High-Speed Rails: Think Big, America

Mar 16, 2015

The latest debate in the transit industry has been high-speed rail, and California is planning to take it by storm. California HSR (high speed rail) is the largest, most innovative HSR project in the nation. With the first phase only in construction, it has already gained widespread public support as well as created several jobs. Furthermore, the electrically-powered high-speed train system will help California meet its growing transportation infrastructure needs. By 2029, the HSR system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under 3 hours. In the future, the train will extend to San Diego and Sacramento, covering 800 miles with up to 24 stations. California will be the first test of 220 mph trains in America, an experiment that could boost the nation to first place in global high speed rail.

Several in favor of high speed rail systems feel that this form of transit will provide substantial economic benefits. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s research indicates that high-speed rail could mean a $13.8 billion per year increase in business sales for the Chicago Metro area alone. Furthermore, road and airway congestion cost about $156 billion per year, money that some believe could be saved by HSR. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group found that the majority of Silicon Valley commuters spend about 37 hours per year stuck in traffic, a loss of $721 on excess fuel consumption per commuter. High-speed rail has the potential to significantly cut these costs.

Not only do HSR activists foresee significant economic savings, but also a drastic reduction in energy and fuel use.  High-speed trains consume nearly 10 times less fuel than cars and six times less than planes. Building these high-speed rails could reduce energy needs, the over-reliance on oil, and harmful emissions.  The Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s research indicates that a Midwest high-speed rail network would: save an estimated 760 million gallons of gasoline per year, cut approximately 3.3 million tons of carbon emissions, and operate (in part) on renewable energy sources.

Even though the benefits of high-speed rail systems are outstanding, not everyone has jumped on board. The costs to construct these systems are enormous, and the duration could take decades. As the debate rages on, California HSR continues to fight for this innovation to the transit industry.

- Sara Isbell