Trains For America

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NPR’s All Things Considered considers HSR in a series this week

I just heard All Things Considered’s first piece on HSR. There’s at least one more part that airs tomorrow, but I can’t tell if that’s it or if they’re doing a week-long series. There’s nothing  too revolutionary in there, but it’s a good assessment of the merits of high-speed rail as well as how it’s likely going to take shape in this country. Unfortunately, like every news report on HSR these days, some extremist from a right-wing think tank is interviewed and presented as a credible dissenting voice on the issue. Couldn’t they at least pick HSR opponents with a little more credibility?

What is rather insightful is NPR’s take on incremental HSR upgrades. The piece largely takes the position that a grand “proof-of-concept” project (read: California) is necessary in addition to quicker, less drastic improvements:

“To make rail a major part of the equation is going to take years of proving to the public that this mode is here,” says Joe Schwieterman, professor of public policy and director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

Schwieterman says an incremental approach — such as upgrading existing Amtrak service to 110 mph on routes like Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit — if it’s done well and soon, can help pave the way for other high-speed trains in the future.

“The public sees it works, they see the ridership, they see the trains, they see the advantages,” Schwieterman says. “Then, that second phase of investment can begin.”

He and others say it took five decades to build the interstate highway system into what it is today. Developing a true high-speed rail network will likely take decades, too.

Filed under: United States High Speed Rail

2 Responses

  1. MadPark says:

    NPR continues to be annoying on transport issues, and this series proves that their “reporters” are neither doing their background research nor following up un “allegations” made by interviewees.
    From Yonah Freemark at “Transport Politic”:
    “National Public Radio broadcast a sob story from a woman who traveled on Amtrak from Greensboro to Raleigh, North Carolina, only to find what she claimed was “no” bus service at the arrival station, requiring her to walk “along broken pavement on a street without a sidewalk” and then wait 15 minutes for public transportation. She stated that this process was so difficult that she would probably drive the next time she took the trip because of the difficulty of the end of the commute. The story’s conclusion was that the woman’s situation exemplified the state of transit in many cities and that future rail ridership might be hampered by these problems.
    Leave behind for a moment the fact that the bus she took stopped literally one block away from the station, that it runs every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day, that is it free, and that it serves Downtown Raleigh’s major museums the poor lady was hoping to visit with her nephew. The bus would qualify as good transit service in most American cities, so the woman’s experience may be more a reflection of the city’s bad signage and her limited experience in riding the bus than some systematic problem in transit provision.”

  2. HockeyFan2 says:

    All the week’s stories have now been posted. See this link.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112034391

    I would say the reporting is slightly better than average in today’s media spectrum, but NPR continues to slip, in my opinion. They are capable of much better, deeper reporting.

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