The Morning Measure: Is it really time to reconsider high-speed rail?

Jan 12, 2011
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The Washington Post waded into the high-speed rail debate today with an editorial urging the reconsideration of federal investment in California’s planned high-speed rail system that would eventually connect the state’s two largest metropolitan areas Los Angeles and San Francisco. With a tone of skepticism towards the notion of bringing Western European-esque high-speed rail to the U.S. The Post argues “It’s unclear that the public benefits attributed to high-speed rail – reduced carbon emissions and less airport congestion – would outweigh the inevitable operating subsidies as Amtrak’s experience suggests. If federal high-speed rail investment makes sense at all it’s probably in the densely populated Northeast Corridor where demand for passenger trains is highest.”

The Northeast Corridor is without a doubt the part of the country most suitable for high-speed rail as a recent report by the transportation group America 2050 indicated. The corridor running from Washington D.C. to Boston is the densest portion of an otherwise not-so-dense country has the highest amount of passenger rail usage in the nation (and that’s with trains that average around 70mph imagine if trains zipped along at 150-220mph or more). The America 2050 report did indeed support the Post’s statement that the Northeast is the most sensible region in which to make federal investment in high-speed rail but California scored a very close second in the evaluation. The editorial cites concerns that high-speed rail can’t compete with auto travel by interstate. Perhaps that’s true in some of the less dense less rail-compatible parts of the country but the Northeast and California appear to be wise regions for investment in high-speed rail.

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