What will HSR offer and is it worth the cost?
In a comment of his recent article, Tory Gattis asks, “…what will HSR offer that other modes can’t do right now, and is it worth the cost?” Here are my replies.
- Rail offers a globally-proven, time-tested, long-lasting, resilient transportation infrastructure that is cost-competitive with paved highways when accounting for operational fuel costs and averaging over their respective designed lifetimes.
- Rail offers a mode of transit where a professional does the driving which allows the traveler the time to use as [s]he sees fit, unlike the personal automobile. This time should be factored in when comparing the traveler’s costs between traveling by rail and in a personal automobile. Whereas, the reduced personal space on a jet can preclude using travel time industriously.
- HSR (as opposed to conventional passenger rail in the U.S.) offers a grade-separated corridor for most, if not all, of the distance which enhances timeliness of travel and increases passenger safety. Jets, buses and automobiles all fall victim to choke points such as airport gate availability, traffic jams or severe weather delays. Rail travel has highly predictable traffic and can operate in all but the most severe weather.
- Rail offers a third major mode of transportation which will allows:
- Transportation demand to distribute across the modes. Give the customer a choice.
- Competition across modes of transportation to force efficiencies in all modes.
- Resilience in the event of a halt to regional or nationwide air traffic.
- Special services such as travel for regional sporting events. For example, U of H sports fans could ride the rail to the Cotton Bowl. Buses can not match the speed of HSR and rail passengers aren’t delayed by pseudo-security checkpoints as jet passengers are.
- Special services such as mass evacuations for a natural disaster. For example, Houstonians could ride a train to escape a hurricane when the highways are jammed, or those in the Pacific Northwest could ride a train in case of volcanic ash plumes when jets are diverted or grounded.
- A two-track HSR corridor consumes less than half the real-estate of a four-lane highway on a per-distance basis. This means private land owners are less impacted by new rail construction than new highway construction.
Finally, is it worth the cost
? Two private companies with vast experience in HSR believe so. SNCF
are interested in building HSR in Texas
‘ population-dense region.