New white paper examines high-speed rail in U.S.

Posted on April 19, 2013

The Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) and the National Center for Intermodal Transportation (NCIT) at the University of Denver published a new white paper that discusses high-speed passenger rail (HSR) and its development globally and in the U.S.

Written by Anthony D. Perl, PhD, professor of Urban Studies and Political Science, Simon Fraser University, Canada, and Andrew R. Goetz, professor and chair, Department of Geography at the University of Denver, the white paper examines why the U.S. has been slow to develop HSR and how conditions have changed recently within the U.S. that might affect HSR development going forward.

“High-speed passenger rail development is a very important issue for our national infrastructure and ITI/NCIT recognized the need to put together a white paper to shed more light on this important topic,” said Goetz. “This white paper is aimed at educating people who want to know why the U.S. has lagged behind in developing this technology and what it would take to change that. HSR is now on the U.S. policy and planning agenda since the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), which created a $10 billion HSR grant program; the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which authorized $8 billion for HSR; and California Proposition 1A, which authorized $10 billion for HSR in California.”

Perl points out that North America needs HSR more than HSR needs North America.

“The U.S. succeeded brilliantly in solving its 1970s freight railroad crisis, but this came partly at the expense of its passenger trains, which were divorced from the railroad industry and left in legal and political limbo under Amtrak,” he said. “Now, with Europe and Asia well along the path toward continental-scale HSR networks, there is a critical mass to keep this technology growing and improving, no matter what the U.S. and Canada decide to do. If we do not begin to close this gap during this decade, the U.S. will risk permanent underdevelopment of this transport mode, much the way that Africa has been behind the curve on 20th century transportation development.”

There is not yet a single right way to develop HSR, determines the white paper. North America has tended to standardize its transportation policies to create a “one size fits all” approach to building highways. The authors state that “if we are smart, we will find more than one way to deploy HSR.”

To view the paper, click here.

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