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Why America Needs High Speed Rail

Updated on March 18, 2010
Photo by LWY
Photo by LWY
European rail system. High-speed rail is yellow (200-230 km/h), orange (250-280 km/h), and red (300-350 km/h)
European rail system. High-speed rail is yellow (200-230 km/h), orange (250-280 km/h), and red (300-350 km/h)
East Asian high speed rail systems
East Asian high speed rail systems

Americans pride ourselves on our history of innovation and technological advancement. In one key area, however, we have fallen far behind Europeans and Asians: high speed rail.

America once had one of the finest rail systems in the world. However, after World War 2, while Europe and Japan poured their money into rebuilding rail infrastructure, the United States built interstates and airports. Although these transportation systems have served us well for decades, it is becoming increasingly clear as fuel costs continue to rise that rail is not a thing of the past, but rather the wave of the future.

And I, for one, say it is time for America to reclaim its status as the world's great innovator and start putting our energy into building the world's best high speed rail system.

The Benefits of High Speed Rail

For the passenger, trains offer virtually unparalleled comfort. Trains have wider seats and more foot room than cars or planes. You can get up and walk around, or stay seated and read, work on your laptop or other electronic device, or simply enjoy the scenery. For longer trips, trains have comfortable overnight accommodations, allowing you to travel while sleeping and avoid driver fatigue.

Trains are also fast and convenient. High speed trains travel at 125 miles per hour or faster, faster than any automobile speed limit in the country, and they avoid traffic congestion, while simultaneously reducing it. Although jet travel is faster, trains typically take less time to board, so over short and medium-length distances, trains can actually be faster than both cars and planes.

High speed rail is safe. The grade-separated high speed lines used in much of Europe and Japan have not had a single fatality in 41 years.

High speed rail offers many benefits to the environment. It is the most fuel-efficient form of mass transportation, reducing air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.It carries 3-5 times more people per hour than interstate highways, while requiring only 10-40% of the land.

Track is also four times cheaper to build than highways, and rail creates more jobs.

High Speed Rail in California

The nation's first major battle for high speed rail is being fought in California.

Proposition 1A will be on the ballot this November 2008. It authorizes a $9.95 billion bond to cover approximately one-third the cost of a high speed rail system from Sacramento to San Diego that would, among other things, connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours, create 160,000 construction and 450,000 permanent jobs, and take 92 million vehicle trips off the roads every year, reducing congestion, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 12 billion pounds per year, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil by up to 12.7 billion barrels a year.

All this, without raising taxes!

Other High Speed Rail Proposals

Many other states and regions are currently considering proposals for high speed rail. Congress's recent Amtrak authorization bill also included provisions for high speed rail research and development. Senator John Kerry is also known to be working on a high speed rail bill that will be called the High Speed Rail for America Act.

Senator Barack Obama has also expressed support for high speed rail, and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, is a long-time supporter of high speed rail, who commutes from Washington DC to Wilmington, Delaware every day on Amtrak, a routine he started more than 30 years ago in order to be with his two sons after the death of their mother and sister in a car crash.


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    • profile image

      guest 6 years ago

      Yes, the high speed rail syste is a must for the economic power of the country.

      Is the Proposed Trans Global Highway a solution for future population concerns and global warming?

      One excellent solution to future population concerns as well as alleviating many of the effects of potential global warming is the Frank Didik proposal for the construction of the "Trans Global Highway". The Didik proposed Trans Global Highway would create a world wide network of standardized roads, railroads, water pipe lines, oil and gas pipelines, electrical and communication cables. The result of this remarkable, far sighted project will be global unity through far better distribution of resources, including heretofore difficult to obtain or unaccessible raw materials, fresh water, finished products and lower global transportation costs.

      With greatly expanded global fresh water distribution, arid lands could be cultivated resulting in a huge abundance of global food supplies. The most conservative estimate is that with the construction of the Trans Global Highway, the planet will be able to feed several billion more people, using presently available modern farming technologies. With the present global population of just under 7 billion people and at the United Nations projection of population increase, the world will produce enough food surpluses to feed the expected increased population for several hundred years.

      Thomas Robert Malthus's famous dire food shortage predictions of 1798 and his subsequent books, over the next 30 years, failed to take into consideration modern advances in farming, transportation, food storage and food abundance. Further information on the proposed Trans Global Highway can be found at .

    • kerryg profile image

      kerryg 9 years ago from USA

      I'm in Nebraska, but I'm rooting for it too. Hopefully it will start a trend! Did you know Omaha used to have 114 passenger trains a DAY pass through? Now it's two: one going east, and one going west.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I hope the high speed measure passes here in California, it is highly needed.