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High-speed rail: not much in other continent-sized countries


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Washington Examiner:

High-speed rail: not much in other continent-sized countries
Senior Political Analyst
08/20/10 10:50 AM EDT

I’ve long been fascinated by high-speed rail lines and I have written about them before in this space. I would like to see high-speed rail service (higher than the current Acela speed) in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, which seems well adapted to it. But I think proposals for high-speed rail in almost every other part of the country are crazy—likely to be hugely expensive and unlikely to attract substantial ridership.

Take the proposed line between Orlando and Tampa. Who would ride? Locals can drive the distance in 90 minutes; it would take longer to drive to the station, wait for the train, ride on it for a little less than an hour. And then, what would you do to get to your final destination? Tampa and Orlando are sprawling metro areas, with few destinations within walking distance or reasonably priced taxi service of any possible train station. As for tourists, don’t they all rent cars, for exactly these reasons? They rent cars at the airport (Orlando and Tampa airports have pretty nifty setups, much more convenient than, say, San Francisco or Los Angeles or Detroit). Why would they want to get on a train and then rent a car? An Orlando-Tampa train would like nice of the map, paralleling Interstate 4, but I think it would be useful only for people looking for a quite place for an hour’s meditation.

Or consider the proposed Los Angeles-San Francisco metro area line. These are even huger metro areas and travelers between them have a wide variety of destinations. There are multiple major airports in each of these metro areas—LAX, Burbank, Orange County, Ontario in southern California; SFO, San Jose and Oakland in northern California. High-speed rail is not going to beat planes for travel times, and it seems unlikely that there will be as many choices between different destinations in each metro areas as planes currently provide.snip
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