ended up with such a lousy public transportation system when Europe got such a nice one. The trains are quiet, smooth, fast, affordable, and in our experiences on several trips so far, run on time.”

    Actualy, no, Americans would not. Americans love their cars. So, they would be wondering why the roads are so lousy, the cars are so small, and the gas so expensive. In addition to what Welch said regarding size; the age of the U.S. also plays a factor. Some train systems in Europe are older than some cities on the west coast in the US. Much of the growth in US cities exploded after the automobile became popular. Look at many of the cities on the west coast and you will see their roads were designed to accomodate vehicular traffic. So, once the car was invented then coupled with the highway and eventually the interstate highway system, the motivation to build out mass transit rail,particularly for cities east of the Appilachians, wasn’t there

  26. “If they were over here they would be wondering how we ended up with such a lousy public transportation system when Europe got such a nice one. The trains are quiet, smooth, fast, affordable, and in our experiences on several trips so far, run on time.”

    Actualy, no, Americans would not. Americans love their cars. So, they would be wondering why the roads are so lousy, the cars are so small, and the gas so expensive. In addition to what Welch said regarding size; the age of the U.S. also plays a factor. Some train systems in Europe are older than some cities on the west coast in the US. Much of the growth in US cities exploded after the automobile became popular. Look at many of the cities on the west coast and you will see their roads were designed to accomodate vehicular traffic. So, once the car was invented then coupled with the highway and eventually the interstate highway system, the motivation to build out mass transit rail,particularly for cities east of the Appilachians, wasn’t there

  27. The old passport line has been used by some to insult Americans by implying they don’t see the world beyond their front door.

    As already said here that’s been a function of the US being so huge, and having the advantage of virtually no hostile nations at our borders. (Save for Cuba, and they’ve been pretty much a paper tiger for a long time, especially without Soviet support)

    I’m sure that the percentage will crank up soon with passports being needed for border crossings to Canada and Mexico. The post office seems to be doing quite a bit of advertising informing people about how to get passports, which suggests that that either is happening, or is anticipated. I know I’ll be getting a new passport, the only time I needed one in the past was in the late 80’s when I went to Jamaica, I’d let the passport expire since.

    As to the trains? John had it pegged with the population density line. By all rights we shouldn’t have as many passenger train lines as we DO have. Since passenger service was nationalized under AMTRAK, too many lines have been losses that essentially subsidize riders as much as a couple hundred dollars per passenger. The lines that pull their weight (or are even profitable) have been the ones in the more densely populated Northeastern US.

  28. The old passport line has been used by some to insult Americans by implying they don’t see the world beyond their front door.

    As already said here that’s been a function of the US being so huge, and having the advantage of virtually no hostile nations at our borders. (Save for Cuba, and they’ve been pretty much a paper tiger for a long time, especially without Soviet support)

    I’m sure that the percentage will crank up soon with passports being needed for border crossings to Canada and Mexico. The post office seems to be doing quite a bit of advertising informing people about how to get passports, which suggests that that either is happening, or is anticipated. I know I’ll be getting a new passport, the only time I needed one in the past was in the late 80’s when I went to Jamaica, I’d let the passport expire since.

    As to the trains? John had it pegged with the population density line. By all rights we shouldn’t have as many passenger train lines as we DO have. Since passenger service was nationalized under AMTRAK, too many lines have been losses that essentially subsidize riders as much as a couple hundred dollars per passenger. The lines that pull their weight (or are even profitable) have been the ones in the more densely populated Northeastern US.

  29. I know this has been stated multiple times, but I’ll state it again because it’s an important point. I live in the upper midwest of the US. Up until now for me to hit a country that really required me to have a passport to enter or exit required me to travel over 2000 miles to the south, several thousand miles over the North Pole to Russia if I headed north, over 3700 miles to get to western Europe if I headed east, and almost 6000 miles if I head west to Japan.

    That being said, I do have an up to date passport, but the number of Americans having valid passports has more to do with practicality than anything else. And I still don’t need one to enter or exit Canada, as long as I don’t fly.

