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Clean Transport high speed rail

Published on February 28th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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83% of Americans Think More Money Should Go to High Speed Rail



Surprisingly, after Obama’s announcement to give $8 billion to High Speed Rail (HSR) projects across the country, popular support for HSR has dropped, but it is still 88%. Not bad.

Of course, more money is needed to make HSR the reality people dream of.

A new survey shows that 83% of people think HSR and mass transit should be getting more money.

A survey in March of last year by HNTB called “America THINKS” found that 94% of Americans were “open to high-speed rail travel for long-distance travel within the United States” and this year’s version of it (conducted last month and just out) finds that support is down to 88%.

Clearly, though, this is still very high.

“The time has come for high-speed rail,” says Peter Gertler, HNTB high-speed rail services chair. “Stimulus money is seeding initial projects. It’ll be up to those of us in the industry – working in partnership with transportation agencies and elected officials – to keep up the momentum.”

The bottom line is, we have issues concerning pollution and the price of fuel that don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. And even beyond fuel, driving is very “expensive” in time costs in many places — it is not an efficient way to travel around a very populated place. The definition of a populated place is a lot of people in a relatively small area. Giving everyone a large vehicle of their own to move around in is not going to be the best solution.

And going from one populated place to another in the same region is better served by fast, mass transit in many instances as well.

Of course, we need a lot of funding to go towards high-quality HSR and mass transit if we are going to ever have a more efficient transportation system. But the public seems to be in support of this. 83% (more than 4 out of 5) people support a larger share of federal funding going towards mass transit and HSR infrastructure — they agree that this shift needs to occur. So, hopefully we will see it happen.

“While our interstate highways empowered economic growth and development during the last 50 years, we can no longer simply build our way out of congestion and conservation problems,” Gertler says. “Establishing a long-term multi-modal transportation vision that includes rail is crucial.”

Obama is helping to transform our out-dated transportation system, but a lot is needed from Congressspecifically, a new transportation funding bill to replace the previous one that expired about a year ago — to make this transformation happen in full.

Image Credit: foolish adler via flickr under a CC license

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Natalya

    Dear Zachary, where i can get that surveys in March of 2 years ago made by HNTB? I would be very greatful if you could help me with that issue. I need it for analys of russian population. Thanks a lot beforehand.

  • http://www.pinklaptops4u.co.uk/ Tara J

    I’d have to agree with those 88%, for me if we can build a high speed infrstructure it gives us so much more options to take polluting vehicles off the road and onto the more greener railroads. It seems pretty much a no brainer for me.

  • http://GETSUBMITIT.COM evan5069

    i just discovered your site. good article. how long have you been writing? this is really good stuff. are you a journalist aswell? anyway, thanks again. subscribing to the rss :).

  • http://GETSUBMITIT.COM evan5069

    i just discovered your site. good article. how long have you been writing? this is really good stuff. are you a journalist aswell? anyway, thanks again. subscribing to the rss :).

  • Chris

    Some of you guys think that these systems are going to be built and no one will ride because they don’t connect to anything. You have to think 20, 50, 100 years down the road here. It’s not like the Florida line will never ever connect to anything ever. Its not the Milwaukee to Madison train is ONLY a train stopping at those two places. They will connect to more and more cities as these systems are built out. Business will be attracted to open near new stations. Better transit will also come as well. Will it replace the car? No. But it sure as hell will make it easier to get around. I travel a lot and would love to be able to take more trains to get work done, sleep and eat while on my way.

    We spent 60 years building up our highways and 60 years tearing down our once world class rail system. Our passenger rail system use to be privately run companies that made a profit and paid taxes. Then we turn around the start subsidizing roads to the extant that these private for profit railroads were forced out of business because of government subsidy to another mode. Roads don’t pay taxes and have never made a profit. So who do you think is going to win?

    It’s been proven on passenger lines all around the country now. Build it and they will come. Public transit ridership is the highest its ever been in 50 years. Amtrak ridership also saw a record quarter at the end of 2009.

    Just like the interstate highway system took 40 years to build, this new system will also take just as long to build.

