Monday, October 19, 2009

One-minute Lecture: High Speed Rails in the U.S.

In April 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation & Federal Railroad Administration released the "High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan" as part of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, setting aside $8 billion stimulus as an investment. The proposed lines cover some of the busiest connections between U.S. cities and reflect ideas from Spain's Ave trains. Once Spain implemented a system in February 2008 connecting its busiest cities of Madrid and Barcelona (410 miles apart) with a train capable of 220mph, Spanish airlines went from carrying 72% of the long-distance travelers (4.8 million) to 60% in less than a year. High speed rails there now carry 20% of long distance travelers.

High speed rails are not limited by weather problems like planes, but their carbon emissions are 1/6 that of an airlines. Spain plans to continue adding high-speed lines until 90% of its citizens are within 30 miles. The success of Spain's rails shows that, "If you build it (successfully), they will come." This concept can be seen in our own auto and air travel trends. When comparing the U.S. Department of Transportation's analysis of Federal Investment vs. Intercity Travel Trends, it is noted that higher investment led to more usage by Americans. Such investment needs to be applied to high-speed trains. If today, our government invests $60 billion per year into automobile infrastructure, what harm could there be in a one-time investment of the same magnitude into rail line development?

Unfortunately the plans were recently put on hold "until further notice" because too many state grants were filled, pushing the budget much higher than expected. Secondly, investigations of fraudulent grants are taking place.



U.S. High Speed Rail.pdf

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