Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

A “think piece” from a reader

Yes, there have been about a million lengthy studies and proposals on passenger rail and HSR. This was posted in the comment section today, and I thought it good (since the author claims some academic credentials and invites your interaction) to move it forward.


Regrettably we have lost site of the real rationales for true dedicated HSR: it being a SUSTAINABLE, NON-OIL DEPENDENT, SAFER, CLEANER, TRAFFIC MITIGATING, CBD DEVELOPING mode of transport.  The following HSR system concept is that and needs to be employed first in the USA.

Please allow me to introduce myself and thank you for letting me briefly write about HSR technology, a new-dedicated true HSR model/alignment, and major city pair transport.  I am a graduate student in Chicago researching geography, environment studies, energy and passenger rail systems around the globe; principally, the economics and justifications of past, present and future high-speed rail(HSR) development.  Ultimately I would like to consult or work for a government agency or elsewhere in some capacity concerning the “signature ARRA budget item”, high-speed rail stimulus initiatives and future HSR projects beyond.

The true HSR model-concept white paper I created for a truly effective and significant first HSR system is available up on request.  Research suggests this and only this new alignment has the greatest vital HSR transport impacts in the USA, it also being a natural next progression of the popular Northeast HSR Corridor/NEC.  An Indiana branch is being studied.

Since we have entered the age of high-speed rail development in this country, hopefully the FRA, Amtrak, DOTs, congress people and state governors will be diligent and open to all alternate interpretations about what should be done in the effort to build potentially sustainable, non-oil dependent, clean, electric, European-Asian type high speed rail/or “bullet trains” in the USA, particularly to and from Chicago and for tens of millions of other US and global passengers.

Americans want now what’s being accomplished around the world for decades now in this exciting new worthwhile endeavor, investment and mode, fulfilled in the USA regarding TRUE 220 mph High Speed Rail (HSR) versus the current intercity(“higher speed rail”) plans…  I am sure that for HSR in the USA to succeed by and large, this functional model should be the first and possibly the only new true HSR system implemented in the USA; connecting many major cities with populations of over one million people each from Chicago to Boston to Washington DC.  Bona fide “world class” cities have real HSR yet Chicago has none!

The Great Lakes-Keystone-Northeast Main HSR line I propose offers Americans and others a safe, tangible, terrestrial connection to the geography, countryside, cities, topography, economy, history, and greatness of the USA at a practical speed…  Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, New York-Jersey and Pennsylvania are where this new true HSR alignment is positioned so these high traffic states have the most need for enhanced designs, coordination and funds.  By the way, there’s 1000s of daily commercial intercity flights amongst these very states(cities) right now!

Upgrades, repairs, and better efforts are necessary for the already functioning but serviceable conventional radial Amtrak routes emanating from Chicago as requested by the present Midwest intercity passenger rail plans.  Nonetheless, for the most part, authorities believe that the freight RRs will most likely be strongly opposed to the current Midwest intercity shared track/ROW(right of way) plans due to severe limitations on their own operations and bottom lines…

Equally, isn’t the idea of stimulus/government money going to upgrade private RR track/ROW flawed?  Does this amount to a huge handout to the already very profitable freight railroads?  Shouldn’t the freight railroads have been upgrading their private tracks/ROW regularly all along so that Amtrak could have used them properly without all the inconveniences and poor publicity all these many years?  Amtrak compensates them for just that service…(in contrast, this true HSR/ROW alignment will impinge just minimally on freight RR operations …)

California, Texas, Florida, and other regions of the world(even China and Russia) have “true” bullet train/HSR systems, plans or lines under construction.  Texas(Texas TGV) and Florida(FOX) have rejected HSR plans in the recent past, so they should wait to get another chance at HSR.  Going forward, alternatively, other states that have financially supported Amtrak all along should be rewarded for that and participate in the new HSR initiatives. (furthermore, the logistics of this new alignment connects 100 million more people than California’s competing new HSR plans!)

True electric HSR, when applied properly, is a superior substitute for gas guzzling polluting airplanes and is a key green part of the necessary diversification of transportation energy(like electric/hybrid cars, alternate transport fuels, etc) needed to reduce oil dependency.(keep in mind that 70% of oil use is for transportation/liquid fuels such as gasoline and jet fuel)

As for energy overall: coal is for electricity, natural gas is for heating, but oil is primarily for transportation and also some heating, plastics and chemicals products.  Wind, solar, hydro/water, and nuclear powers are also for electricity-the US has plenty of varied electricity energy capacity to run trains/transportation of all sorts for a long long time!

The old paradigm of HSR use of freight RRs/ROW, slow incremental HSR projects of 500 miles or less only, and diesel locomotive power are over…  People(voters) want valid world-class 220 mph HSR systems over 500 miles long to big cities using sustainable responsible technologies as electric HSR systems worldwide do now.  Build baby build, don’t drill for more transport oil…

Finally, yes, HSR advocacy groups are fine fundraisers, environmentalists and organizers.  Where they are deficient is in designing HSR models & networks.  I am certain that international European-Asian HSR planners would embrace my concept as the one that should be realized first for true HSR in the USA and to and from Illinois/Chicago, connecting 45 major city pairs-the densities are there! (see highlighted new 550-mile ROW section of the true HSR multiple major city pairing illustration; connecting Chicago to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia to Cleveland, New York City to Detroit and on and on…)  No Cleveland-Pittsburgh connection makes NO sense at all…

This is a national competitive grant setting(thus the many applications for HSR $).  I ask?, is less effective, timid or piecemeal HSR the way to go?  This new true HSR alignment with major national impact should be the next logical step, then other intercity or HSR systems can follow.

Please use this alignment as an option should sentiment for current Midwest incremental intercity-higher speed plans diminish or, instead; carry out what others and I would like to see…  Implement this concept now as another, however true new HSR plan, which connects over 100 million people in conjunction with (or possibly even in place of?) the current 3000 mile Midwest/Illinois passenger rail plans…  Please comment, thanks.


Mike Lehman


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

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