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My wife and I recently started watching Mad Men on Netflix. It's been interesting to watch how so much of what we see in advertising got its start in the groundwork laid by ad men in the 50s and 60s.

United States Public Interest Group (USPIRG) has just released a clever video that makes you wonder how things would be different in the United States today if we had invested in high speed rail in the same way we invested in the highway system back in the 1950s. Watch the video here but please do click through to the Funny or Die website and click the "Funny" button to keep it at the top of the list for as long as possible.

Here's what the nation's highway plan looked like back in the 50s:

Spelled out, planned for and invested in. The result? A robust system of highways, expressways, and freeways that are unrivaled in the world.

And they are a horribly inefficient way to move freight and people around the country. High-speed rail, on the other hand is dramatically more efficient. It uses less fuel, it's more convenient, and it's generally faster.

But here's what we DID invest in:

We invested in the highway system far beyond rail and air. So it's no surprise that nearly everything we do relies upon the U.S. highway system.

We have an opportunity right to set our country on a path that promotes high-speed rail in the way we should have 70 years ago. We have President who thinks it's a high priority and we have an economy that could use the economic benefit that would result from a New Deal-type investment bringing jobs to every state.

USPIRG has this to say about their video and their focus on transportation:

The video comes at a time when high-speed rail debate is heating up throughout the country and in Congress.  President Obama recently pledged more than $50 billion in federal funding over the next six years and announced a goal in his State of the Union to connect 80 percent of the country with high-speed rail in the next 25 years. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has been a supporter of high-speed rail, while his governor in Florida and the Governors of Ohio in Wisconsin have rejected billions in federal funds for projects in their states.

“It’s a simple pitch - high-speed rail saves oil and gives people a more efficient alternative to the hassles of flying and driving,” said Meghan Hess, program associate with PIRGIM, the Michigan affiliate of U.S. PIRG.  “Even 40 years ago it would have been a no-brainer.”

The video came together because some folks at an affiliated PIRG office in Boston read that Vincent Kartheiser who plays Peter on the show was an enthusiastic supporter of public transit and rides the bus all over LA. After we contacted him through another affiliate in LA, the idea of reaching out to Funny or Die came up, then Vincent recruited fellow cast member Rich Sommer, and the rest just happened from there. All the actors and production people volunteered their time, so we were able to do this on a shoestring budget. We thought it was an important time to raise awareness about high-speed rail. Also the historic vantage point of the 60s seemed like a way to help people understand how high-speed rail is an investment also for future generations. When you look at an individual project over a few years it can seem daunting and you don’t necessarily see how one rail link connects with another or with future transit feeder networks. Seen over a generation, it’s easier to understand this as a generational choice. Will our children grow up with a mess of congested highways and airports wondering why their parents failed to invest in the 21st century transportation choices that the rest of the industrialized world takes for granted? Just like the electrification of rural America or the creation of the Interstate Highway system, creating new systems of infrastructure takes vision. Sometimes you need to step back – even a generation or two – to help see that perspective.

Take action by clicking through to MadFastTrains.com where you can send an email to your Senator and get a bumpersticker showing your support for high-speed rail.

I'm just sayin'...

Cross-posted at Eclectablog.com.

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