We have noted that some people think that the high speed rail network proposals are a great step forward, while others, like Jim Kunstler, think it is a waste of resources that should be spent fixing what we have.
Urban theorist Richard Florida overlays the proposed high speed rail network on his map of urban megaregions and makes some very good points.
Florida writes in the Atlantic:
In the main, the proposed high-speed rail routes map pretty well to U.S. mega-regions. Given the fact that megas are dense and interconnected centers of population and economic activity, it makes sense to develop high-speed rail connections within mega-regions first, and later develop connections between contiguous ones, say for example down the east and west coasts or across the Great Lakes region.
He is critical of those (like me) who dump on the suburbs, and explains why he thinks the rail system will work:
It's a mistake to consider suburban sprawl a backward step (as some do), and to see only more compact urban style back-to-the-city development as a path to the future. The rise of the mega-region is the cornerstone of a new, more intensive and also more expansive use of space....
Mega-regions, if they are to function as integrated economic units, require better, more effective, and faster ways move goods, people, and ideas. High-speed rail accomplishes that, and it also provides a framework for future in-fill development along its corridors. Just as development filled-in along the early street-car lines and the post-war highways, high-speed rail will encourage denser, more compact, and concentrated development with growth filling in along its routes over time. Spain's new high-speed rail link between Barcelona and Madrid not only massively reduced commuting times between these two great Spanish cities, according to a recent New York Times report, it has also helped revitalize several declining locations along the line.
More in the Atlantic via Ryan Avent
More on high speed rail:
Is High Speed Rail the Answer?
Quote of the Day: Jim Kunstler on High Speed Rail
Is High Speed Rail Coming to a City Near You? A Guide to Obama's Plans
High Speed Trains As Sexy as Fast Cars