  30. I know this has been stated multiple times, but I’ll state it again because it’s an important point. I live in the upper midwest of the US. Up until now for me to hit a country that really required me to have a passport to enter or exit required me to travel over 2000 miles to the south, several thousand miles over the North Pole to Russia if I headed north, over 3700 miles to get to western Europe if I headed east, and almost 6000 miles if I head west to Japan.

    That being said, I do have an up to date passport, but the number of Americans having valid passports has more to do with practicality than anything else. And I still don’t need one to enter or exit Canada, as long as I don’t fly.

  31. @21:
    Part of the problem is that Amtrak doesn’t actually own most of the rails (the physical items) even though they run most of the railroads.

    In Southern California alone, to get from San Diego to Los Angeles, you have to pass through 3 (maybe more; I get lost in the acronym soup) different organizations’ tracks. I don’t know how it affects service in general but there are lines where the quality of service is terrible due to this problem. For example, since Burlington owns the northern rails, the Coast Starlight has been perpetually late in the last few months (if I remember correctly).

    Why?

    Amtrak had to wait for the freight train to go first.

  32. @21:
    Part of the problem is that Amtrak doesn’t actually own most of the rails (the physical items) even though they run most of the railroads.

    In Southern California alone, to get from San Diego to Los Angeles, you have to pass through 3 (maybe more; I get lost in the acronym soup) different organizations’ tracks. I don’t know how it affects service in general but there are lines where the quality of service is terrible due to this problem. For example, since Burlington owns the northern rails, the Coast Starlight has been perpetually late in the last few months (if I remember correctly).

    Why?

    Amtrak had to wait for the freight train to go first.

  33. Apparently, there really isn’t an official number of how many people own passports. You can get numbers on how many people were issued passports in the last ten years, and since passports expire after ten years you can kind of expand on that. But then again, there are plenty of folks who may have had a passport but no longer feel the need to renew (retired, etc).

    This is a good site for the numbers. They say the numbers are more like 30-35% in some recent surveys, as compared to 41% of Canadians.

    http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2003/01/31/how_many_america.php

    You also need to remember that a lot of Americans were born in other countries, so they’ve had a passport at one time or another in their life, even if it wasn’t an American one.

    And I agree with a lot of other posters–America is a big country–bigger than most Europeans realize. They think “DisneyWorld in Florida and NY–what else is there?”

    Hey–here is a theory (just stating it–no idea if it is true):

    ‘The average American who has gone abroad has visited more countries than the number of US states a European visits when they come to the America”

    Wonder if that would be true.

  34. Apparently, there really isn’t an official number of how many people own passports. You can get numbers on how many people were issued passports in the last ten years, and since passports expire after ten years you can kind of expand on that. But then again, there are plenty of folks who may have had a passport but no longer feel the need to renew (retired, etc).

    This is a good site for the numbers. They say the numbers are more like 30-35% in some recent surveys, as compared to 41% of Canadians.

    http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2003/01/31/how_many_america.php

    You also need to remember that a lot of Americans were born in other countries, so they’ve had a passport at one time or another in their life, even if it wasn’t an American one.

    And I agree with a lot of other posters–America is a big country–bigger than most Europeans realize. They think “DisneyWorld in Florida and NY–what else is there?”

    Hey–here is a theory (just stating it–no idea if it is true):

    ‘The average American who has gone abroad has visited more countries than the number of US states a European visits when they come to the America”

    Wonder if that would be true.

  35. robert
    if u thought europe was nice then come to india. a railway politician did what no westerner could do -make the railways profitable and by a huge margin.

    and u know what was he doing when he was in his 20s he was growing cows and milking them for a living.then he entered politics won elections and made the most resourceful and promising states -his home state -bihar poor after he became chief minister for 20 years and then he entered national politics and 3 years back he became the railway minister.

    india has 1 of the largest network of trains in the world. and its clock time is a art=all people use the railway time to set the time on thier watches.

    its also 1 of most scenic railways u will ever see.

