Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Another anti-passenger rail myth bites the dust

This comes from the “comments” section on a post below. It states the obvious, but does it so perfectly, I moved it to the front page.

You can look at a map and see that many American cities are well situated for true European style HSR. Here are a few facts (with thanks to  Loren Petrich.

I suggest demanding numbers from anyone who makes such density assertions. once worked out some numbers, comparing Paris – Lyon to Chicago – St. Louis:

Paris: 12m
Lyon: 1.8m
Distance: 289 mi / 466 km
Chicago: 9.8m
St. Louis: 2.8m
Distance: 297 mi / 479 km

To which I add London – Paris and NYC – DC:

London: 14m
Paris: 12m
Distance: 289 mi / 465 km
New York City: 19m
Washington, DC: 5.3m
Distance: 227 mi / 366 km

Additional sets of cities I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Populations are of metropolitan areas, distances are Google-Maps driving distances from the first city to the second.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

(Surprise!) Americans favor passenger trains

This press release provides some interesting observations. Of course, we note the obvious bias in favor of the party paying for the survey (airlines and truckers would never resort to that, now would they?).

HNTB’s America THINKS survey highlights public perspectives on high-speed train travel

KANSAS CITY, Mo., April 7 /PRNewswire/ — The romance of riding the rails may be returning to America thanks to new federal funding and a public hungry for ways to save time, money, the environment, and add a measure of convenience in their hectic lives.

According to a new study commissioned by HNTB Corporation, more than half of Americans (54 percent) would choose modern high-speed trains over automobile (33 percent) and air travel (13 percent) if fares and travel time were about the same.

“Our country needs high-speed rail as part of a balanced transportation system,” said Peter Gertler, chair of the firm’s high-speed rail practice. “It has been the missing lynchpin in our national network. Without it, the whole system is less effective.”

Now is the time to act

High-speed rail is receiving renewed attention in this country due to a variety of factors, including last year’s spike in fuel prices, the passage of a $10 billion bond measure in California last November to support the development of a high-speed rail system there, and $8 billion this year for high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Prominent supporters from both political parties include President Barack Obama; Vice President Joe Biden; Rep. Jim Oberstar, chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. John Mica, ranking Republican member of the committee; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who recently toured high-speed rail systems in Spain.

The survey showed Americans would be most excited by the possibility of more convenient travel (71 percent), less expensive fares (69 percent) and faster trains (55 percent) with the introduction of high-speed rail in their region.

Gertler said educating people who haven’t ridden high-speed trains remains a priority. There were clear differences between experienced and nonexperienced riders, including a much lower preference for traveling to large cities nearby via car (41 percent versus 69 percent) and a higher expectation of productivity when traveling high-speed rail on business (51 percent versus 38 percent). He added the fact that less than three in ten (29 percent) Americans understand the environmental impact high-speed trains can have versus traditional train travel – and high-speed rail’s overall positive impact versus other forms of transportation – emphasizes the need for a more informed public.

“High-speed rail will benefit the country in a variety of ways, including improved mobility, job creation, reduced usage of fossil fuel and fewer annual greenhouse gas emissions,” Gertler said. “High-speed trains use one-third as much energy as comparable air travel and consume less than one-fifth as much energy as driving. This is proven technology that America can adopt and protect its status as a mobility super power.”

Transforming transportation in America

High-speed trains operate significantly faster than traditional trains, traveling from 110 mph to more than 200 mph. The highest-speed trains are powered by electricity, but others run on diesel fuel. Currently, the only operational high-speed rail system in the U.S. is the Acela Express, which travels between Boston and Washington, DC, and achieves speeds up to 150 mph.

HNTB’s research, the second in a series of “America THINKS” surveys, found even greater acceptance of high-speed rail among the 18 percent of Americans who have experienced such travel here or abroad. An overwhelming majority of high-speed train travelers (82 percent) found it more enjoyable than plane travel and slightly more than half (51 percent) said they would be most productive on high-speed trains when traveling for business.

“For more than 40 years, with the exception of the Acela, the United States has not been able to implement high-speed rail while other countries developed, ran, and are retiring their first high-speed trains to museums,” Gertler said. “Now with new funding and renewed vision, more Americans will be able to appreciate the value of this transformative transportation alternative.”

Even among those who haven’t traveled by high-speed rail, more respondents said they would prefer traveling on such trains (22 percent) rather than by plane (6 percent) or bus (3 percent) to the closest large city. Only Americans’ love affair with their cars provided a stronger pull (69 percent).

