From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published January 13, 2011 09:40 AM

High-Speed Rail Potential in US "Megaregions"

High speed rail is considered the holy grail of mass transit planning, and touted as a necessity for advanced economies. America is often derided for not having any high speed rail networks, while other advanced nations in Europe and Asia have them well established. A new report from the group America 2050 outlines the areas of the United States which have the greatest potential to support a high speed rail network.


America 2050 is a national organization whose mission is to help solve the nation's economic, environmental, and infrastructure challenges as America's population increases by 130 million by the year 2050. One step to further that goal is the identification of megaregions which are large networks of metropolitan areas. These megaregions will be the location of most population growth and therefore deserve the most attention.

Examples of megaregions include the Northeast Megalopolis, which spans the I-95 corridor from Washington D.C. to Boston. They include Southern California from Los Angeles down to Tijuana, Mexico. They also include Florida, the Great Lakes region, the Gulf Coast, Texas Triangle, and more.

The study judges which rail corridors have the greatest potential by evaluating 12 critical factors. These include population, employment concentrations, air travel markets, and rail transit accessibility. In order to be able to compete with car and air travel, each rail corridor identified is between 100 and 600 miles, such as Dallas to Houston, Milwaukee to Chicago, or Portland to Seattle.

The report calls on the federal government to become actively involved in promoting and developing high speed rail networks. "America 2050 strongly believes that investments in HSR will be essential to the long-term economic success and mobility of the nation and its megaregions, and supports the Obama Administration's efforts to lay the foundation for a national HSR network serving these places," said Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association and co-chair of America 2050. "The report recommends, however, that the federal government adopt a data-driven, ridership-based approach to choosing rail corridors for federal investment in the future in order to direct funding toward projects with the greatest market demand."

The development of these networks will face significant economic challenges as we stumble out of a recession and attempt to cut the deficit. But it will be a matter of time before they become a reality. High speed rail would most likely start in the Northeast where the greatest population density exists. If this proves successful, other megaregions will follow suit. One day, we will all be riding bullet trains across the country.

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