    1 train ride will show u all the sides of india.

    ask kiruba to shoot a train ride and u will see what i mean.

    so when are u coming to india and when can i meet u-my guru -teacher in blogging?

    but most of all when will u add ur page to resonet.in
    did u have a look at all.

    tell it to me via email if not tell it to kiruba and i know kiruba will contact me

    if a 5th grade school dropout could run 1 of the most complex transportation-railway systems-indian railway system and administer it why cant a college dropout like me succeed bill gates.after all beatingbillgates.blogspot.com did recieve reviews now its time i succeeded him when he retires as the most powerful and part of that is resonet not resnet

  36. robert
    if u thought europe was nice then come to india. a railway politician did what no westerner could do -make the railways profitable and by a huge margin.

    and u know what was he doing when he was in his 20s he was growing cows and milking them for a living.then he entered politics won elections and made the most resourceful and promising states -his home state -bihar poor after he became chief minister for 20 years and then he entered national politics and 3 years back he became the railway minister.

    india has 1 of the largest network of trains in the world. and its clock time is a art=all people use the railway time to set the time on thier watches.

    its also 1 of most scenic railways u will ever see.

    1 train ride will show u all the sides of india.

    ask kiruba to shoot a train ride and u will see what i mean.

    so when are u coming to india and when can i meet u-my guru -teacher in blogging?

    but most of all when will u add ur page to resonet.in
    did u have a look at all.

    tell it to me via email if not tell it to kiruba and i know kiruba will contact me

    if a 5th grade school dropout could run 1 of the most complex transportation-railway systems-indian railway system and administer it why cant a college dropout like me succeed bill gates.after all beatingbillgates.blogspot.com did recieve reviews now its time i succeeded him when he retires as the most powerful and part of that is resonet not resnet

  37. One reason why our passenger railway system isn’t all that great is that our railway system is set up in favor of transportation of goods rather than passengers.

    This has helped our economy out by allowing for more efficient transport of goods than what can be done in Europe, where transport has to be done mainly by truck.

    Unfortunately, because of this and other things like the car culture here, road systems and relatively cheap cost of airline travel, Amtrak suffers.

  38. One reason why our passenger railway system isn’t all that great is that our railway system is set up in favor of transportation of goods rather than passengers.

    This has helped our economy out by allowing for more efficient transport of goods than what can be done in Europe, where transport has to be done mainly by truck.

    Unfortunately, because of this and other things like the car culture here, road systems and relatively cheap cost of airline travel, Amtrak suffers.

  39. If the US was a socialist state, like most European nations, our rail transport would be equally impressive. Free markets and spotty train service, or a stagnant economy and punctual trains? I’ll take my chances with the former, thank you. By the way, didn’t the trains always run on time in Mussolini’s Italy?

    If we really wanted punctual train service in the States, we should allow municipal transit to be managed by private corporations. While corporations are far from perfect, they’re a heckuva lot better than big government.

  40. If the US was a socialist state, like most European nations, our rail transport would be equally impressive. Free markets and spotty train service, or a stagnant economy and punctual trains? I’ll take my chances with the former, thank you. By the way, didn’t the trains always run on time in Mussolini’s Italy?

    If we really wanted punctual train service in the States, we should allow municipal transit to be managed by private corporations. While corporations are far from perfect, they’re a heckuva lot better than big government.

  41. Robert,

    Why don’t we make a trade with Europe? They can keep you and we will give them our thanks, we want nothing in return.

    Just kidding.

  42. Robert,

    Why don’t we make a trade with Europe? They can keep you and we will give them our thanks, we want nothing in return.

    Just kidding.

  43. First, Joe, it’s kind of breath-taking how you go from “socialist state” to “Mussolini’s Italy” all in the space of one paragraph.

    But on to reality…

    Basically you get what you paid for. If you’re willing to invest in trains then you’ll have wonderful trains. If you’re not willing to invest in trains and try instead to cut the system’s budget every year, you’ll have lousy trains.

