High-speed rail is a system that serves many destinations, both large and small, by adding new segments of high-speed track to our existing railroad network. High-speed trains take you from your "point A" to your "point B," not just the biggest or most popular destinations.
A successful high-speed rail system:
- Gets you where you're going as fast, or faster, than driving or flying
- Offers very frequent service
- Serves many markets and numerous political constituencies
- Offers a variety of service levels, from non-stop express to all-stop commuter, with well-coordinated connections.
Most successful high-speed rail systems around the world are built using the Phased Network Approach, integrating new high-speed tracks with the existing rail network. This approach creates a long-term network plan mixing 220-mph high-speed lines, high-frequency mixed-use lines and buses. Then, Departments of Transportation can identify and prioritize initial high-impact investments that demonstrate the value oftrains. Then political support for expansion will follow.
This seems simple, but railroad planning in the U.S. is stymied by fragmented jurisdictions and funding streams. Decisions about commuter trains, regional trains, national trains and freight trains all happen separately. People's travel needs are not neatly divided into these categories, and as a result, many potential trips are missed by planning models.
We need a new mindset and planning framework that recognizes that each infrastructure investment can serve multiple purposes and that each train can serve many market segments.