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<title> High-Speed Rail: Let's Build it Now!</title>
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<h1>High-Speed Rail in America: Let's Build it Now!</h1>
<p> Updated September 8, 1999</p>

<pre><i>"We keep kidding ourselves into thinking we have the number-one transportation
system in the world. Well that's a joke!"</i>
--Robert Kiley, former Chairman
Chicago Metropolitan Transportation Authority</pre>

<p><b>Note: This page and its title are in response to Governor Bush's <a href="http://cnn.com:80/US/9901/14/BC-RAILROADS-TRAIN.reut/index.html">cancellation of the Florida FOX high-speed rail project</a>. I do not intend to suggest that high-speed trains alone are the remedy for the sorry state of our transportation in all its ugly manifestations. I only wish to show the need for reasonably balanced transportation. In stopping Florida DOT's project of 14 years, the governor ignored that need. DOT's crime was attempting to give modern rail systems the same priority as highways and airports. </b></p>

<ul>
<li><h3><a href="fla.html"> In Support of Florida High-Speed Rail </a></h3>
<li><h3><a href="go.html">High-Speed Rail in America</a></h3>
</ul>

<p> Welcome to my high-speed rail site! Here in America one sometimes hears that our transportation system
is the "envy of the world." But in reality our rail systems, especially passenger services, are
far behind those
of other countries. This site is established in the hope of helping bring
high-speed
trains to America. </p>

<h2> An Overview: High-Speed Rail in America </h2>

<p> There is no true high-speed rail in America and now that the Florida
governor has
stopped the FOX high-speed project, none is planned for at least the next
five years. In
fact if the present state of affairs continues it is very likely that we will not
see high-speed
rail at all in the near future. </p>
<p> The fastest trains in America are the "Metroliners" currently
operated by Amtrak on
the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, DC. The current
top speed on
the Corridor is 125 mph and may increase to up to 150 mph on short sections with the
arrival of the new
"Acela" trains scheduled for October of 1999. </p>
<p> However, these trains will not approach the sustained, near-200 mph
speeds of
trains
throughout western Europe and Japan--and are not widely regarded as
high-speed
trains in most of the world. </p>

<p> These new Northeast Corridor trains will be a great improvement and a step in the right direction for high-speed development. But since they are far from the leading edge of high-speed technology (too slow: average speed on Boston-Washington of 85 mph) they will not attract the kind of ridership that true high-speed rail would. So Acela cannot be considered a "test" of whether high-speed rail will work in America.</p>

<h2> The Reasons for High-Speed Rail</h2>

<p> Air and highway traffic congestion, pollution, car crashes, energy waste...are seen all too easily, every day, in our nation. Yet officials continue to widen the highways, "to ease the congestion."</p>

<p>There are alternatives to that.</p>

<p>One realistic alternative is to imrove other transport systems, not just highways.
In major corridors, high-speed rail would ease traffic congestion, improve safety and cut air pollution. If the success of high-speed trains overseas is any indication, then those trains have a place in our country. Joseph Vranich in his landmark book <cite>Supertrains</cite> (1991) makes an excellent case for high-speed rail in America.</p>

<p>The near absence of passenger trains is an outrage, a whole mode of travel senselessly neglected, leaving the whole transport system unhealthy and inadequate. It is the intolerable result of corrupt policy that even effectively denies that passenger trains exist as transportation.</p>

<p>It is enough to bring widespread public protest, and swift reform, but certain interests have been incredibly successful with their propaganda machine. A good part of America has been convinced to think only in terms of highway and airport expansion:</p>

<h2> Widespread Myths</h2>

<p> "Americans love their automobiles too much to ride trains." </p>

<p> To the contrary, a 1997 Marist poll of New York state
residents found that
82 percent of respondents thought "improved and expanded" passenger
train service was
just as important, or more important, than "having good highways and
airports."* </p>
<p> Clearly this is a response to the nightmare traffic problems and
obvious
environmental harm that our "world's best" transport system is causing.
</p>
<p> But even if Americans ignore environmental and safety problems
and continue to
drive whenever they want--there is another, greater reason why they will
ride high-speed
trains. Americans will ride fast trains when they are the most attractive
choice--much as
they choose flying for long distances. And for medium-distance trips,
high-speed trains
have proven themselves to be more than attractive. </p>