In fact, nearly half of the nation (49 percent) said the best benefit of high-speed rail in their region would be the ability to travel more easily to cities up to 400 miles away. Experts agree high-speed rail is best-suited for journeys of 100-500 miles or 1 to 3 hours. The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration has identified 10 such corridors as potential centers of high-speed rail activity.

About the survey

HNTB’s America THINKS survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,007 Americans March 18-23, 2009. It was conducted by Kelton Research, which used an e-mail invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

About HNTB Corporation

HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving federal, state, municipal, military and private clients. With nearly a century of service, HNTB has the insight to understand the life cycle of infrastructure and the perspective to solve the most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals nationwide provide award-winning planning, design, program management and construction management services. For more information, visit

EDITOR’S NOTE: Additional Survey Results

  • Seven in ten (70 percent) think train travel in general would be more appealing to Americans if it included more routes or cities in certain regions.
  • A majority (56 percent) of Americans would be more apt to sign-up for high-speed train travel if it was the most comfortable option.
  • Americans who live in urban areas are the biggest proponents of improved quality and comfort of train travel (65 percent) versus rural and suburban dwellers (57 percent).
  • Nearly a third (31 percent) place job creation at the top of their lists benefits from high-speed rail coming to their region.
  • Women would be more excited than men about the environmental benefits of high-speed rail in their area (45 percent versus 41 percent) while more men would appreciate faster trains (62 percent versus 50 percent.)

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Florida HSR viability linked to commuter line

The Orlando Sentinel story makes sense of a somewhat complex local issue. One thing is sure, Florida will only grow and that Tampa-Orlando link is a highway to hell.

he proposed high-speed rail train that would link Orlando with Lakeland and Tampa will never happen if the planned SunRail commuter train through Central Florida is killed in the state Senate, mass-transit supporters said Tuesday.

“It’s a double whammy,” said Florida High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Lee Chira.

Chira told the Orange County Commission his venture needs “connectivity” — a hook-up with SunRail — to be successful.

Of course, we would never want good public policy or sensible transportation planning to get in the way of greedy special interests.

The Fox 35 in Orlando also covered the story with some excellent input.

High Speed Rail

Funding is available, but support

Last Edited: Tuesday, 07 Apr 2009, 9:14 PM EDT
Created On: Tuesday, 07 Apr 2009, 9:14 PM EDT

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – While money is available for high speed rail , public support may be wavering, according to Orange County officials. On Tuesday, Orange County commissioners were briefed on the viability of such a rail project.

Consultants estimate that the rail line would bring approximately 15,000 jobs to Central Florida and the recently-passed stimulus package promises about $8 million in federal funds. In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation has approved spending for the project.

Filed under: Uncategorized

March Amtrak ridership down

It is part of an industry trend.  The Detroit News has a story I am sure we will hear more of today. (It would be nice if the reporter understood that Acela is not “high speed rail.”) There is bad news for the Carolinian. At the risk of being called an Amtrak cheerleader, I am wondering what type of statistical “glitch” might be at work here.

The railroad’s Carolinian route, between Charlotte, N.C., and New York City, had the biggest dropoff, down 45 percent to 14,032. Ridership on the railroad’s Northeast Regional trains between Boston and Washington fell 15 percent to 548,695, and passenger loads on the Acela line, the nation’s only high-speed rail route, dropped 8.5 percent to 263,970.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Japanese train manufacturers eye international boom

Another chapter of an ongoing story. The world’s governments,  many of which possibly consider other factors than pleasing established special interests, are investing heavily in infrastructure. files an extensive financial analysis and word that Kawasaki is looking to possibilities in America.

As the industry grows, the United States has earmarked $8 billion for high-speed rail development in an economic stimulus package, and President Barack Obama has proposed an additional five-year, $5 billion grant program for railways.

China and India are keen on rail spending, while railway investment is expected in Vietnam and Brazil, too. Britain and France have announced huge stimulus projects with specific allocations to beef up their rail infrastructure.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

While U. S. talks basic rail improvements, Eurostar moves forward

One of the myths put forward by highway and airline special interest groups is that American cites are too far apart to support European style HSR. We recommend consulting a map of the eastern United States or a visit to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s web site.

While the United states is talking even basic rail improvements to death, Europe marches forward on keeping up the existing fleet of fast trains. International Railway Gazette files the comprehensive report.

Eurostar has selected Italian consultancy Pininfarina to undertake design work for the mid-life refurbishment of the 28 high-speed trains used on services from London to Paris and Brussels.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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April 2009