“I’m not predicting trains will replace cars,” futurist William Draves said at the September 15 meeting of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition in Eau Claire, “I’m saying trains are replacing cars.”
Draves is co-author of the book, “Nine Shift: Work, Life and Education in the 21st Century,” and president of the Learning Resources Network (LERN), the River Falls-based national association of organizations involved in continuing adult education. In the book, he and Julie Coates highlight nine key changes they predict will dramatically change everyday life during the first two decades of this century. Among them: That trains will replace cars in much the same manner as the automobile replaced the horse and buggy in the 20th Century.
Draves points to statistics that show members of Generation Y (those ages 29 and younger) are demonstrating radically different attitudes about transportation than preceding generations: Fewer view cars as a necessity, they are driving dramatic growth in train ridership where it’s available, and there is a significant drop in car purchases by younger adults.
Among specific causes of the cars-to-trains shift cited in the book are: Cars are too slow, they take too long, highway travel is becoming too dangerous (a death toll of 50,000/year), there are no workable answers to highway congestion, and “the crux of it all” in a knowledge-base economy with time at a premium: “You can’t work and drive at the same time.”
For Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest, Draves highlighted a potential vision for a network of high speed trains connecting major cities 100-300 miles apart, with wireless internet access and connecting with light rail and other transit within major cities.
Some of Draves’ reasons were also asserted in an Op-Ed piece he authored that appeared in the September 4 Eau Claire Leader Telegram . For more information on the “Nine Shift” book Click here and its related blog, which often covers rail-related topics.
The Rail Coalition invited Draves to help provide a perspective on the future role of rail passenger service to our area. It’s a perspective that is both sobering and exciting, and points out how critical it is to make policy decisions that ensure West Central Wisconsin is included in plans for passenger rail service linking us with nearby major cities.
Scott Rogers, Co-Chair