<p> "Population density in the US is not high enough for high-speed
trains to work."
</p>

<p> While population density here is not what it is elsewhere, the US has
the highest
travel volume in the world. Thus we may have an even greater ridership
base for high-
speed rail than other countries.** </p>

<p> "Rail systems are expensive to build." </p>

<p> Rail construction, while a major undertaking, is not costly compared
with other
modes. For example while Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel--a local
highway project--cost
$11 billion, the Florida high-speed rail project--linking Miami, Orlando
and Tampa--was
expected to cost about $6 billion.*** </p>

<h2>Ending the Stranglehold</h2>

<p> "Despite all this nonsense," wrote Vranich in
<cite>Supertrains</cite>, "high-speed trains are as
inevitable as was the Wright brothers' first flight." Yet our government to
this day
maintains a transportation stranglehold, refusing to fund rail projects
realistically--and not
one true high-speed line is even planned. </p>
<p> Nevertheless, it is only a matter of time before transportation
problems and fed-up
citizens force the "inevitable debut" of high-speed rail that Vranich wrote
of. </p>
<p> If deliberate misinformation can be overcome, then building a high-
speed rail line
immediately is a very realistic goal. The amount of funding required--
several billion dollars
over several years--is insignificant compared to the enormous sums
budgeted for highway
construction in the coming years. And when that single line is built,
millions will be able to ride high-speed rail--right here in America. </p>

<p> This is a serious situation but not a hopeless one. Here are some
realistic steps our
government can take to improve rail transportation: </p>

 

<b>
<p> 1. Upgrade the Northeast Corridor to 190 mph--the standard in other countries. Our currently planned speeds are too slow to really compete with cars and planes. Acela is supposed to be high-speed rail; let's make it that.</p>

<p> 2. Build high-speed rail in other major corridors, now. Officials continue to study high-speed rail as if it were untried and risky. We've had more than enough
studies. High-speed rail should have been built twenty years ago. </p>

<p> 3. Provide adequate funding for rail systems. In 1998 the federal
government spent $30 billion on highways but less than $1 billion
on railroads.* Establish a Rail Trust Fund. There are Trust Funds that ensure
enough money for highways and aviation. No such fund exists for
rail.</p>

<p> 4. Allow states to spend on rail. Says the National Association of
Railroad Passengers (NARP): "Congress repeatedly has refused to
allow states to use flexible surface transportation funds for intercity
passenger rail, although these funds can be used for most
other...transportation, including hiker/biker trails." </p>
</b>

<h2> Advocacy: A Vehicle for Change </h2>

<p> If you support passenger trains and/or high-speed rail, please let
your voice be heard! You may even want to join a rail advocacy organization--a few are
listed below.
The NARP site has links to
other pro-rail organizations. </p>

<ul>
<li> <a href="http://www.narprail.org/">National Association of Railroad Passengers
(NARP)</a>
<li> <a href="http://www.hsgt.org/">Supertrain Society (High-Speed Ground Transportation Association)</a>
</ul>

Here are a few links to sites about high-speed trains in other countries:

<ul>
<li> <a href="http://www.teleway.ne.jp/~dolittle/byunbyun/index.htm">The Shinkansen
(Bullet Train)</a>
<li> <a href="http://mercurio.iet.unipi.it/tgv/tgvindex.html"> The TGV </a>
<li> <a href="http://mercurio.iet.unipi.it/ice/ice.html">The German ICE</a>
</ul>

You are visitor number <IMG
SRC="http://web.liberty.com/cgi-bin/Count.cgi?df=twhsr.dat|ft=0|comma=f"><BR> since March 3, 1999.

 

<p> Thank you for visiting my high-speed rail site. There is hope for
getting modern rail transportation in this country! </p>

 

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<p> * News from the National Association of Railroad
Passengers, Issue 2, Feb. 1998 </p>

<p> **<cite>Derailed: What Went Wrong and What to Do About America's Passenger Trains</cite> by Joseph Vranich (1997)</p>

<p> ***Central Artery figure is from the Record Herald
newspaper, Waynesboro, PA, Feb. 1999. FOX figure
is from a <a href="http://cnn.com:80/US/9901/14/BC-RAILROADS-TRAIN.reut/index.html">CNN online story </a> regarding the halting of FOX. </p>


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