Rail Across America


You’ve probably seen this already. It’s the latest graphic representation of the nation’s proposed high-speed rail corridors, and it’s been all over the transportation blogosphere since President Obama stood beside it at a press conference yesterday.

Those corridors are likely to change somewhat as the administration refines its new strategy for high-speed rail, says Transport Politic blogger Yonah Freemark, who credits the administration for taking serious steps toward a national rail plan.

Perhaps the biggest positive from yesterday’s presser is that Obama linked the idea of high-speed rail to local transit, center cities, and car-free transportation:

Imagine boarding a train in the center of a city. No racing to an
airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no
lost luggage, no taking off your shoes. (Laughter.) Imagine 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

  • Imagine boarding a train in the center of a city.

    You’ve lost most Americans right there.

  • I’ve always thought “airport security is stupid” is a pretty bad argument for rail. Airport security should be fixed whether or not you build trains.

    But it’s even worse coming from the President. Dude, you’re the TSA’s boss! Tell them to scrap the stupid shoe policy!

  • I’m just waiting for the day rail in this country gets hit with an attack. Then we’ll get the joy of TSA searches before boarding trains, eliminating that one advantage the train confers now.

  • I can imagine having rail be more convenient than air travel, but I won’t believe it till I see it.

  • Let’s hope the gaping holes in that map are going to be filled by Amtrak or some other revamped intercity rail system.

    I don’t have problem with airport security, and I’m sure we’ll see something similar on trains some day.

  • “I don’t have problem with airport security, and I’m sure we’ll see something similar on trains some day.”

    How could MTA-NYCT possibly handle a fraction of its current passenger load if every passenger had to remove her shoes, cell phone, belt, and coins and go into a metal detector before boarding the subway?

  • John

    in my Europe travels i only ecountered train security in Spain, and thats most likley due to the previous attacks on its system by in house separatists and foreign ones. basically all bags on an x ray scanner and walk through metal detector, its quick its simple its easy no problems and a heck of a lot less trouble then an airline, its the same with the Eurostar line from london to paris. security is and always will be a concern with public transport but you will never prevent everything, America thinks it can (as an American i can say this) i love amtrak and take it wherever i can no matter the delays or longer time, i live on the east coast in the rail corridors already existing and the new high speed lines go right through where i live as well, so again quite lucky i even have the train option

  • As far as I’m concerned, the train is already better than the plane for medium distances. I’ve taken the Silver Service from the South to New York. Even though it was a nine-hour trip, it was still preferable to going to the airport, waiting for the plane, getting off in Cincinnati or someplace, waiting for another plane, and then getting into the city. That was before the World Trade Center attacks and the subsequent increase in security theater.

    As Digamma wrote, most “airport security” is a farce. It drives me up the wall when people insist that train travel has to have the same level of security. Hello, people! You can’t fly trains into buildings!

  • I can literally walk to Union Station (DC), hop on the Acela, and hop off in the middle of Midtown Manhattan. Or, I can catch the Super Shuttle, drive 25 miles to Dulles Airport, deal with security, fly to JFK, wait for my baggage, then pay way too much for a cab to Manhattan. There’s really no contest. Why are we not already building high speed rail everywhere??

  • Lee Watkins

    Some of us are already lucky, but there’s plenty room for improvement. I live in the Highlandtown area of Baltimore (the setting of “Grease” and “Hairspray”). From here I can ride my bicycle a short distance to Baltimore’s Penn station, catch the MARC train to DC for $7, then use my SmartBike pass to rent a bike, even take that bike on the METRO (if it isn’t rush hour). Or from PENN, I could catch the ACELA train right up to NYC or even out to Boston. Back as recently as the 1958 I think, the Pennsy still had station in Highlandtown as well. It’s no wonder 1/3 of the residents here don’t own a car.

  • bikerider

    Until the US modernizes the FRA regulatory framework, it is unlikely there will ever be a comprehensive HSR network. At best, all we can hope for are ‘Acela’ type projects (i.e. severely handicapped) and perhaps the California ‘true’ high-speed rail.

    In Germany, Japan, Spain, etc., the regulations were drastically changed to accommodate the new technology. Whereas in the US, the FRA actually went in the opposite direction — making it much more complicated to implement high-speed trains on the national network. If FRA continues to require 100% segregation (i.e. duplicate) infrastructure be built, the cost will be way too high to implement what is shown on the map.

  • I liked Kunstler’s take on HSR this morning:

    “We would be so much better off simply fixing up and reactivating the normal-speed track system that is sitting out there rusting in the rain — and save our more grandiose visions for a later time.”

    The amount Obama’s going to be able to dedicate to this would certainly go farther that way.

  • MisterBadExample

    I’m with Rhywun–I’d be a very happy individual if every train I took from NY south past DC didn’t have to stop in dc to change from electric to diesel engine–a stop that means that in terms of speed, the Greyhound and Chinatown bus lines beat the train 90% of the time. You don’t need high speed rail for this, but you need a functional train system that isn’t run for the convenience of the employees. In Richmond, VA, the station shuts down at nine at night, so you can’t leave work in NY and step on a train that day.


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