Posts Tagged ‘mobility’

Country is ready for more high-speed rail

The Philadelphia Inquirer

In December, Americans traditionally look back at where we’ve been, look ahead to where we’re going, and take time to celebrate. ‘Tis the season at Amtrak, too: We are marking the 10th anniversary of Acela Express, our 150 m.p.h. service, and thinking about how its success can inform the future of high-speed rail in America.

The next half-century will be defined by the emergence of “megaregions” – extended corridors of interconnected metropolitan areas, with shared economic sectors and linked infrastructure. High-speed rail can and should be among those links.

Over the course of its 10 years, Acela high-speed service has improved the connectivity and mobility of the Northeast Corridor megaregion, which stretches from Washington to Boston. It has reduced travel times and given millions of passengers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative to congested highways and airports. It’s hard to imagine the corridor without it.


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10-0 vote: Eau Claire City Council supports high speed rail

The Eau Claire City Council has unanimously declared its support for the continuation of the development of high speed passenger rail in Wisconsin.

In a 10-0 vote, the Council urged the state, and Governor-elect Scott Walker, to go forward with plans to build the Madison extension of the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha service. Council members noted that the line is an important next step to extending service to the Twin Cities, which Eau Claire hopes includes a routing via West Central Wisconsin.

Adopted last Tuesday, the resolution states:

“The City Council of the City of Eau Claire strongly endorses the continued efforts of the State of Wisconsin to work with all regions of the state to build a balanced transportation system that enhances mobility choices and strengthens the state’s global economic competitiveness.”

“The City Council strongly supports the continued development of a high speed passenger rail and integrated transportation network in Wisconsin, including the completion of a high speed passenger rail route from Milwaukee to St. Paul, and the completion of the engineering, environmental, and other essential impact analyses currently scheduled.”

“The City Council strongly supports the retention of the more than $800 million in federal funding support allocated to Wisconsin for the development of passenger rail and urges the State of Wisconsin to remain true to the approved plan for the investment of these funds in our state for the creation of jobs, economic growth and passenger rail.”

During the public hearing portion of the Council’s deliberations last Monday, Rail Coalition Co-Chair Scott Rogers was invited to give a presentation on the history and status of efforts to secure passenger rail service for Eau Claire. Several citizens also spoke up in support of the resolution, which was sponsored by Council Members Jackie Pavelski and Dana Wachs. Click here for the full text.

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A fast way to jump-start economy


“We don’t need a high-speed train.” This all-too-common sentiment is short-sighted.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars is the latest major headway Florida has made on the high-speed rail front. However, individuals continually attempt to politicize new transit projects without understanding the full benefits.

First, transit creates jobs — thousands of them — and not only just short-term jobs from construction. The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership estimated that transit creates 19 percent more jobs than building roads because transit additionally creates sustained, long-term jobs from train maintenance, operation and dispatch. The construction job market has one of the highest unemployment rates, and for us to move beyond the recession we need to jump-start the economy. Transit can do this better than roadways.

Second, America has an addiction to foreign oil that is a major threat to our national security. With so much of our nation’s energy needs met by petroleum, Florida’s and America’s energy economy is dangerously at the mercy of other international oil producers like Venezuela, Libya and Iran. Not only does public transit use less fuel per person (taking pressure off demand), but it has the capacity of being fully electric. We need a transportation infrastructure that is dependent on nothing but the work of Americans.

Further, high-speed rail has a market of riders. There is a travel range where it is uncomfortable to drive but just not worth the hassle to fly. For distances of 100 to 500 miles it is ideal to take a train. A recent study for the American Public Transit Association (APTA) found that 62 percent of Americans definitely, or probably, would use rail, compared to 11 percent who probably or definitely would not, and 27 percent were not sure.

High-speed rail will not drive Central Florida bankrupt, especially since Central Florida is not paying most of the bill. The vast majority of high-speed rail lines run at surplus profits. So much so, that in other countries profits often help subsidize local light-rail lines. As far as investments go, this train is pretty secure.

Study after study and example after example have shown high-speed rail to be a worthwhile investment. The London School of Economics and Political Science demonstrated that towns connected by rail saw a 2.7 percent increase in growth compared to neighboring, unconnected towns.

In addition to creating jobs, rail provides increased mobility and, thus, better access to jobs, goods, services and other markets. Just like the national highway project after the Great Depression, Florida and our nation need to make investments that will encourage new growth.

The new 2060 Florida Transportation Plan estimates a 70 percent population increase in the state over the next 50 years. Viably, we cannot continue an infinite road expansion. Our current pace of road construction is outpacing our ability to maintain the current network.

Our highways cannot sustain 70 percent more people who drive more and longer distances. A single railway, however, can support the traffic of a six-lane highway. Highways may be adequate now, but we cannot give in to naivety. We must keep the future in mind.

Patrick Gittard is a transit issue associate for the Florida Public Interest Research Group, based in Tallahassee.