    There’s nothing complicated about this.

  44. First, Joe, it’s kind of breath-taking how you go from “socialist state” to “Mussolini’s Italy” all in the space of one paragraph.

    But on to reality…

    Basically you get what you paid for. If you’re willing to invest in trains then you’ll have wonderful trains. If you’re not willing to invest in trains and try instead to cut the system’s budget every year, you’ll have lousy trains.

    There’s nothing complicated about this.

  45. The Swiss rail service borders on the miraculous. You can catch a train from over the border in Italy and it will run later and later relative to the timetable. Until you cross the border. Once you hit Switzerland, it’s suddenly running on time again. This has happened to me, twice. Not only can they make the trains run to schedule, they can reliably predict and compensate for delays or inbuilt optimism in their less fortunate neighbouring state…

  46. The Swiss rail service borders on the miraculous. You can catch a train from over the border in Italy and it will run later and later relative to the timetable. Until you cross the border. Once you hit Switzerland, it’s suddenly running on time again. This has happened to me, twice. Not only can they make the trains run to schedule, they can reliably predict and compensate for delays or inbuilt optimism in their less fortunate neighbouring state…

  47. Leo,

    With all due respect to the “reality” you live in, you obviously don’t live in Massachusetts, and aren’t aware of our wonderful Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), otherwise known as the “T”.

    While your simplistic suggestion of pouring money into a transit system, on the surface, sounds great, how do you explain Greater Boston’s “Terrible T”, which is a slow, filthy public transit system? The Commonwealth of Massachusetts pours untold billions into the T — which is one of the state’s most bloated, worthless organizations — and yet the trains are slow, rather dirty, and riders frequently have to dodge all kinds of human excrement.

    Unfortunately, Leo, throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it or improve it. Massachusetts’ corrupt, patronage-staffed T is proof of that. Devoted financial resources — AND good, private management — will deliver a quality result. And good management, at least in Massachusetts, is only found in the private sector.

    That’s reality.

  48. Leo,

    With all due respect to the “reality” you live in, you obviously don’t live in Massachusetts, and aren’t aware of our wonderful Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), otherwise known as the “T”.

    While your simplistic suggestion of pouring money into a transit system, on the surface, sounds great, how do you explain Greater Boston’s “Terrible T”, which is a slow, filthy public transit system? The Commonwealth of Massachusetts pours untold billions into the T — which is one of the state’s most bloated, worthless organizations — and yet the trains are slow, rather dirty, and riders frequently have to dodge all kinds of human excrement.

    Unfortunately, Leo, throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it or improve it. Massachusetts’ corrupt, patronage-staffed T is proof of that. Devoted financial resources — AND good, private management — will deliver a quality result. And good management, at least in Massachusetts, is only found in the private sector.

    That’s reality.

  49. Not only are they fast and inexpensive, but they’re also profitable. I’m an American living in Sweden and I just saw a story the other day on how Sweden’s state-owned railway (SJ) turned a record profit last year and would be paying a record dividend to the state.

  50. Not only are they fast and inexpensive, but they’re also profitable. I’m an American living in Sweden and I just saw a story the other day on how Sweden’s state-owned railway (SJ) turned a record profit last year and would be paying a record dividend to the state.

  51. For Leo:

    For more breathtaking reading on how socialism and fascism are very similar (hence the connection between the two in my initial post)– “A governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.)” (American College Dictionary, New York: Random House, 1957) — feel free to read this intriguing article: http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/objectivism/socfasc.html.

    And for those with any sense of history, the running joke of the World War II era was that the best thing about Musslini’s fascist Italy was that the trains ran on time. Mr. Scoble’s report on the high quality of European trains prompted me to think of this old maxim about Mussolini, which led to the socialism-fascism train of thought, if you’ll pardon the expression.

