I swear that one day I’m gong to end up becoming a high-speed railline lobbyist on K Street. I believe that much in it. I read articles about bullet trains in Japan and China and then I look out at our crickety old railways going about 50 mph. It makes me sad. Imagine being able to travel 250 mph between cities in a comfortable cabin with a dining cart and several other amenities.
If the US were serious about infrastructure then it would make this a priority to both alleviate air traffic congestion and to save Amtrak.
We do have some high-speed rail in the United States. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, there are about 18 miles of railroad line on which Amtrak’s Acela Express can travel at 150 mph, and for much of the remaining trip between Washington and Boston it can travel at 125 or 135 mph. And that’s it for world-class high-speed rail in the USA.
On Nov. 4, Californians voted to build the first bullet-train line in America. (Although the Acela Express would qualify as a bullet train, the railroad it uses–upgraded from lines built in the 1800s–would not.)
The California High-Speed Rail Authority plans a new “800-mile network of trains operating up to 220 miles an hour and linking California’s major cities between San Diego in the south and San Francisco and Sacramento in the north.”
The first line would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, about 400 miles apart. The state expects to secure matching federal, local and private funding to complement the bond issue approved by voters.
Once the system is built, it is forecast to operate at a profit. It also is expected to produce economic benefits 50 percent greater than its cost, in the form of 450,000 jobs plus new development, as well as significant reductions in pollution as travelers switch to the new electric transportation.
California also expects that by building the high-speed rail system it will avoid spending an equivalent amount on additional highways. This is not all speculation: Californians see what has been achieved in Europe and Asia (China, too, is building high-speed rail).
That’s all well and good, but considering that trains in Europe and Asia go upwards of 250-300 mph, than what’s the point of building a second rate rail system. This should be implemented from major city to major city. Imagine a corridor along the west coast from San Diego to Seattle (or Vancouver, B.C.) and from Portland, Me. south to Atlanta, Ga. The midwest could get in on the action too building a network. Eventualy the entire country could be connected. The upside is that a person could get from New York to Los Angeles in around 10 hours by train. That’s pretty unbelievable and the comfort might be worth the extra five hours rather than fly. [via]