Americans can learn from other countries how a high-speed rail system can positively impact communities. This transportation technology has been used in Asia and Europe for decades. It provides more efficient and safer transportation across all regions. Here's a look at the benefits and challenges of high-speed trains.
What High-Speed Rail Can Do
The rise of the high-speed rail system around the world has grown because of the improved quality of life it has brought to communities. Modern passenger trains are competitive with other forms of transportation in the 100 to 600-mile travel range.
Today, high-speed rail is used by 14 countries after Japan introduced its first Shinkansen bullet train in 1964. China, which leads the world in the most track for a high-speed rail network, deployed its first system in 2003. European nations that use bullet trains include United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy. These systems have proven to be safe, fast, and reliable.
Only in recent years has the United States started developing plans for high-speed trains. The nation's first high-speed rail system was launched in 2000, covering over 300 miles, serving over 3 million people, which is Amtrak's Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor. The U.S. has otherwise fallen behind other countries in this technology. The three areas of U.S. high-speed rail development are in passenger service, regional service on shared tracks, and feeder service for smaller cities.
- Less travel time - Bullet trains can move faster than any other form of ground transportation, reaching speeds as high as 150 mph in the United States, 200 mph in France, and 220 mph in China. These trains are highly useful in large metropolitan areas, as they can bring opposite ends of a region closer together, which is a concept known as the "shrinking continent."
- More Reliable - High-speed trains don't get caught up in traffic congestion, which alone makes them more reliable than automobiles or buses. Along with fewer delays than other forms of ground or air transportation, high-speed trains can operate more frequently than conventional public transit systems.
- Efficient Use of Land - High-speed rail doesn't take up as much land as highways and city streets. The width needed for a rail line is 82 feet, while a six-lane highway requires 246 feet.
- Greater productivity - Employees are able to get to work on time without worrying about trying to find a parking space. More efficient transportation gives people time to focus on work and other productive activities during their journey.
- More Skilled Labor Opportunities - High-speed rail creates thousands of jobs for professionals with construction, engineering, and urban planning backgrounds. It further opens the door to tourism and maintenance jobs.
- Promotes Tourism - Bullet trains bring global attention to megaregions. They provide safe, fast, and reliable transportation for tourists new to the region, helping them get to their destinations with ease.
- Energy Efficiency - High-speed trains deliver more passengers from one place to another with greater energy efficiency than competing forms of transportation. The more people use rail, the greater its efficiency.
- Clean Energy - Unlike other forms of ground transportation, high-speed trains don't require motor fuel, as the most innovative models run on electric power, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Technological Development - More energy will be required to improve train speed in the future. At the same time, various forms of renewable energy are developing that deliver greater efficiency and less harmful effects on the environment.
Building a high-speed rail system can accelerate the growth and development of new cities and tourism. It can potentially turn American cities into global tourist destinations, but more immediately will provide a more efficient travel option for local residents. Increasing regional mobility while reducing traffic congestion is an important issue for numerous American cities, and bullet trains have become the modern solution.