U.S. High-Speed Rail Plan Subject of Diane Rehm Show

4 Jan
High-speed rail

Maiden Madrid-Barcelona run of Spain's AVE, Feb. 20, 2008. Photo: Manu Fernandez, AP

What a great start to the new year –– a focus on trains in the national media. National Public Radio’s popular Diane Rehm show today features a wide-ranging discussion about U.S. President Obama’s $8 billion high-speed rail initiative. Among her guests are Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as representatives from the Brookings Institution and the Association of American Railroads. Listen to the program:  High Speed Rail in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association plans to quantify the impact of 220-mph trains on the U.S. economy. “We will need to quickly complete the project and publish its results to influence the coming debate,” says Rick Harnish, executive director. Help fund the MHSRA project by clicking here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this important issue. Some of our members think high-speed passenger service is basically a boondoggle. Others think it’s essential infrastructure for our nation. What are your thoughts?

4 Responses to “U.S. High-Speed Rail Plan Subject of Diane Rehm Show”

  1. Paul Makosky January 5, 2011 at 10:21 AM #

    My views:

    • We need to walk before we can run.

    – Fix the Northeast Corridor (NEC) so that it is reliable. E.g., modernize/enlarge the trans-Hudson tunnels, rewire the AC Gilbert catenary from Hell Gate to New Haven, incrementally rework the remainder of the system with the sort of improvements that are being carried out on the Wilmington station, raise the speed capability of the 85-90 % of the NEC to the speed capability of the stretch from Providence to Rte 128, get the next generation of Acela equipment on the procurement list.

    -Apply the same principal to the other major commuter corridors in the country.

    • I fail to see why we need 220 mph rail lines, with their need for separate roadbeds, stations, etc., requiring billions in expenditure. Spain has [the high-speed] AVE and is close to bankruptcy. We can dramatically improve the basics we already have with far less expenditure…

    • Create an effective lobby to reduce the vast subsidies that go to trucking and the airlines for short-haul business that basically can be better executed on rail. Use that money to improve existing rail infrastructure. That would be far more realistic than trying to cram the gigantic expenditure required for high-speed rail down the taxpayers’ throats. It would have the incidental benefit of drastically reducing the fuel demand demand (think imported oil) and the air pollution in these congested areas.

    • I enjoy riding Amtrak’s Crescent, Cardinal, Capitol Limited, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight and California Zephyr. However, the distances and the time required to traverse these routes, even at twice the speed, still would not compete with air for the business traveller. Incremental speed improvements on these existing long-distance lines, rather than duplicating them for high-speed rail, would better serve our needs for far less expenditure without bankrupting us.

    The USA is simply a lot bigger than European counties or regions and Japan. We need to design our solutions to meet our need rather than blindly applying what has worked in unlike situations.

  2. Garth Stevenson January 5, 2011 at 11:11 AM #

    High-speed trains are great in theory, but I don’t see any future for them in the USA for the following reasons:
    1. Americans have relied on cars and airplanes for 50 years, and it is too late to change that mindset.
    2. The country is too large and thinly populated for a high-speed rail network to be a feasible substitute for air travel.
    3. U.S. railroads carry heavy, and essential, freight traffic, which is incompatible with high-speed passenger trains. Building new lines dedicated exclusively to passenger trains would have all the environmentalists up in arms, even if the country could afford it.
    4. Finally, and most importantly, the US government is close to bankruptcy…The obsessive American hatred of taxes combined with the huge military budget and social security creates a structural deficit and makes it virtually impossible to pay for all the things the government is doing already. In the circumstances, it would be totally irresponsible to spend more billions on high-speed trains.

  3. sacha davilak July 15, 2011 at 7:24 AM #

    Without effective public transportation in the connected communities, high speed rail will not work. Getting to the city is only half the problem, getting around the city is the other half. People won’t use it if they can’t get around once they arrive at their destination and will still drive instead.

    • Owen C. Hardy July 15, 2011 at 10:14 AM #

      Thanks for writing. You are so right. And that is why we favor all forms of effective public transport. Where do you live and what kind of transport works for you in your city?

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