When Will A High-Speed Rail Plan Bring More Fast Trains to the U.S.?

Taichung Station

Photo: H. T. Yu. Taichung Station, Taiwan (CC)

Stuart F. Brown writes in Scientific American:

America is an absurdly backward country when it comes to passenger trains. As anyone who has visited Europe, Japan or Shanghai knows, trains that travel at nearly 200 miles per hour have become integral to the economies of many countries. With its celebrated Tokaido Shinkansen bullet trains, Central Japan Railway has for the past five decades carried billions of passengers between Tokyo and Osaka in half the time it would take to fly.

A new Madrid-to-Barcelona express train runs at an average speed of 150 miles per hour; since its inception two years ago, airline traffic between the two cities has dropped by 40 percent. In contrast, Amtrak’s showcase Acela train connecting Boston to Washington, D.C., averages just 70 mph. That figure is so low because many sections of the Acela’s tracks cannot safely support high speeds, even though the train itself is capable of sprints above 150 mph. Think of it as a Ferrari sputtering down a rutted country lane.

There has been a recent push to change all this. Earlier this year the Department of Transportation announced the recipients of $8 billion in stimulus funding designed to spread high-speed rail across the U.S. The 2010 federal budget requests an additional $1 billion in rail construction funds in each of the next five years.

And in 2008 California voters approved a $9-billion bond measure to initiate an ambitious high-speed rail network that would connect Los Angeles to San Francisco and, eventually, Sacramento and San Diego.

Read More in Scientific American

12 Comments on "When Will A High-Speed Rail Plan Bring More Fast Trains to the U.S.?"

  1. What…encourage travel by citizens? That's crazy talk! You can't keep people cowering in their homes and unable to grasp the cultural differences even in their own country if they have the freedom to travel quickly and conveniently. That's why you keep it sluggish, privatized and limited to the moderately wealthy.

  2. emperorreagan | Jul 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm |

    The US will never have a viable mass transportation system because everyone cries when they start talking about right-of-way and land use issues.

    Sort of like how everyone thinks clean energy is a good idea until you want to build a wind farm where they might have to see it. People will fight it in courts for years and years.

    • Hadrian999 | Jul 13, 2010 at 3:11 am |

      mass transit is an impossibility for a majority of the land mass of the usa, our population outside the major cities is far to decentralized for an effective mass transit and the people who won't gain from it will vote to punish any of their representatives who vote to fund it in any way. that's the major problem with democracy,
      selfishness and greed are the driving forces behind everything and nobody thinks past their next election.

    • NIMBY's suck.

  3. tonyviner | Jul 12, 2010 at 4:09 am |

    We don't deserve something so nice.

  4. “As anyone who has visited Europe, Japan or Shanghai knows, trains that travel at nearly 200 miles per hour have become integral to the economies of many countries.” clearly hasn't travelled on British trains. the speed limit is still 125mph due to our terrible infrastructure, seriously needs a heavy upgrade.

    Mind you I get misty eyed about the tube… dirty, hot, sweaty and when a suicide happens the commuters complain about being late. sigh.

  5. Hobbesart | Jul 12, 2010 at 9:04 am |

    Well, sir, there's nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car Monorail!


    What's it called?


    Lyle Lanley: That's right! Monorail!

  6. jhonixh smith | Jul 12, 2010 at 11:16 pm |

    Hi Guys My name is Neil Jhonson, that is very good news for USA. I think, It is really new coming transport communication in USA..I really appreciates this work.


  7. Heaven forbid we cut the waste from our defense spending and use some of it for something practical for once.

  8. Hadrian999 | Jul 13, 2010 at 2:27 am |

    these will only help people in select metropolitan areas.
    I'm all for them but the usa will never have travel like the kind Europe has, once you get outside a few major population centers mass transit here is a total joke.

  9. Jaques rudolph | Jul 14, 2010 at 12:42 am |

    I read an article in the NY Times which mentioned growing interests in reinvigorating the old US Rail seeing as how petrol will soon be 4USD/gallon. Would you use rail if they brought it back?

    Bare Lifts

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