Japan, Europe, and France are just a few of the countries who have incredibly effective and widely used high-speed rail systems. When compared against something like the Shanghai Maglev, there just isn’t anything like it in the United States. Despite that, between talk of the Green New Deal, private sector investments, and general dissatisfaction with the transportation infrastructure within the U.S., there seems to be a greater push towards high-speed rail. While the development of high-speed rail could result in accessible, affordable, and efficient transportation for many, it would also create a need for better security approaches towards those systems. What does high-speed rail look like in the United States in 2019? Below, we look at a few current projects that may indicate where the future is headed.
California’s Rail Project
For years now, California has had plans to create an eventual link between the southern and northern parts of the state. If fully realized, this rail system would connect Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and some key places in between all of those. However, this system, even at the highest speeds they’re hoping for, would take roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes to get from LA to San Francisco—which is only about an hour and a half long of a flight. It’ll also likely be more expensive than flying, but the goal is to entice users with its promise of 100 percent renewable energy. For now, the project has only begun construction on the Central Valley section and is stuttering in terms of funding, so it’s unclear what the future is for California’s high-speed rail.
Connecting the Northeast Corridor
While Amtrak does have a line connecting Boston to DC, it’s still expensive, slow in some parts, and not nearly widely as used as Amtrak may want it to be. However, upgrading the tracks and other infrastructure improvements could get those speeds up a bit into truly high-speed territory, as well as adding new trains to their fleet by 2021. The terrain between DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston makes the development of railways incredibly difficult, so we’ll see where Amtrak goes with the project.
Florida’s Private Passenger Line
Currently, Florida is the home to the only private passenger train company in all of the United States. Originally dubbed Brightline and then renamed to Virgin Trains USA, the line currently runs between Miami and Palm Beach. It’s too slow to count as a high speed system, but the plan is to connect the existing system to Orlando airport, which would have speeds up to 125 mph. Not bad, but not up to snuff with what much of the rest of the world has, too.
Dallas to Houston
In Texas, they’re trying to begin their own private passenger venture, the Texas Central Railway. The goal is simple: Dallas to Houston and back in under 90 minutes. This is a route that typically takes 3.5 hours to drive, and the vast, fairly empty landscape between the two cities means building the infrastructure may be easy provided they are able to legally acquire the necessary space. The TCR has even involved some major international players, including outsourcing operation to a Spanish company and taking advantage of a train design already seen in Japan. This is an ambitious project that aims to get speeds up to 200 mph, lower ticket prices, and be in full operation by the mid-2020s. As far as high-speed rail goes in the United States, this may be the project to bet on in terms of completing the first real high-speed system.
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