    And, as most people know, modern Europe is a loose amalgamation of socialist states with stagnating economies (save for Ireland and sometimes England). So sure, modern European trains run well, like in Mussolini’s Italy, but would you really want to be a young person living in a state, say France, where the unemployment rate has been hovering around 9 percent in recent years? Chronic high unemployment is one of the many factors that led to the widespread rioting in France about 18 months ago.

    So, forgive me for trying to inject some thoughtful commentary into your simple reality. Remember, as most thoughtful people know, most situations are more complicated than you might imagine . . . .

  52. For Leo:

    For more breathtaking reading on how socialism and fascism are very similar (hence the connection between the two in my initial post)– “A governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.)” (American College Dictionary, New York: Random House, 1957) — feel free to read this intriguing article: http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/objectivism/socfasc.html.

    And for those with any sense of history, the running joke of the World War II era was that the best thing about Musslini’s fascist Italy was that the trains ran on time. Mr. Scoble’s report on the high quality of European trains prompted me to think of this old maxim about Mussolini, which led to the socialism-fascism train of thought, if you’ll pardon the expression.

    And, as most people know, modern Europe is a loose amalgamation of socialist states with stagnating economies (save for Ireland and sometimes England). So sure, modern European trains run well, like in Mussolini’s Italy, but would you really want to be a young person living in a state, say France, where the unemployment rate has been hovering around 9 percent in recent years? Chronic high unemployment is one of the many factors that led to the widespread rioting in France about 18 months ago.

    So, forgive me for trying to inject some thoughtful commentary into your simple reality. Remember, as most thoughtful people know, most situations are more complicated than you might imagine . . . .

  53. I love the comments saying that the reason passport ownership is so low, is because of a lack of neighbouring countries.

    Australia has no borders with other countries. None at all.

    To get to another country from Australia, you have to fly (unless you’re really good at swimming, or want to spend weeks on a boat).

    Yet in 2005-2006, Over 1.2 Million passports were issued/re-issued for Australians (Ref: Australian Bureau of Statistics).
    Given Australian passports are valid for 10 years, just using rough numbers – it’s somewhere over 40% of Australians with passports (leaving off 10% for those who’ve had a passport replaced in that period, plus growth in population/etc).

    ‘Course, those are just rough back-of-the-envelope calculations, but you get the idea.

  54. I love the comments saying that the reason passport ownership is so low, is because of a lack of neighbouring countries.

    Australia has no borders with other countries. None at all.

    To get to another country from Australia, you have to fly (unless you’re really good at swimming, or want to spend weeks on a boat).

    Yet in 2005-2006, Over 1.2 Million passports were issued/re-issued for Australians (Ref: Australian Bureau of Statistics).
    Given Australian passports are valid for 10 years, just using rough numbers – it’s somewhere over 40% of Australians with passports (leaving off 10% for those who’ve had a passport replaced in that period, plus growth in population/etc).

    ‘Course, those are just rough back-of-the-envelope calculations, but you get the idea.

  55. @35.. Maybe US Citizens are less likely to have the desire to leave their country country than Aussies are? Not sure what it says when 40% of Aussies want to have the option of leaving their own country. ;-)

  56. @35.. Maybe US Citizens are less likely to have the desire to leave their country country than Aussies are? Not sure what it says when 40% of Aussies want to have the option of leaving their own country. ;-)

  57. “…where the unemployment rate has been hovering around 9 percent in recent years? Chronic high unemployment is one of the many factors that led to the widespread rioting in France about 18 months ago.”

    Well, the upside of that is they can get to the unemployment office fast and efficiently.

  58. “…where the unemployment rate has been hovering around 9 percent in recent years? Chronic high unemployment is one of the many factors that led to the widespread rioting in France about 18 months ago.”

    Well, the upside of that is they can get to the unemployment office fast and efficiently.

  59. I remember seeing on CNN a long tima ago a “factiod” that only something like 11% had passports. Mass transit in Asia in countries like Japan, Taiwan (which just started their bullet train service a month ago, and China (bullet train from Shanghai to Hangzhou and started to buld one from Shanghai Beijing) is pretty good too.