  • Chris

    Some of you guys think that these systems are going to be built and no one will ride because they don’t connect to anything. You have to think 20, 50, 100 years down the road here. It’s not like the Florida line will never ever connect to anything ever. Its not the Milwaukee to Madison train is ONLY a train stopping at those two places. They will connect to more and more cities as these systems are built out. Business will be attracted to open near new stations. Better transit will also come as well. Will it replace the car? No. But it sure as hell will make it easier to get around. I travel a lot and would love to be able to take more trains to get work done, sleep and eat while on my way.

    We spent 60 years building up our highways and 60 years tearing down our once world class rail system. Our passenger rail system use to be privately run companies that made a profit and paid taxes. Then we turn around the start subsidizing roads to the extant that these private for profit railroads were forced out of business because of government subsidy to another mode. Roads don’t pay taxes and have never made a profit. So who do you think is going to win?

    It’s been proven on passenger lines all around the country now. Build it and they will come. Public transit ridership is the highest its ever been in 50 years. Amtrak ridership also saw a record quarter at the end of 2009.

    Just like the interstate highway system took 40 years to build, this new system will also take just as long to build.

  • http://lightngreen.com Zachary Shahan

    Walt,

    Things never change if you accept them as they are. It took a huge investment to transform our cities for cars. Unfortunately, it took a long time for people to realize the health, economic, time, and mental health effects that would create.

    It will take a strong initial investment to make our cities more people friendly again, and HSR is a critical part of that in my view (and many others).

    HSR could make a huge difference, transforming many aspects of our cities and regions.

    Right now, SEVERAL times more tax payer money goes towards cars and roads. Change the ratio and people will ride trains, & it would improve many aspects of our society and people’s individual lives.

    Think beyond now. That is what investment is about.

    Zach

  • http://lightngreen.com Zachary Shahan

    Walt,

    Things never change if you accept them as they are. It took a huge investment to transform our cities for cars. Unfortunately, it took a long time for people to realize the health, economic, time, and mental health effects that would create.

    It will take a strong initial investment to make our cities more people friendly again, and HSR is a critical part of that in my view (and many others).

    HSR could make a huge difference, transforming many aspects of our cities and regions.

    Right now, SEVERAL times more tax payer money goes towards cars and roads. Change the ratio and people will ride trains, & it would improve many aspects of our society and people’s individual lives.

    Think beyond now. That is what investment is about.

    Zach

  • Jeff

    After coming back from Asia and rode their trains, I could careless about what American do/do not want high speed rail system anymore. I spend the last 20 years living in United States, I no longer believe American truly want to advance their country. You debate yourself to death, fighting wars you cannot afford, using fossil fuel without any regard to the future, while watching other countries chasing over you.

    Good luck, Americans, hope you will have a slightly better “century of decline” compare to the British empire.

  • Jeff

    After coming back from Asia and rode their trains, I could careless about what American do/do not want high speed rail system anymore. I spend the last 20 years living in United States, I no longer believe American truly want to advance their country. You debate yourself to death, fighting wars you cannot afford, using fossil fuel without any regard to the future, while watching other countries chasing over you.

    Good luck, Americans, hope you will have a slightly better “century of decline” compare to the British empire.

  • Walt Brewer

    This in recent Wall Street Journal Letter sums it nicely.

    “High-speed rail is a minus five on a one-to-10 priority scale. It exposes the neglected annual $70 billion-plus congestion-planning disaster that assumes productive auto travel can be replaced by long-discarded, century-old mass-transit concepts.

    Except for the crowded East Coast, rail is a nostalgia fix. Let Disney take over Florida’s “HSR” so the grandkids can see what thrilled before computer games.”

    Because of the enormous subsidy needed, do all those surveyed in favor realize the $ Billions all will be paying for decades through taxes, and the tiny number using HSR?

    Urban transportation need lots of help to erase the $ 70+billion congestion is costing each year. HSR contribution isn’t even noticed.

    May be ok in the very dense Northeast, but elsewhere just a slightly faster commuter train. Or at intermediate stops, needs a transfer or two, or rental car to get to the real destination.

    USA isn’t old fashioned dense downtown cities like Europe or Japan. Most hope it will never be.

