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Spanish Fly: No Mas

As European nations go, Spain is pretty sizable-its major cities are hundreds of miles apart-so, whereas other EU countries have long used rapid...


As European nations go, Spain is pretty sizable—its major cities are hundreds of miles apart—so, whereas other EU countries have long used rapid trains to get from here to there, Spaniards have typically relied on air travel. However, Spain's system of high-speed rails is growing at such an astounding rate that it might soon out-perform the commercial airlines. From Wired:

Air travel has been so big that the route linking Madrid and Barcelona was the busiest in the world in 2007 with 971 departures per week. That started to change in February when the government joined the two cities, which are 410 miles apart, with a high-speed line that cut travel time to 2 hours and 35 minutes. Other lines have opened or are in the works, each of them carrying AVE trains capable of 220 mph, and they're stealing passengers from airlines.

Airlines carried 72 percent of the 4.8 million long-distance travelers who opted to go by rail or air in 2007. That fell to 60 percent last year, and Joseph Valls, a professor at the ESADE business school in Barcelona told The Guardian "The numbers will be equal in two years."

Wow. Faster and easier? Could this transition be a model for something similar stateside? Maybe. Let's remember that, as large as Spain is, it's only about 70 percent the size of Texas. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a series of speedy rails over here (and we actually might, in California). And while it would be wonderful for many—ground travelers, long-distance commuters, and people in rocky relationships with a flare for dramatic make-it-or-break-it kisses beside turnstiles—I wouldn't expect to see this sort of shift in just a year. Then again, neither did Spain.