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An Investment We Have to Make

The New York Times

An Investment We Have to Make

Robert D. Yaro is the president of Regional Plan Association, a policy, research and advocacy group, and professor of practice in city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

 Building a national high-speed rail system shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But it’s becoming that way because of the hyper-partisanship in the country and the conviction of many on the right that public investments of this kind are in some way “un-American.”

High-speed rail will expand our economy, just as the Interstate highway system did in the 20th century.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Throughout history, our nation’s leaders championed federal investments in infrastructure. Washington led efforts to build canals right after the Revolution, Lincoln led efforts to build the Trans-Continental Railroad during the Civil War, and Eisenhower led efforts to build the Interstate highways during the Cold War. It is altogether appropriate for President Obama to lead efforts to build a national high-speed rail system now.

High-speed rail won’t work everywhere in the country. But it’s perfectly suited to the needs of America’s 11 emerging megaregions, home to 70 percent of Americans. These are densely populated places like the Northeast where metro areas share economic sectors, infrastructure and natural systems.

In most of these places existing highways and airports are severely congested and have little potential for expansion. In California, for example, a high-speed system can be a much more cost-effective way to provide needed mobility, compared with new or expanded highways and runways.

And at 100 to 600 miles across, megaregions are well suited for high-speed rail because they are too large for convenient car travel and too small for efficient air travel. High-speed systems have the potential to expand labor and housing markets and create new agglomerations in cutting edge industries.

For these reasons Japan, China, Taiwan and Europe — and now Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, India and Vietnam — already have or are building high-speed rail. Unless we build similar systems here, we will find ourselves at a growing competitive disadvantage caused by increasing congestion and inefficiency in moving people and goods.

At an estimated $500 billion, a national high-speed rail system won’t come cheap. But it will help enable a major expansion in the U.S. gross domestic product by mid-century, in much the same way the Interstate highways did in the 20th century. Once completed with forms of public financing, these systems can be operated and maintained by the private sector and operated at a profit. We can’t afford not to build a national high-speed system. It’s not the only infrastructure investment needed to secure our economic futures. But it’s one that will be essential to our future mobility and competitiveness.

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Obama Calls For “Fundamental Overhaul” to Infrastructure



Rose Garden

11:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I just had a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and governors like Ed Rendell, mayors like Antonio Villaraigosa, and economists and engineers from across the country to discuss one of America’s greatest challenges: our crumbling infrastructure and the urgent need to put Americans back to work upgrading it for the 21st century.

We’re also joined today by two former Transportation Secretaries of both political parties: Sam Skinner, who served under President George H.W. Bush; and Norm Mineta, who served in the Cabinets of both President Clinton and President George W. Bush. They’re here today because they are passionate about this task.

Their cooperation –- and indeed, this country’s very history –- proves that this is something for which there has traditionally been broad bipartisan support. So Sam and Norm have been leading a bipartisan group of more than 80 experts who, just last week, released a call to action demanding a “fundamental overhaul” of how America approaches funding and building our infrastructure. And today, my Treasury Department and my Council of Economic Advisors have released our own study.

And these reports confirm what any American can already tell you: our infrastructure is woefully inefficient and it is outdated. For years, we have deferred tough decisions, and today, our aging system of highways and byways, air routes and rail lines hinder our economic growth. Today, the average American household is forced to spend more on transportation each year than food. Our roads, clogged with traffic, cost us $80 billion a year in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Our airports, choked with passengers, cost nearly $10 billion a year in productivity losses from flight delays. And in some cases, our crumbling infrastructure costs American lives. It should not take another collapsing bridge or failing levee to shock us into action.

So we’re already paying for our failure to act. And what’s more, the longer our infrastructure erodes, the deeper our competitive edge erodes. Other nations understand this. They are going all-in. Today, as a percentage of GDP, we invest less than half of what Russia does in their infrastructure, less than one-third of what Western Europe does. Right now, China’s building hundreds of thousands of miles of new roads. Over the next 10 years, it plans to build dozens of new airports. Over the next 20, it could build as many as 170 new mass transit systems. Everywhere else, they’re thinking big. They’re creating jobs today, but they’re also playing to win tomorrow. So the bottom line is our shortsightedness has come due. We can no longer afford to sit still.

What we need is a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century. A system that encourages sustainable communities with easier access to our jobs, to our schools, to our homes. A system that decreases travel time and increases mobility. A system that cuts congestion and ups productivity. A system that reduces harmful emissions over time and creates jobs right now.

So we’ve already begun on this task. The Recovery Act included the most serious investment in our infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. And we’re not just talking new and restored roads and bridges and dams and levees, but we’re also talking a smart electric grid and the high-speed internet and rail lines required for America to compete in the 21st century economy. We’re talking about investments with impacts both immediate and lasting.

