Where in the US is High Speed Rail the Best Bet?

Photo credit: Jon Curnow via Flickr/CC BY

High speed rail is perhaps the most hotly debated mass transportation issue in the United States -- the possibility of rapid, low-emissions travel sparks excitement in many, yet the spending required to make it a reality stokes the ire in others. But the fact remains clear that our highways are overburdened, too congested, and cause too much pollution. Which is why we need to make the case for HSR as specific as possible. In this spirit, a new study from America 2050 has determined the recipe for optimal high speed rail -- it determines the ideal length, location, and nature for rail projects across the country: From the report:

High-speed rail works in very specific conditions, primarily in corridors of approximately 100-600 miles in length where it can connect major employment centers and population hubs with other large and moderate-sized employment centers and population hubs. Such corridors exist primarily in the nation's 11 megaregions, where over 70 percent of the nation's population and productivity (as measured by regional GDP) is concentrated.
Among the other interesting findings is that the ideal rail line may not be one that spans a thousand miles -- the "most promising rail corridors for attracting ridership in the United States are in corridors of less than 150 miles." These corridors, like LA-San Diego and New York - Philadelphia, have the additional benefit of acting as stepping stones for larger, multi-city rail lines. The study points out that they can be priced for both commuters and inter-city travel.

Less surprisingly, the study finds that huge cities are the best potential sources for generating reliable ridership. It's also noted that cities that have a larger workforce in knowledge industries will be more likely to take advantage of rail transit, as workers in such sectors are more inclined to travel for work.

Though much of the information appears commonsense, the report nonetheless should inform the future blueprint of US high speed rail -- and, by this report's recommendations, it looks like California's decision to start building its statewide rail line in the dead middle of the California valley wasn't such a hot idea. Bring on the San Diego-LA line, or the Sacramento-SF line instead ...

More on High Speed Rail
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Tags: Transportation | United States