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Ryan McElveen
Suffern, NY

Ryan McElveen

I’m a graduate student in International Affairs at Columbia and have spent most of my life roaming the Northeast corridors of both the U.S. and China.

How to get out of the traffic jam

Hu Jintao is the Dwight D. Eisenhower of the 21st century.

But, while President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System to give free range to the automobile, President Hu seeks the contrary. Hu realizes that, if he fails to take action, all of the bicycles on Chinese streets will soon turn into cars--a scary proposition, indeed.

Hu faces an uphill battle. In China as elsewhere, the car is the most basic form of conspicuous consumption that the nouveau riche (of which there are plenty in China) cannot live without. Yet an increase in cars will not only hurt what remains of China's air quality. It will lead to traffic jams that hurt productivity and threaten the Communist Party's power.

In some places, Hu's fear has become a reality. In August, the world was transfixed by images of the world's longest traffic jam, lasting 11 days, in Henan Province outside of Beijing. It was cheaper for truck drivers to eat, sleep and burn gas than pay tolls for the faster
roads--perhaps why E-Z Pass hasn't caught on in the Chinese market.

Hu's solution was to restructure the railways. His high-speed rail system, envisioned only a few years ago, has already taken shape. On July 1, the high-speed rail line between Shanghai and Nanjing went into service, cutting the traditional two-hour trip by more than half. Boarding one of the first trains on that route, I was transfixed by the hundreds of youthful Chinese beaming in anticipation. Imagine the line outside of an Apple store for an iPhone launch.

In the 2008 Presidential campaign, we were endeared to Commuter-in-Chief Joe Biden and his tales of friendship his Amtrak conductors. But the image of high-speed rail Joe now seems like a blurry pre-stimulus hallucination as current projects for rail expansion are put on hold.

Last week, despite having received $6 billion in federal and Port Authority funds, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suspended construction of the Hudson rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York City. As one of the 170,000 people who transits the Penn-Central tunnels daily, I realized I should probably start saving to buy a boat.

To increase America's productivity and energize the economy, we must learn from Hu, revive the spirit of campaign Joe, and make public transit effective and exciting again--even if it requires remodeling our train stations like Apple stores.

By Ryan McElveen  |  October 11, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Initial Entries
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Excellent column!

Posted by: jackbarstoke | October 17, 2010 3:06 PM
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Suspicious voting aside, you missed one important difference between Mr Hu and Mr Obama: Mr Hu has the cash to pay for high speed trains, whereas Mr Obama would need to borrow, probably from Mr Hu.

Posted by: bford2 | October 16, 2010 5:49 PM
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As someone who has been monitoring the voting for this competition during the past two days, I am EXTREMELY SUSPECT of Mr. McElveen's vote totals.

The Washington Post should investigate any curious online voting. Mr. Elveen had less than 1000 votes this morning, but surged with 2000 votes in the final hours of the contest?!?

By the way, something else that is curious- Mr. McElveen received EXACTLY 3000 VOTES?!?

Out of respect to the other contestants, PLEASE look into making this matter. Online tabulations should not be manipulated or inflated. Entries such as Mr. McElveen's should be disqualified- simple as that.

Thank you.

Posted by: cdr1 | October 14, 2010 8:14 PM
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Good writing, meaningful issue. But are you a one issue guy who just hit is only field of knowledge? Do you have anything to say about the bigger issues of the day? With you r huge number of votes I( suspect a social network rather than wowed readers. Unfortunate.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 14, 2010 3:47 PM
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Ryan, I hope you don't get graded on class participation because I don't think even SIPA professors would accept election theft as a legitimate excuse for missing class.

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 14, 2010 3:35 PM
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Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just you. After all you're a fast walker right? Why not a fast clicker too?

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 14, 2010 10:53 AM
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So Ryan, did you learn how to run sham elections from your PRC pals? Might want to tell your buddies behind the Great Firewall to ease off a little on the vote-refresh act, wouldn't want them to get carpal tunnel or anything.

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 14, 2010 10:51 AM
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High-speed rail to ballot-stuffing!

Come on, Ryan. This is ridiculous. Did you get all your pals in the CCP to start vote-farming for you?

Posted by: JackRyan82 | October 14, 2010 9:50 AM
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Love your idea of more high speed rails. Would be even better if a car were attached for bicyles or bikes were allowed to be hung in the cars. The combination of train/bike in cities makes great sense as I learned when biking in the 5 boros/5 bridges ride in NYC. And bike path lanes in cities would be particularly appreciated. Innovation is the name of the game when dealing with problems facing us now. No machine is more efficient than the bike within urban landscapes.

Posted by: litespeedlucy | October 13, 2010 7:15 AM
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I also am a proponent of efficient mass transit systems. I applaud the Japanese and Chinese efforts to advance these technologies.
I am also frustrated with china’s lack of transparency in all aspects of their seemingly worthwhile endeavors. While purporting to be advancing green technologies, the Chinese are also at the forefront of raping and plundering the worlds valuable and limited nonrenewable resources (cites available).
Chinas policy of corruption and counterfeiting until you attract world scrutiny has to stop.

Posted by: pocodot | October 13, 2010 4:15 AM
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Freight Rail investment gives America ***$25 for $1*** Bang for the Buck in creating American Jobs and Manufacturing. It also removes thousands of 18 wheelers from the highways; creating more room and efficient movement for passenger vehicles.

Article: A rail corridor along I-81 that would get traffic and the economy moving again (every $1 invested generates $25 in long term financial benefits):

Freight Rail investment (such as the I81 corridor) and USA made Efficient Locomotives (GE Evolution series efficient locomotives) use less Oil than freight trucks to the tune of 436 miles per gallon per ton of freight. 70% of America’s Oil use is in Transportation. Expanding Freight Rail along I81 can remove thousands of trucks, save billions of barrels of Oil, and create tens of thousands of Jobs. That's USA Employment in both building the USA made Locomotives and building the Railways. That’s Billions of dollars less America sends to the Middle East for Oil that funds terrorist weapons that are used against American troops and civilians.

America uses 25% of the Worlds oil but has only 2% of it. No amount of domestic drilling will adjust that number a single percentage point or have a 1% effect on the price of oil on world markets. What will have the greatest effect on creating USA jobs and reducing USA dependence on oil, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela and OPEC is “using a lot less” and leveraging what we use to create American jobs and industries.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 12, 2010 4:54 PM
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Start with the final para. Why will invigorating mass transit “increase America’s productivity and energize the economy”? Then explain how it should be done.

Posted by: MsJS | October 12, 2010 1:40 PM
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