March 23, 2011

Designing the High-Speed Future

By 2020, China is projected to have spent $300 billion on high-speed rail and to have a 16,000-mile network. By then, Spain is projected to have spent $100 billion and to have a 6,200-mile network. In the United States, comparable figures are harder to determine because the fate of high-speed rail is more uncertain, but projections are that by 2014, we might have spent over $12 billion and have one 800-mile north-south line in California. We have a long way to go to catch up. While Europe has been focusing on compact development using less energy along transportation corridors, we’ve spent the past 60 years devoting ourselves to energy-intensive, automobile-dependent sprawl. Without a significant cultural shift, including compact development and transit connections around high-speed rail stations in a comprehensive system, it’s going to be difficult to make high-speed rail work in the United States.

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