Facebook map shows why Canada needs high-speed rail

Monday, December 27, 2010

This month you may have noticed an interesting map made by people at Facebook (I think), showing the world with respect to the number of Facebook connections it has. It ends up kind of like one of those images of the world at night, except that this measures something a bit more specialized than just light. It looks like this:

Right away you'll notice that this isn't representative of population all the time, as China hardly exists here, and neither does Russia. India loves Facebook though. As a gauge of activity in North America and Europe though it's quite accurate, and shows in particular what Pierre Burton used to say: Canada is a long and thin country like Chile. Canadians love to remind themselves and others that they are the second-largest country in the world, but this image is particularly unhelpful when it comes to high-speed rail, as it leads to the conclusion that yes, it's good for places like Europe and Japan where there are many people in a small location, but Canada is somehow different. This is a myth though. Let's zoom in on Canada to make this even clearer:

There it is. Long and thin, long and thin. Looking at it this way it's easy to see why Canada has just a bit over a tenth the population of the US, as we simply don't enjoy trying to fill up every bit of space allotted to us in the even colder north.

As for why I'm bringing this up today - see this article, a piece on the front of CTV right now about Canada's failure to build high-speed rail while the rest of the world is doing so (now even the US).

An even easier refutation of the "Canada is big so it doesn't need high-speed rail" argument is probably Russia. Russia is much bigger and already has high-speed rail, and will have even more lines by 2018 when it hosts the World Cup. There simply is no excuse for Canada to not have three lines: one from Montreal down to Toronto (and maybe into Detroit), Calgary to Edmonton, and Vancouver down into Portland. Montreal to New York is another good option.

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