Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

TIME: U. S. bullet trains

TIME has an analysis of high speed rail developments that is not too horribly misinformed. It correctly highlights the political minefield that awaits proponents in Florida, but drifts into simplistic buzzwords.

Liberals tend to romanticize trains (because the French use them) and conservatives tend to disparage them (because the French use them). But while the U.S. probably can’t recreate the charming ride from Paris to Lyon, it also can’t keep treating rail like a loathsome relic. Since World War II, the U.S. has poured almost $2 trillion into highway and aviation systems, while passenger rail — like the wheezing federal Amtrak line — has received less than 3% of Washington’s transportation dollars. Obama argues the U.S. needs, economically and environmentally, a rail revival in order to relieve stressed auto and air infrastructure. That means emulating the long-established high-speed (more than 110 mph or 177 kph) passenger rail systems in Europe and Asia.

Ah, the French! (Do people actually pay for this gibberish?)

Moving right along. the story does (amazingly) suggest that a revival of more conventional trains operating in the 110 mph range may be in our future. This has a pleasant tone and is agreeable to the TFA position.

However, having spent three days with the Texas High Speed Rail Corporation board (video interview with Maureen Dickey, David Dean, and Temple Mayor Bill Jones below) I am forced to step back and consider some contradictory viewpoints. Texas folks make a good case for true European style HSR.

There must be great care taken in selecting any project as a demonstration. HSR needs lots and lots of population and feeder lines at both ends to pay for the substantial construction costs. The social ane economic value of true HSR is tremendous. The experiences in Taiwan and Spain are held up as examples.

Two points. The presence of true HSR (200 mph.) shrinks a region and brings cities and businesses closer together. Second, the population growth forecast for some already booming areas is staggering. Building more highways is an economic and environmental catastrophe of Katrina proportions.

The opposition of some “conservatives” to an economic engine of such potent and proven power is totally astounding. Is there something wrong with higher property values and easier commercial relationships?

America needs a high speed rail of international standards somewhere. We also need to grow and mature the market for conventional trains between cities that can sue them and strengthen the network of long distance trains that support all of it. They all work together.

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

4 Responses

  1. NikolasM says:

    Liberals love trains because the French use them? Good lord. Proponents of HSR love them because there is ample evidence of HSR working around the world, France simply being one of the two original locales. Did a third grader come up with that?

  2. Alek F says:

    I agree with the article.
    America does need both – High-Speed Rail, and Conventional Rail.
    HSR needs to be developed AND Amtrak needs significant improvement. Thus far, Amtrak service has degraded to all-time low levels. Rolling stock has not been acquired for decades, and Amtrak needs to act now – to reorder new long-distance cars and local-service cars. So, I truly hope the Obama administration will find enough power to help struggling Amtrak to not only stay afloat, but to prosper (like conventional train service all over the world!), and also – HSR needs to be developed (like HSR service all over the world!)
    Both HSR and Amtrak should be able to coexist.
    As far as highways and airlines – hell with them! They’ve successfully destroyed our quality of life, so it’s time for the Rail to step in, to get America moving!

  3. Deacon says:

    I fail top see a negative in having a good rail service. I can’t think of one reason why we shouldn’t pour money into rail. You don’t need to be liberal to see the benefits of rail. You just need to think further than your nose is long. You don’t even need the GREEN argument to justify it. Rail is a long term investment in our future in terms of jobs, cost of living, ease of travel. The point is a good rail system will save me money over time and that’s what I want to hear. Stick my tax dollars there.
    Oh yeah and as for the naysayers bitching about having to pay tax for something they wont use, 2 words for ya – IRAQ WAR – What’s there to use? oh the oil! Ok, then why the hell was I paying $4 a gallon for gas? Enough said build me a railway and I will use it.

  4. Jonathan T says:

    yeah this ‘liberals love HSR’ nonsense is exactly that–simplistic pea-brained arrogance which suggests that there is nothing to be learned from europe, asia, or elsewhere. it’s not about ideology, it’s about pragmatism, economic competitiveness, and economic growth.

    somehow the rich arrogant powerful morons who keep brainwashing other dumber poorer morons into believing that American society is the most advanced in the world don’t seem to care that our public transit system is the laughingstock of the world, and while we continue to experience devolution in travel efficiency (rail gets slower, more breakdowns, more fatal calamities like the accident on DC metro just today), while in Japan, Germany, France, and elsewhere, trains run really freakin’ fast, on time, and are enhancing efficiency and economic growth/competiveness by leaps and bounds. Here comes China too.

    We need to implement the top of the line maglev systems rather than begin adopting steel rail tech, which while it’s been in service for nearly 50 yrs, beginning in Japan. AND WITH NOT A SINGLE FATALITY (in Japan), is like a developing country abandoning fiber-optic cables and mobile technologies for their telecom infrastructure, preferring instead to install all the 20th century above ground telephone poles that dot the American landscape–just because it’s a proven technology doesn’t mean we should build the equivalent of these antiquated telephone poles…

    Time to wake up and stop not only the 3rd grader mentality that a previous poster noted, but recognize our surface rail transportation is 3rd rate, and 3rd world.

    We deserve better, and we need to have a strategic plan or we will continue to erode and devolve.

    oh, and by the way, strategic plan does not=socialism—would you run your business without one? i think not.

    neither should one run a country without one.

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June 2009


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