Tens of thousands of projects employing hundreds of thousands of workers are already underway across America. We’re improving 40,000 miles of road, and rebuilding water and sewer systems. We’re implementing a smarter, more stable, more secure electric grid across 46 states that will increase access to renewable sources of energy and cut costs for customers. We’re moving forward with projects that connect communities across the country to broadband internet, and connect 31 states via a true high-speed rail network. And what’s more, a great many of these projects are coming in under budget.

By investing in these projects, we’ve already created hundreds of thousands of jobs. But the fact remains that nearly one in five construction workers is still unemployed and needs a job. And that makes absolutely no sense at a time when there is so much of America that needs rebuilding.

So that’s why, last month, I announced a new plan for upgrading America’s roads, rails and runways for the long-term. Over the next six years, we will rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads — enough to circle the world six times. We will lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways — enough to stretch from coast to coast. And we will restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next generation air-traffic control system that reduces delays for the American people.

This plan will be fully paid for. It will not add to our deficit over time. And we are going to work with Congress to see to that. It will establish an infrastructure bank to leverage federal dollars and focus on the smartest investments. We want to cut waste and bureaucracy by consolidating and collapsing more than 100 different, often duplicative programs. And it will change the way Washington works by reforming the federal government’s patchwork approach of funding and maintaining our infrastructure. We’ve got to focus less on wasteful earmarks, outdated formulas. We’ve got to focus more on competition and innovation; less on shortsighted political priorities, and more on our national economic priorities.

So investing in our infrastructure is something that members of both political parties have always supported. It’s something that groups ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO support today. And by making these investments across the country, we won’t just make our economy run better over the long haul — we will create good, middle-class jobs right now.

So there is no reason why we can’t do this. There is no reason why the world’s best infrastructure should lie beyond our borders. This is America. We’ve always had the best infrastructure. This is work that needs to be done. There are workers who are ready to do it. All we need is the political will. This is a season for choices, and this is the choice: between choice — between decline and prosperity, and between the past and the future.

Our future has never been predestined. It has been built on the hard work and sacrifices of previous generations. They invested yesterday for what we have today. That’s how we built canals, and railroads, and highways, and ports that allowed our economy to grow by leaps and bounds. That’s how we led the world in the pursuit of new technologies and innovations. That’s what allowed us to build the middle class and lead the global economy in the 20th century. And if we’re going to lead it in the 21st, that’s the vision we can’t afford to lose sight of right now. That’s the challenge that’s fallen to this generation. That’s the challenge that this country is going to meet. And with the help of these gentlemen behind me, and I hope strong bipartisan support, I have no doubt that we will meet these challenges.

Thank you very much, everybody.

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High-speed rail: No turning back on American jobs, economic opportunities, mobility gains (photos)

USDOT – Secretary Ray LaHood

With his vigorous support for high-speed rail, President Obama is thinking about a better future. And so is the Department of Transportation. We’re moving America forward for all Americans.

The bottom line is that high-speed rail will deliver a more efficient downtown-to-downtown mobility; it will spur economic development; it will bring manufacturing jobs to the US; and it will move us to a cleaner, greener way of getting around.


In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out even more grants to help write the next chapter in American innovation.

We’re talking about nothing short of transforming transportation much the same way the interstate highway system did under President Eisenhower. Can you imagine if Ohio or Wisconsin or any other state had said, “No, thanks–we don’t think that highway thing is going anywhere?”

The fact is that–as with much of the Recovery Act–I keep hearing objections being expressed in the media while at the same time my office phone is ringing off the hook with calls from elected officials of both parties competing feverishly for a rail corridor in their state! I’ve never heard from anyone saying, “Don’t put my constituents to work.”

Look, the people vowing to send this train back to the station are missing the boat, so to speak. High speed rail will offer states’ incredible economic opportunities. It means jobs for workers, it means manufacturing opportunities and it means economic development corridors.


If you think the United States can afford not to compete with the European and Asian nations who have embraced high-speed rail and other innovative infrastructure, I urge you to read “Investing in our Economic Future,” by Dr. T. Peter Ruane, or “Well Within Reach: America’s New Transportation Agenda,” by the David R. Goode National Transportation Policy Conference. Both of these reports tell the same story: We cannot delay mustering the courage to build a 21st century foundation for our 21st century economy.

Neither President Obama nor I will be content to sit around and watch other countries maintain a transportation advantage over us.

We know there are dozens of companies that want to build plants and hire American workers. We have already received commitments from over 30 companies in the rail business to create or expand US rail manufacturing should they be awarded contracts for portions of this money. These companies know high-speed rail, and they are ready to become partners to the states or regions awarded rail grants.

Will we say, “No,” to the future–to jobs and growth?

Just like the interstate highway system, the wired telephone has been a fantastic springboard to American economic strength. But that didn’t stop the communications companies from embracing the innovation offered by wireless. And look at what that investment has made possible.

We will always use our roadways; they continue to serve us well, and DOT is not about to turn our backs on them. But now is the time to invest in the next technological wave in transportation and leverage it toward a better future for all of us.

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