This is a Climate Progress repost of excerpts about the future of America’s high speed rail system.
Last year, President Obama laid out a vision for high-speed rail, jump started by the $8 billion stimulus to decrease dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Critics worry that a high speed rail system will encourage sprawl and have a significant impact on parks and wildlife refuges. Yet there have been no links established between existing HSR stations in France and Spain, for example, and an epidemic of suburban growth. In fact, sprawl could be a thing of the past if we take preventative measures to encourage urban density, enact antisprawl regulations, and make it convenient to travel to outlying HSR stations with plenty of garage parking.
HSR systems would take advantage of existing transportation corridors to minimize intrusion onto protected nature reserves, decrease air pollution generated by internal combustion engines in cars, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The California HSR, for example, will remove 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year by 2030 because it uses electricity generated from wind, solar, and other renewable resources. In addition, California’s HSR will save 12.7 million barrels of oil by 2030.
If the United States is going to have a world-class rail system, however, it needs to focus on the “speed” part of HSR. President Obama said on January 27, 2010, “there’s no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains.” Yet plans for a network in the United States indicate that U.S. HSR trains will be slower than their European or Asian counterparts. European HSR trains operate in excess of speeds of 180 mph, but the U.S. HSR train speeds vary from express routes that serve major population centers traveling at least at 150 mph to regional routes at 110-150 mph to developing corridors topping out at 90-110 mph on tracks shared with regular rails.