  60. I remember seeing on CNN a long tima ago a “factiod” that only something like 11% had passports. Mass transit in Asia in countries like Japan, Taiwan (which just started their bullet train service a month ago, and China (bullet train from Shanghai to Hangzhou and started to buld one from Shanghai Beijing) is pretty good too.

  61. My son went to a ski camp from Belgium to Switzerland with his class. The train arrived 5 hours late, and some of the carriages didn’t have heating.

    Anyway, I’m satisfied with the Belgian public transport.

  62. My son went to a ski camp from Belgium to Switzerland with his class. The train arrived 5 hours late, and some of the carriages didn’t have heating.

    Anyway, I’m satisfied with the Belgian public transport.

  63. @Will:
    What are all those little things surrounding Australia? Oh, yeah, foreign countries like New Zealand, New Guinea, Indonesia, etc. I’m assuming you need passports for many of those.

    The point was that up until the last couple of weeks Americans could visit their bordering nations WITHOUT A PASSPORT.

  64. @Will:
    What are all those little things surrounding Australia? Oh, yeah, foreign countries like New Zealand, New Guinea, Indonesia, etc. I’m assuming you need passports for many of those.

    The point was that up until the last couple of weeks Americans could visit their bordering nations WITHOUT A PASSPORT.

  65. I saw that one funny bloke named joe had some interesting theories about private companies/management being necessarily more efficicient than public ones.
    Well, he should have told that story to the english and dutch railway companies that went private a few years ago because obviously they were not aware of that. Indeed, while quality, reliability and safety decreased dramatically, the one thing that didn’t decrease was the price of the ticket.
    Hey joe, sorry to challenge your reality but at least you can have the satisfaction that I agree with you on one point: reality is usually not as simple as you would like to think it is.
    Which brings me to comment your last statement: while I can see it is very tempting to explain the riots in France as a result of the high unemployement rate, it is (of course?) not the case, the majority of the people rioting being under 16 (legal age to start working). But I might be wrong and it might indeed have been a case of preemptive rioting :-)

  66. I saw that one funny bloke named joe had some interesting theories about private companies/management being necessarily more efficicient than public ones.
    Well, he should have told that story to the english and dutch railway companies that went private a few years ago because obviously they were not aware of that. Indeed, while quality, reliability and safety decreased dramatically, the one thing that didn’t decrease was the price of the ticket.
    Hey joe, sorry to challenge your reality but at least you can have the satisfaction that I agree with you on one point: reality is usually not as simple as you would like to think it is.
    Which brings me to comment your last statement: while I can see it is very tempting to explain the riots in France as a result of the high unemployement rate, it is (of course?) not the case, the majority of the people rioting being under 16 (legal age to start working). But I might be wrong and it might indeed have been a case of preemptive rioting :-)

  67. Oh boy, Joe, you really don’t know anything about Europe, do you? I don’t know where all those socialist European countries are, but I’m certainly not living in that Europe, most are conservative or liberal.

    Our Economy and yours has been practicaly the same over the past 40 years on average and I pay less taxes then you think (I earn about $100.000 and pay about 25% taxes and for $100 a month I have complete medical coverage).

    Third, as said before, UK and the Netherlands have privatised there railway system, it has never been that bad (how many have died in the UK because of bad management?) and the dutch want to go back.

    Oh, I’m Dutch and WE invented capitalism, please don’t tell me we are a socialist country.

  68. Oh boy, Joe, you really don’t know anything about Europe, do you? I don’t know where all those socialist European countries are, but I’m certainly not living in that Europe, most are conservative or liberal.

    Our Economy and yours has been practicaly the same over the past 40 years on average and I pay less taxes then you think (I earn about $100.000 and pay about 25% taxes and for $100 a month I have complete medical coverage).

    Third, as said before, UK and the Netherlands have privatised there railway system, it has never been that bad (how many have died in the UK because of bad management?) and the dutch want to go back.

    Oh, I’m Dutch and WE invented capitalism, please don’t tell me we are a socialist country.

