High-Speed Rail Has Clear Economic Benefits
While the environmental benefits of high-speed rail are clear and measurable, the economic benefits have also been well-documented. The data comes from high-speed rail initiatives around the world. China has economically benefited from high-speed rail for over a decade. China has put into operation over 20,000 miles of dedicated high-speed railways since 2008 and is currently working on 21,000 more miles to be in service by 2030. China’s high-speed railway projects, instituted with a pragmatic and long-term approach, have reaped the obvious environmental advantages – reduced greenhouse emissions and less congestion – but the economic impact has also been significant.
“China has built the largest high-speed rail network in the world. The impacts go well beyond the railway sector and include changed patterns of urban development, increases in tourism, and promotion of regional economic growth. Large numbers of people are now able to travel more easily and reliably than ever before, and the network has laid the groundwork for future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Martin Raiser, World Bank Country Director for China.
The benefits are numerous: reduced greenhouse gas emission and related environmental benefits, national and regional economic advantages, as well as empowerment of transportation infrastructure that reduces congestion, accidents, and operating costs, while increasing regional travel. Japan has had the Shinkansen High-Speed Rail system (aka the bullet train) for the past 57 years without a single fatality, while the US has an average of 40,000 fatalities per year due to vehicle collisions.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is attempting to emulate China’s clear and obvious success instituting a high-speed rail system. With their scaled-back proof-of-concept project from Merced to Bakersfield, the CHSRA is attempting to draw enough investment to finish Phase I construction from San Francisco to Anaheim.
High-Speed Rail is Competitive with Road and Air Transport
In China, high-speed rail service is competitive with road and air transport for distances of up to about 1200 km. Fares are competitive with bus and airfares and are about one-fourth of the base fares in other countries. This has allowed the high-speed rail to attract more than 1.7 billion passengers a year from all income groups.
One big advantage of high-speed rail over air travel is that stations are in the city center, rather than airports out on the periphery. Making trips by high-speed rail results in much lower carbon emissions than driving cars or flying. But another great thing about rail is that it integrates well with local transit systems to eliminate car trips once you’ve reached your destination city.
Private Investors See Economic Benefit of High-Speed Rail
The titans of Wall Street are sending a sure signal of the validity of high-speed rail as an economic investment. Andy Kunz, president of the US High Speed Rail Association, said investors used to roll their eyes at him when he started speaking at conferences in 2010. Now he’s watching Wall Street invest in high-speed rail.
Global Infrastructure Partners, a New York fund, bought an Italian high-speed rail operator in 2018. Fortress Investment Group, a New York firm, funds Brightline, which believes there are close to a dozen other potential projects in the US that fit its model, according to a spokesman.
Kunz said that he recently heard for the first time from Goldman Sachs about speaking in a Webinar on high-speed rail. “This is not fantasy or someone’s dream,” Kunz said. “This is a proven technology and a reality in 20 nations all over the world.”
The Future is High-Speed Rail
“In the Northwest, the future is NOW for Cascadia High Speed Rail,” Says Brad Perkins, President/CEO of Cascadia High Speed Rail, LLC (CHSR). “Building a new multi-modal bridge across the Columbia River for vehicles, bullet and freight trains with a new 250 mph electrified high-speed rail corridor between Vancouver, BC and Eugene, OR is the climate justice answer for communities, long-distance travelers, and parcel freight movement. The CHSR corridor design guarantees 58 minute travel times between Portland and Seattle, 47 minutes between Seattle and Vancouver, BC and 45 minutes between Portland and Eugene.