The Proposed U.S. High Speed Rail Network

Here’s the high speed rail network that Obama proposed yesterday:

View Proposed USA High Speed Rail Network in a larger map

(I didn’t include the existing NY-Boston line)

As near as I can tell, the Obama administration isn’t actually saying that this is what the final network would look like, they’re just announcing the existence of a competition for some of the stimulus money, and assuming that the projects that will win are the the existing regional propositions. Which makes sense.

For comparison, here’s a map of the existing Amtrak routes from MapMash.

(Sorry, too lazy to fight Google into showing them both on one page. Silly Google.)

A few things I notice:

  • Not many cities which aren’t serviced by existing Amtrak routes would get added. So this would mainly amount to a speeding up of existing services, not new connections.
  • The long sleepy run through the Great Plains isn’t going to get any shorter or invigorating. No high-speed for you.
  • Although it isn’t totally clear from the couple of regional plans I looked at, it doesn’t appear that abandoned rail stations currently lying fallow in towns and small cities on these routes would be re-opened. Viarail in Canada does a better job of keeping smaller stations open than Amtrak does in the US.

So this is principally about speeding up medium-distance inter-metropolis rail travel.

Some people are going to say that we want to encourage a focus on cities, because that’s where economies of scale of people and ideas generate the most rich human existence, as well as the most ecologically sustainable population densities. This plan looks to do that, so those people will be happy.

Other people may argue that further marginalizing the rural areas and their associated small and medium towns and cities isn’t a good idea, when we’re facing a de-stabilization of the food system and probably want to move people back into local adaptable foodsheds. Those people might not be so happy.

I figure if it gets people into trains, that’s naturally going to lead to greater demand for scope and density of connections. High-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor today, regular-speed connections across Nebraska tomorrow.

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