Monday, March 30, 2009

The 21st Century Limited

A week or so ago, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendall pitched the idea of a national high-speed rail network to be funded in the next Obama stimulus package (This was the subject of last week's blogpost). So I decided to research it, with an eye toward finding an interesting visual. I stumbled on the blog/advocacy site, which has an article that advocates for a multibillion-dollar (just like the Interstate Highway Act 53 years ago) and THIS is what I found, besides the statistic that China is currently undertaking new rail construction that's as big as our current Amtrak.

The above visual displays the routes approved by the government in the stimulus package (with Amtrak in black), and the below visual displays the ones favored by the transport politic, with additional Amtrak lines thrown in . I would like to point out that both lines are somewhat politically correct, and i would add that service between Sacramento and San Francisco or the Dallas-San Antonio-Houston triangle or a direct route from the Midwest's two biggest cities (none completely on transitpolitic's list) are vastly more important than an Amtrak line across South Dakota. Also, I think that a major investment needs to be having 4 tracks in most Amtrak corridors, and 2-3 tracks everywhere else. Cornelius Vanderbilt did this in the New York-Albany corridor over 100 years ago when the population of the US wasn't a quarter of what it is now. This would help prevent the Coast Starlight waiting forever at sidings and me getting into my grandma's in Portland 9 hours late (Of course, so would giving right-of-way to the passenger trains, which I also favor).

The Transport Politic divided the network into corridors, then scored them through some algorythm, which I view as somewhat suspect--among other things, it gives the Detriot-Toledo Corridor a higher score than any corridor originating from Los Angeles, and refuses to acknowledge that several cities a few hundred miles apart have traditional ties, even without having much between them. In my opinion, here are the most important corridors, in order:
  1. Boston-New-York-Philadelphia-Washington
  2. San Diego-Los Angeles-San Francisco.
  3. Chicago-Detroit
  4. Miami-Tampa-Orlando
  5. San Francisco-Sacramento
  6. Los Angeles-Las Vegas
This is the map according to THEIR priorities. Note the difference between them and me.

Who would be helped most by this? In my opinion, it would be people living in high-density gentrifying areas. You probably already knew that Manhattan has already gentrified, and portions of Los Angeles (Silverlake and the Arts District) are doing it as well. People who live in many city centers often live an hour or more away from the international airport (for example, residents of Washington, Houston, or Denver) and being able to connect with a city less than 500 miles away by HSR running at ~200 mph would be more efficient than going to an airport, provided there is not as much of a security hassle for HSL.

Who would be hurt? exurbanites...since, with the exception of the politically-correct California High Speed Rail Network, most connections have a sole stop in the urban center, one would have to travel a ways into town. This is the flip side of the airport argument. And that's today's blogpost

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