If you were taking a quick jaunt to Europe in the late 1980s, chances are your travels took you to one country, possibly two. It wasn’t because of a lack of effort on your part; instead, it was simply because European borders were still guarded and transportation was still limited to reliable yet slower intercity train service. With the opening of borders and the introduction of several high-speed lines in the mid 1990s such as the Eurostar and Thalys, you weren’t limited to just one country: you could travel through Europe.
Over on the North American side, there is only one high-speed rail service in operation today: the Acela Express serving the Northeast Corridor between Washington DC and Boston. Most travelers still either fly or drive via the Interstate Highway System– the largest such highway system in the world. Still, some Americans are wondering when, and if, high-speed train travel will flourish like it does in the Old World, and if it’s even worth it to engineer.
An organization called America 2050 thinks it is. They recently released a study (via GOOD) that lays out where they believe high-speed rail would be most effective in the United States, and they produced some nifty maps to illustrate their points:
Bottom line, high-speed rail will work most effectively in areas like the Northeast Corridor, California, the Great Lakes region, and in parts of Washington State and Colorado because of the movement of people and commerce within those regions. It might even work in Texas or parts of the South. If you’re in Montana or North Dakota? Sorry, you might best be served hopping in your own car.
President Obama mentioned high speed rail in his State of the Union address last week, and news outlets are reigniting both sides of the debate. It will be a while before any of this gets off the started, even though they’re well out of the planning stages and into breaking ground in California. But fast-forward to 2050 — almost 100 years after Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced plans for Interstate Highway System — and wouldn’t it be nice to see travelers cruising from NYC to Chicago for a long weekend, instead of dealing with delays associated with going from LGA to ORD?