Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who Will Get High-Speed Rail First, CA Or The Northeast?

While most of Western Europe and East Asia is criss-crossed by dependable high-speed rail connections, the United States is still in the preliminary stages of building the first line. Of course, we have start somewhere and thus far we have two geographic candidates, California and the Northeast. Right now rail service in California is slow to say the least and while the Northeast has good service, it can be much better. So what is going on with both plans for improvement now?

From DMI Blog:

In November California voters will have the opportunity to vote for high-speed rail linking San Francisco with Los Angeles.

High-speed rail in the Northeast also came closer to reality in July when the House of Representatives passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which includes provisions that support the development of high-speed rail for the Washington, DC to New York corridor.

Both initiatives are still a long ways from becoming reality. If the California ballot proposition is passed, the state will still have to locate federal and private funding sources.

The California line would take two and a half hours from San Francisco to L.A. and cost $55. A quick search on shows me that a flight between the two cities takes about an hour and fifteen minutes and costs between $118 and $188. When you factor in the amount of time you spend getting to and waiting at the airport, the high-speed rail option seems like it will be very competitive.

So the plans sound good and the benefits are tremendous. The problem is if our government is capable of making the investment to actually build the tracks and the cars to run on them. Finding the dollars to make it happen is a lot harder than dreaming up the plan. With all the money we throw away in Iraq, give away to the defense industry and give back to wealthiest amongst us, the feat is nearly impossible. The only way I see this happening is if we have a President willing to change the direction the income gap is going in...and having a Vice-President that cares about rail travel (since he's been riding Amtrak to work in the Senate for over three decades).