High-speed rail pumps up local economies, claims report
November 12, 2010
• Proven around the world; holds promise for America
• ‘Expect great benefits from investing in a high-speed passenger rail system’
As America moves toward construction of new high-speed rail networks in regions throughout the country including the Central Valley in California, experiences in countries with established bullet trains indicate that local economies will benefit, says a report Thursday from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
High-speed rail lines have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe, providing a wealth of information about what the United States can expect from high-speed rail, the report says.
The United States “can expect great benefits from investing in a high-speed passenger rail system, particularly if it makes steady commitments and designs the system wisely,” it says.
The report says existing high-speed rail networks around the world have delivered numerous benefits:
• High-speed rail has been able to “dramatically” reduce the volume of short-haul flights between nearby cities and “significantly” reduce inter-city car travel.
• High-speed rail saves energy and protects the environment.
• A U.S. high-speed rail system could help position the nation for economic success in the 21st century while creating short-term jobs in construction and long-term jobs in ongoing maintenance and operation.
“Properly planned high-speed rail can encourage sustainable land-use and development patterns,” the report says. In the United States, focusing new development around high-speed rail stations can reduce pressure to develop in far-flung areas, reducing other infrastructure costs such as for sewers and electricity.
California’s SB375 is already forcing local officials to consider regional land use planning and clustering development around mass transit corridors, although not necessarily high-speed rail. Such developments could be built around existing rail service and even express bus routes.
Construction on the California high-speed rail system is expected to start first in the Central Valley, running either north from Fresno to Merced or south from Fresno to Bakersfield. While the rails will be laid, no trains will be run in revenue service until links are built from the Central Valley to the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
U.S. PIRG says the nation should build a national bullet train system, “akin to the commitment to build the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.”