On Feb. 8, 2011, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced a $53 billion investment dedicated to building high speed and intercity railway systems. Biden announced a plan that will span the next six years, allocating $8 billion in the next fiscal year for building new projects and updating existing systems. This proposal centers on a network of rail service that will modernize existing rail lines and implement three types of rail lines further detailed in the White House Press Release
- Core Express: These corridors will form the backbone of the national high speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher.
- Regional: Crucial regional corridors with train speeds of 90-125 mph will see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for future high speed service.
- Emerging: Trains traveling at up to 90 mph will provide travelers in emerging rail corridors with access to the larger national high speed and intercity passenger rail network.
Since I attended the Earth Day Network's Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. last year, I have been following one particular organization that piqued my interest while I was there. The American High Speed Rail Alliance (AHSRA) is a non-profit organization that advocates for developing a high speed national passenger rail network in the U.S.
A national high speed rail system would bring many economic and environmental benefits to the United States. AHSRA has done extensive research on such benefits. One report published on AHSRA's website states that with the introduction of a high speed rail (HSR), "jobs, wages, business sales and overall added value to the economy will significantly increase with the introduction of HSR." Not only will jobs increase, but tourism will increase, travel and business commutes will be easier, and local economies will also benefit. Some interesting statistics on the AMHSA website
- In Los Angeles, as much as $7.6 billion a year in new business sales, producing up to 55,000 new jobs and $3 billion in new wages.
- In Chicago, as much as $6.1 billion a year in new business sales, producing up to 42,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in new wages.
- In Orlando, as much as $2.9 billion a year in new business sales, producing up to 27,500 jobs and $1.2 billion in new wages.
- In Albany, as much as $2.5 billion a year in new business sales, producing up to 21,000 jobs and $1.1 billion in new wages.
AHSRA's goals are "to encourage public support of high speed rail transportation; to improve high speed rail service to the public; to gather appropriate industry statistics; to cooperate with government agencies and provide regulators with non-proprietary information pertaining to the high speed rail industry; and to keep members apprised of legislation and developments affecting the industry." In addition to these goals, AHSRA reaches out to the public with many educational initiatives, holding conferences, networking events and other communications to educate Americans about the benefits of a high speed rail system and how to advocate for this.
After traveling abroad and noticing how much more efficient and accessible other countries' public transportation systems are, I thought more about transportation in the U.S. and how essential it is to Americans — yet the methods we have today are not the most efficient. Public transportation in the U.S. desperately needs to be modified for efficiency. I think that a national high speed rail system would be a clean and energy efficient method that could improve the lives of many Americans and would help reduce emissions from our current transportation methods.
The idea for a national high speed rail system could be a groundbreaking initiative for modern American life in the future and I will continue to follow the efforts of AHSRA.