Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Nancy Pelosi talks transport infrastructure, passenger rail

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave the keynote address to the American Public Transit Association’s Rail Conference on Sunday, making some interesting comments about transportation and railways. A few selections with comments (she’s a politician, so take this all with a spoonful of salt):

“The question is not whether we must invest in our nation’s [transit] infrastructure, but rather, how do we pay for it? How do we proceed in a fiscally sound way?

“One idea being considered is an infrastructure development bank to promote public and private investment in projects of regional and national significance, including public transportation projects. The bank would be an independent federal entity that would evaluate major infrastructure proposals and finance the best of them using a variety of financial tools.

This sounds  like a good idea, it would give states and municipalities more leverage when funding regional rail projects. Just as long as it doesn’t supplant the federal grants already often provided to these projects under organizations such as the Federal Transit Administration.

“House Democrats are committed to robust public investment in public transportation. We are committed to advancing a bill that – at a minimum – honors the historic 80/20 funding split between highways and transit. The reduction of transit’s share below 20 percent that occurred in the 2005 reauthorization will not be repeated.

An 80/20 split is already sounding archaic in this day and age. Congress actually went below this in 2005? Shameful.

“It is essential that the environmental and economic development benefits of rail transit become fundamental criteria in the decision-making process for New Starts. We see with each new light rail system – whether the location is Dallas, Minneapolis, or Portland – a tremendous upsurge in transit-oriented development around rail lines and stations. Transit and the high-density development that accompanies it both have tremendous value in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting us on the path to a low-carbon economy.

Excellent point here, especially for a national politician. Rail transportation encourages denser development: interstate trains usually serve stations in the downtown core of cities, and regional and local rail promotes dense growth within walking distance of local stations. Dense development lets people walk and take transit to more of their destinations, meaning they make fewer car trips. Giving people the means to use their cars less is going to be crucial if we want to reduce our national impact on the environment. We can start by investing in Amtrak and passenger rail.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, , , , ,

UK considering London-Glasgow HSR link

Representatives from the British government and the devolved government of Scotland have been in talks discussing the viability of a high speed rail link between London and Glasgow. The line, dubbed High Speed Two by the press (“High Speed One” being the Eurostar to Paris), would reduce rail travel time between the cities to 3 hours and ease congestion on rail, road, and air infrastructure. The costs would be high, but so would the economic benefits. There also seems to be some UK political drama mixed in there as well, considering that the pro-independence Scottish National Party currently heads the government in Scotland.

Pressure groups say the high environmental cost of short-haul air travel, plus the need to link up Scotland and the north of England with the new London Eurostar service requires a “High Speed Two” link down the country.

A feasibility study into a new high-speed line by the consultants Atkins in March concluded that either a west coast or an east coast line – which would cost between £9bn and £12bn – would produce huge economic benefits to the country. A third option – building a £30bn network down both east and west Britain – would bring economic benefits of more than £60bn, it added. The report concluded: “High-speed operation is required to attract sufficient passengers to switch from road and air.”

Only this, it added, would “make construction of a new line economically or financially viable”.

Gordon Brown is under pressure from Labour MPs and MSPs who say that a north-south high-speed line could become a “grand project”, demonstrating the Prime Minister’s support of the Union.

Spain’s bullet trains are also often discussed as being counterbalances to the centrifugal pressures on the country in Catalonia and the Basque regions. So aside from the obvious economic benefits to both Scotland and England, one can see why pro-Unionist politicians would be pushing for this project.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, , , ,

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June 2008