The New York Times reported this morning that the oil price spike is creating a major boost for passenger rail traffic in the U.S. But unlike Europe and Asia, we have made no investment in High speed rail transportation.
Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried and for ticket revenues — all the more remarkable because May is not usually a strong travel month. But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.
California’s efforts to create its own High Speed Trains received a major boost last week when the House of Representatives approved a $1.75 billion addition to the Transportation bill to aid High Speed Rail. In November, California voters will hopefully approve a $9 billion bond measure to build the system that would run on Electric powered trains at 200 MPH+ from San Diego to San Francisco and Sacramento. The LA to San Francisco trip would be 2 hours and clearly could be less if our trains could get to the speed of the Japanese or French trains. This could allow us to reduce the ridiculous number of commuter air flights between major California cities, dramatically reduce carbon emissions, cut airport congestion and generally improve the quality of life in California. Imagine by 2020 a solar powered transportation system throughout California that dramatically cut greenhouse gases. This is all within our reach.
This is what the New Federalism is all about. If we lead, other states will follow.