  69. Hi, I’d like to see hard numbers from the US Passport service as to how many Americans have Passports. I am not sure if military and other government workers would be included in this figure. Then we could deduct the number of infants and children, let’s say, under 10, and compare that number to a country of the same size, literacy rate, etc., to come to some sort of (I don’t know what kind of) conclusion about Americans leaving their continent.

    For members within the EU traveling around the EU only requires a state issued ID card.

    Surely we can’t compare Europeans (many different countries) with Americans (one big country) anyway, can we?

    Adrianne

    http://www.jobsinstockholm.com

  70. Hi, I’d like to see hard numbers from the US Passport service as to how many Americans have Passports. I am not sure if military and other government workers would be included in this figure. Then we could deduct the number of infants and children, let’s say, under 10, and compare that number to a country of the same size, literacy rate, etc., to come to some sort of (I don’t know what kind of) conclusion about Americans leaving their continent.

    For members within the EU traveling around the EU only requires a state issued ID card.

    Surely we can’t compare Europeans (many different countries) with Americans (one big country) anyway, can we?

    Adrianne

    http://www.jobsinstockholm.com

  71. No one every cares about the true comments I have re-iterated many times over on, “We as Americans are far from the best in this world” mentality crap. You people must wake up now! We’re in trouble!

  72. No one every cares about the true comments I have re-iterated many times over on, “We as Americans are far from the best in this world” mentality crap. You people must wake up now! We’re in trouble!

  73. No one ever cares about the true comments I have re-iterated many times over on, “We as Americans are far from the best in this world” mentality crap. You people must wake up now! We’re in trouble.

  74. No one ever cares about the true comments I have re-iterated many times over on, “We as Americans are far from the best in this world” mentality crap. You people must wake up now! We’re in trouble.

  75. =v= Mussolini did not make the trains run on time; that was Fascisti propaganda. I know it makes for an ironic cliche and all (gosh!), but it’s simply not true. Nor is it even remotely relevant to discussions of modern train systems.

  76. =v= Mussolini did not make the trains run on time; that was Fascisti propaganda. I know it makes for an ironic cliche and all (gosh!), but it’s simply not true. Nor is it even remotely relevant to discussions of modern train systems.

  77. The European rail infrastructure is the best in the world ( even better than jepanese). The new generation of high-speed trains are ready to go commercialy:
    AGV (the new french TGV) will travel at up to 360 km/h (225 mph) and will take only 3 hours to travel 1000 km (600 miles.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7227807.stm

    The 3rd generation of ICE trains will travel at 330 km/h (210 mph). So you can’t compare the european rail infrast. with the Us rail infrastr.

  78. The European rail infrastructure is the best in the world ( even better than jepanese). The new generation of high-speed trains are ready to go commercialy:
    AGV (the new french TGV) will travel at up to 360 km/h (225 mph) and will take only 3 hours to travel 1000 km (600 miles.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7227807.stm

    The 3rd generation of ICE trains will travel at 330 km/h (210 mph). So you can’t compare the european rail infrast. with the Us rail infrastr.

  79. I would LOVE to know how many Europeans have been outside of Europe. You see, visiting and traveling in Europe which geographically is the SMALLEST continent is not much of a feat.

    And especially with the European Union and a single currency, it EASY to travel within EU nations. Europeans need to stop bragging about “traveling”

    How many Europeans have been to Asia, Africa, and South America… Hell, how many have been to Russia????? I would guess that outside of Europe, most visits are at the typical carribean resorts…
    I would love to know….

  80. I would LOVE to know how many Europeans have been outside of Europe. You see, visiting and traveling in Europe which geographically is the SMALLEST continent is not much of a feat.

    And especially with the European Union and a single currency, it EASY to travel within EU nations. Europeans need to stop bragging about “traveling”

    How many Europeans have been to Asia, Africa, and South America… Hell, how many have been to Russia????? I would guess that outside of Europe, most visits are at the typical carribean resorts…
    I would love to know….