This makes HSR more convenient than flying and ideal for one-way trips of less than 600 miles. California’s system will offer a fast and safe 790 miles of double track, electrified, grade-separated and right-of-way protected travel by express or by way of the local HSR version that will stop at more intermediate stations.
However, HSR will not diminish the importance of longer-distance airline travel or other forms of public transit. HSR is the ideal form of linear travel to connect neighboring metropolitan regions. HSR is not designed for coast-to-coast travel. But it would increase connectivity and accessibility to existing transcontinental air transportation systems and with the underserved inland populations, such as California’s central valley and the wide open spaces of Texas and central Florida.
HSR is ideal for both work and leisure. The primary target for high-speed rail is the business travelers who use the system several days per week accessing the metropolitan areas. An added bonus to HSR commuters, at least in some areas, is that employers often will subsidize mass transit use for employees, which will further reduce the cost to the user and increase ridership. The employees’ productivity also will be improved because commuters will be able to work comfortably while they travel and use cell phone and Internet connections, turning their travel time into paid time. They also will arrive at the workplace more relaxed because they will not have been fighting traffic congestion on saturated highways while paying for increasingly more expensive fuel.
Finally, the price of a one-way HSR ticket from San Francisco to Los Angles was estimated at $55, which was half the average cost of a commuter airline ticket at the time the business plan was developed. Moreover, the cost of shorter HSR trips is incrementally less, while for shorter airline flights, the price is substantially more than for long-haul flights between major metropolitan areas.
So HSR is less expensive, faster, more convenient, more reliable, safer, accessible directly into urban centers and more environmentally friendly. Which would you chose?
Time for final HSR implementation
Our national economy is staggering. Americans need jobs. President Franklin Roosevelt showed us how to build our way out of a depression while creating needed infrastructure. President Obama and congress will help build the HSR systems, in part, to create and sustain employment. HSR also helps the United States become a meaningful player in controlling climate change, which has become a crisis throughout the world. In fact, the vast European and Japanese high-speed rail networks are a primary reason both areas meet the old Kyoto Accords.
While the United States is 4 percent of the world’s population, it creates almost 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. It’s time the United States assumed responsibility as a global citizen regarding this most serious climate challenge.
The economic unit that moves employees and products most efficiently will prevail in the rapidly intensifying geo-economic competition. Certainly Japan, China, the European Community and even some underdeveloped areas are leaping ahead of the United States by creating HSR systems. Chair Oberstar and other national transportation leaders have asked if the United States has become a Third World country in terms of our transportation systems. China is in the early stages of planning 35 high-speed rail lines. China’s railways are among the main beneficiaries of its government’s 4-trillion-yuan ($585B) stimulus package. Approximately 11,000 kilometers of HSR traveling at more than 220 mph are under construction. More than 13,000 km of higher-speed railways capable of handling freight and passenger trains traveling at more than 120 mph could be completed and put into service by 2012, according to Zheng Jian, chief planner with the Ministry of Railways.
Just as the United States implemented a state-of-the-art interstate highway system in the 1950s, the time has come for America to implement this new, more user-friendly modal core for our national transportation system. We owe it to our beleaguered economy, to our local and global environment and to our children. All Americans should support this creative solution to our country’s long-term transportation challenge.