It’s been a big week for the future of U.S. high-speed rail.

Pete Buttigieg was confirmed and sworn-in as President Biden’s Transportation Secretary on Tuesday. On Thursday, he announced in an interview with MSNBC host Joy Reid that he intends for the U.S. to be the global leader “when it comes to access to high-speed rail. And I think we have a real opportunity to do that,” Buttigieg said, “especially with the bipartisan appetite for real investments that we have before us this year.”

Reid, who started the segment by calling trains “the most civilized way to travel,” told Biden’s new cabinet member that he has the opportunity to “really dig in and make some changes.” She followed by asking how long it would take “before I get my high-speed rail.”

“I can’t wait,” said Buttigieg, who noted that countries all over the world—including Japan, the U.K., and Turkey—already have HSR. “I feel the same way you do. As you know, the president is a big believer in passenger rail, too. We’ve been asked to settle for less in this country, and I just don’t know why people in other countries ought to have better train service and more investment in high-speed train service than Americans do.

“Amtrak has done a heroic job with the constraints that have been placed on them. Now, we’ve got to take things to the next level.”

In two terms as mayor of South Bend (IN), Buttigieg was a strong advocate for trains generally. Specifically, he supported double-tracking the Gary to Michigan City segment of the South Shore line to South Bend. The Federal Transportation Administration recently awarded the project a $50.6 million allocation. More broadly, Buttigieg advocates for moving the U.S. transportation system away from the chokehold of car culture. During his 2020 presidential campaign, for example, he called for new metrics to evaluate federal transportations projects, including their potential to connect people with jobs and services.

In the MSNBC interview, Reid and Buttigieg discussed the role of better trains and public transit in creating job opportunities and promoting equity. Watch the full conversation here. See a related video by Reid on transportation policy as “the great equalizer” here.

Check out the Alliance’s rail-focused agenda for Pete Buttigieg here.

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