The development of high-speed rail (HSR) infrastructure in the United States faces a great challenge given concerns of economic viability and political complexity. However, an in-depth investigation reveals that some of these challenges and complexities regarding high-speed rail mobility can be elucidated by historical and cultural characteristics that affect daily behavior, lifestyle, and public attitudes in U.S. society. This essay discusses the debate on the U.S. high-speed rail development policy from the perspective of American exceptionalism. Through an exploration of the four traits of American exceptionalism, the essay argues that the stagnation of U.S. federal high-speed rail initiatives can be explained by U.S. cultural constraints: individualism, antistatism, populism, and egalitarianism. Unless more solid evidence is provided to convince the public about the benefits of HSR mobility, the HSR debate is likely to continue in the United States.
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