  • Walt Brewer

    This in recent Wall Street Journal Letter sums it nicely.

    “High-speed rail is a minus five on a one-to-10 priority scale. It exposes the neglected annual $70 billion-plus congestion-planning disaster that assumes productive auto travel can be replaced by long-discarded, century-old mass-transit concepts.

    Except for the crowded East Coast, rail is a nostalgia fix. Let Disney take over Florida’s “HSR” so the grandkids can see what thrilled before computer games.”

    Because of the enormous subsidy needed, do all those surveyed in favor realize the $ Billions all will be paying for decades through taxes, and the tiny number using HSR?

    Urban transportation need lots of help to erase the $ 70+billion congestion is costing each year. HSR contribution isn’t even noticed.

    May be ok in the very dense Northeast, but elsewhere just a slightly faster commuter train. Or at intermediate stops, needs a transfer or two, or rental car to get to the real destination.

    USA isn’t old fashioned dense downtown cities like Europe or Japan. Most hope it will never be.

  • http://lightngreen.com Zachary Shahan

    LJ,

    Regardless of who conducted the study, the methods are legit.

    They conducted the study because they are interested in the matter.

    But the bottom line is, people support the idea of high speed rail, at the least.

  • http://lightngreen.com Zachary Shahan

    LJ,

    Regardless of who conducted the study, the methods are legit.

    They conducted the study because they are interested in the matter.

    But the bottom line is, people support the idea of high speed rail, at the least.

  • http://lightngreen.com Zachary Shahan

    Smilin’ Jack,

    This was a nationwide survey of over 1,000 people. “Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over.”

    Regarding whether or not people will use it, people will use it if it is fast and affordable — completely reasonable.

    Autos are much more expensive to travel by, but the true cost is not represented in the amount people pay. That is likely to change in the near future.

    And you cite Japan, but neglect to mention Europe, where people do use rail and have plenty of choice.

  • http://lightngreen.com Zachary Shahan

    Smilin’ Jack,

    This was a nationwide survey of over 1,000 people. “Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over.”

    Regarding whether or not people will use it, people will use it if it is fast and affordable — completely reasonable.

    Autos are much more expensive to travel by, but the true cost is not represented in the amount people pay. That is likely to change in the near future.

    And you cite Japan, but neglect to mention Europe, where people do use rail and have plenty of choice.

  • Nathan

    Perhaps we should stop subsidizing roads before we ask tax payers to spend anymore on yet another system we will call dirty and inefficient in 20 years.

  • Nathan

    Perhaps we should stop subsidizing roads before we ask tax payers to spend anymore on yet another system we will call dirty and inefficient in 20 years.

  • Colby

    I am all for high speed rail and I hope it spreads across the United Stated soon. There is no reason for high speed rail not to be connected down the eastern seaboard.

    One thing I laughed at in this article though:

    “it is not an efficient way to travel around a very populated place. The definition of a populated place is a lot of people in a relatively small area.”

    What is the definition of “a lot of people” and “relatively small area”?

  • Colby

    I am all for high speed rail and I hope it spreads across the United Stated soon. There is no reason for high speed rail not to be connected down the eastern seaboard.

    One thing I laughed at in this article though:

    “it is not an efficient way to travel around a very populated place. The definition of a populated place is a lot of people in a relatively small area.”

    What is the definition of “a lot of people” and “relatively small area”?

  • Smilin’ Jack

    Where was this survey taken? On the east coast & west coast? It sounds as if this survey is typical of many–they don’t include the Plains States, the Rocky Mountain States, or the Southwestern States.

    As one person commented, the only way a good mass transit system will pay for itself and work the way it is suppose to, is when the automobile becomes much more expensive to travel by than mass transit.

    It won’t happen soon, simply because too many Americans can’t visualize themselves not driving! It comes back to the statement: “It may be okay for somebody else, but not for me”.

    More than 40 years ago I had the opportunity to be in Tokyo. Their system was outstanding and easy and cheap. WHY? Because it was mandatory!!! Personal vehicles were not allowed to travel into the main business areas of Tokyo. The situation has to be such as to give most people no choice. