I have no idea why this proposed high speed rail (HSR) map for the USA is getting so much play right now, but it is. I’ve seen it all over Twitter and Facebook and it apparently has received more than 27,000 signatures on the White House site to be considered. So, what’s the problem with it? Mostly everything.
So many of the routes just don’t make any sense. The financial proposition for transcontinental rail across extremely low density areas is a horrible one. Enormous costs and near nil revenue. And it isn’t like connecting New Orleans to Miami or Orlando via HSR is going to dramatically shift the travel patterns in that region. They are still far enough apart that flying simply makes too much sense. Denver to El Paso? Maybe not so bad at 3.5 hours on the train, though flying is half that. But are there enough passengers making the trip to justify the necessary frequency of trains to supplant planes?
There are small chunks of the country where HSR makes sense. A full mesh national network, however, is a waste in many ways. Too many of the routes would still require too much travel time to supplant air travel. HSR is desperately needed in the USA. In certain areas. But this view is crazy to me. It doesn’t actually address the needs of the country from what I can tell. And going all-in with a plan like this makes it so much harder for the places it should exist to succeed. Everyone loses.