The morning train ride from Chestnut Hill to Center City takes 34 minutes today. Fifty years ago, it took 28 minutes.

Today, a United Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles takes 6 hours, 1 minute. Forty years ago, the trip took 5 hours, 5 minutes.

In 1990, the average travel time to work for a Chester County resident was 23.1 minutes; a decade later, it was 27.5 minutes. In Burlington County, the travel time went from 23.6 minutes to 28.2 minutes.
The article makes the point that technology can fix some of the problems, especially in air travel. But there's also an investment issue.
The United States' postwar focus on cars and highways left mass-transit development to languish, especially compared with Europe and Japan.

"Investing in highways is always 'investing,' while investing in mass transit is a 'subsidy,' " said Rachel Weinberger, an assistant professor in urban and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied commuting patterns.

"I think the area that holds the most promise is high-speed rail," Weinberger said. "The technology is here today. It's a matter of political will."
Many of the issues addressed in the context of fuel efficiency and global warming are actually infrastructure issues. We all know that highways, airspace, and rail transport in the Northeast and other parts of the country are massively over-used. As for highways, there are many places where it's imposible to build additional lanes--think of the Cross Bronx Expressway where there is no space to add lanes and an additional highway through the wealthier suburbs to the north is a non-starter. Airspace can benefit from technology, but I doubt that even with GPS technology we could fling more planes into the skies above the Northeast corridor. That leaves rail--both commuter and medium-distance travel--where substantial benefits can be achieved.

Considering population growth--over the last 50 years and projected towards the next--and how infrastructure investment hasn't kept pace with demand, these are key issues that policymakers should concentrate on and politicians should fund lavishly if we are to save time and money to keep our economy productive.