Falling Behind By Falling Apart

For most of the twentieth century, the United States had the best infrastructure in the world. I’m not sure if this is true anymore. The problem is that our existing infrastructure was built around a population and technology that existed, in some cases, thirty years ago or more. What was now the envy of the world is now falling apart and falling behind as developing countries build transportation systems and infrastructure that better conserve energy, plan for future growth, and run on the best technology available. Anyone who has traveled to Europe or throughout Asia knows this. As an American, proud to think that I live in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, it is shocking to deal with weekly train delays and malfunctions, air transportation problems and cancellations and failing bridges (think Minneapolis on August 1, 2007). 

It is clear now in 2007 that the current infrastructure we submit ourselves to everyday in the United States is not prepared to deal with the future demand in population, efficiency and technology. I can’t help but think of New York City, where MTA equipment problems have delayed me more times than I can remember. Ridership is up, the subways are safe again, but the equipment is falling apart. And with the politics involved, there is no easy solution, not to mention the cost involved, to overhaul the system and begin anew. The same could be said in connection with the FAA and this country’s struggling airline industry.

I don’t have any solutions, but think that this is part of the broader conversation occurring in some circles concerning the United States losing its competitive edge in the world. It’s as if China today stands on the brink of where the U.S. was 100 years ago. People come to New York to gaze in awe at what it is today, if not for what it once was. The feelings provoked in New York, in my estimation, are far different from those feelings people experience when they visit the Pudong District in Shanghai for the first time, for in Shanghai they marvel at what is to be, as if the future is displayed before their eyes. I still have many years ahead of me hopefully and can only wish that things get better before they become much worse. 

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