Forget about the need for high-speed rail. An investigation is underway, but yesterday's Metro-North train derailment in New York City, which killed four people and injured more than 60, exposes the long-term lack of investment in mass transit infrastructure in the U.S. In July, a freight train hauling trash had derailed in the same area. And this weekend's incident came just a day after a freight train derailed in New Mexico and plunged into a ravine, killing three crew members. More than just long delays and billions of dollars in lost economic productivity, America’s neglect of railroads has deadly consequences.
In India, where billions have been committed in recent years to expanding and improving mass transit, the situation is far worse. A government panel accused the country’s railway system of "massacre" after finding that 15,000 people die each year simply while crossing the railway tracks. The panel said replacing unsafe crossings with bridges or overpasses would cost $10 billion. India is now eyeing foreign investment for its public transport sector—but it remains to be seen if that will result in upgrading a decrepit system, or new and flashy expansions.
The need for more mass transit has steadily been gaining traction, as traffic and car deaths worldwide become increasing political problems, and recent reports show American driving trends slowing. But if we can’t even invest of the safety of what we’ve got, the future of public transport could be under threat. As a survivor of yesterday's crash in Manhattan told the New York Times, "You think you’re safe on the train. I know I’m going to be taking a car for a while."
This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.