Obama Unveils Vision for High-Speed Rail

Apr 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Finally, a plan to build fast trains in America.

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After a sending out a series of signals regarding its intentions, the Obama Administration has released its vision for a national network of high-speed train routes in America. The network would consist of 10 regional corridors around major cities, connected by long-distance passenger routes.

Said Obama:

What we’re talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America.  Imagine boarding a train in the center of a city… whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination.  Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America…

Building a new system of high-speed rail in America will be faster, cheaper and easier than building more freeways or adding to an already overburdened aviation system –- and everybody stands to benefit.

Currently, there is only one high-speed rail corridor in the US, which operates in the northeast of the country. Last year, a new plan was approved in California for a high-speed rail system that would link up the state’s major cities (the California High Speed Rail Blog is a good source of updates on its progress).

American was once a rail superpower. As Obama noted on Thursday, railroads were built to tie the country together way back in Lincoln’s time. However, with the construction of the Interstate Highway System in the post-WWII years, America committed itself to a car-based transportation system, and its railways began to stagnate.

In recent decades, Europe and Asia have energetically pursued high-speed rail networks. As University of Pennsylvania Professor Vukan Vuchic told the LA Times: “We are, frankly, several decades behind if we compare ourselves with our peer countries. The country badly needs high-speed rail in all these regions.”

Obama clearly understands this:

“In France, high-speed rail has pulled regions from isolation, ignited growth, remade quiet towns into thriving tourist destinations.  In Spain, a high-speed line between Madrid and Seville is so successful that more people travel between those cities by rail than by car and airplane combined.  China, where service began just two years ago, may have more miles of high-speed rail service than any other country just five years from now.  And Japan, the nation that unveiled the first high-speed rail system, is already at work building the next:  a line that will connect Tokyo with Osaka at speeds of over 300 miles per hour.

So it’s being done; it’s just not being done here.”

Obama has already allocated $8 billion to developing high-speed rail in his Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and has committed to budgeting an additional $5 billion over the coming years. He noted, however, that these sums are just the beginning of a long-term project. Stay tuned for a more detailed National Rail Plan, to be released in October.

For the full text of Obama’s speech: whitehouse.gov.

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  1. [...] map bears a certain resemblance to the “Vision for High-Speed Rail in America”unveiled by the Obama Administration in April. Both are based on the same 10 regional corridors, but [...]

  2. building a link between San Francisco and Los Angeles or between Chicago and Ohio will not make cities more “sustainable.”

    It will not reduce traffic in cities. the terrible traffic in san francisco and los angeles is not caused by traffic between the two cities. Rather, it is caused by traffic in each of these cities metro area.

    Right now, If I want to go to Los angeles from my home city of San Francisco, I have two options; fly on southwest or drive. Lets compare the two:

    Fly on Southwest: It is very easy and quick. If i am going for a day trip, I would drive to OAK or SFO. Excluding driving to the airport, here is a breakdown of the time:

    – Parking (assume i am going for a day trip, so i park at the closest parking): 15 minutes
    – Security 15 minutes
    – wait at gate – 30 minutes
    – transport time – 90 minutes
    – walk from gate to taxi at BUR or SNA: 15 minutes
    – total time: 2 hours 45 minutes

    Lets look at alternative to take a train to los angeles metro area:
    – Parking (assume i am going for a day trip, so I will park at the closest parking): 15 minutes
    – security – 15 minutes
    – wait at train station – 30 minutes
    – transport time acording to state of california website: 2 hours 45 minutes
    – catch a taxi: 10 minutes
    total time: between 3 1/2 and 4 hours.

    Why would I take the train? Flying is the better option.

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