High Speed Rail Coming to……Texas?

Texas is an American state best known for its gun-loving, big truck driving, cowboy, remember the Alamo culture. It is the last place I’d expect high speed rail infrastructure to actually get support in the USA. The good news here is that not only are Texans in favour of high speed rail – the private sector is going to fund.

This is a great contrast to other states where governments are even apprehensive to do feasibility studies. The private company will use Japanese technology and pay for building the infrastructure. With luck, this Texas push for rail will spread further than that state’s borders. Getting more people onto trains instead of driving everywhere is good for everyone.

Five years ago, the company started work on bringing Japan’s bullet train to the U.S. It studied 97 potential city pairs.
Which route would pay for construction and operating costs and generate a return for investors? Which would serve as a showcase so the model might be replicated elsewhere?
Weigh all the factors, and Dallas to Houston was the top choice.
“This is a golden market to deploy our system,” said Richard Lawless, CEO of Texas Central Railway and a former CIA employee who served in Asia and Europe.
Dallas and Houston are the ideal distance for high-speed rail, about 230 miles apart. A one-way rail trip is expected to take less than 90 minutes.

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More Evidence That Streetcars and Light Rail Improve North American Cities

In Toronto there is a crack smoking mayor who believes that streetcars and light rail are an urban blight. The evidence that rail-based transit is an economic boom to cities in North America continues to grow and more cities on the continent are benefiting from political decision (not made while smoking crack). It’s nice to see rail transit making a resurgence in cities that have invested billions into inefficient auto infrastructure.

Within prime walking distance from streetcar stops, commercial permits in neighborhood areas got roughly 20% more frequent for every 100’ closer to stops. Crucially, distance to streetcar stops was a stronger predictor of commercial permit frequency than distance to pre-existing commercial areas. Residential permits were more common overall, but declined in frequency near stops, in almost a mirror image of the trend found for commercial permits.

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California High Speed Rail is Green

Trains are way more efficient than cars and trucks when it comes to transporting people and goods, yet in North America, trains are often shunned for more wasteful transportation systems. This negative attitude towards sustainability is changing, notably California citizens voted for a high speed rail line in the state.

Opponents to economic and environmental efficiencies argued that the high speed rail line would be too expensive to build. It turns out, rather unsurprisingly, that California’s new rail system is better for everybody!

While several competing proposals are on the table for what the system will look like once it’s completed, high-speed rail promises to be more environmentally friendly in several ways. Cars and planes, for example, run on fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The extraction and refining process also emits pollutants. High-speed trains, however, run on electricity, which produces no greenhouse gases at the point of use. Pollutants become an issue for high-speed rail at the power plants generating the electricity. The plants may burn fossil fuels. However, the study’s authors note that the number of renewable energy plants, which produce no greenhouse gases, will continue to grow in California as the high-speed rail system is built. Hydroelectric power produces the bulk of the electricity for the Swiss High-Speed Rail network.

The new study’s findings track closely with research commissioned in 2009 by seven of Europe’s leading high-speed rail systems. “Generally, what you tend to see around the rest of the world is a similar pattern where high-speed rail does have a lower environmental footprint than the automobile or aircraft,” Chester said.

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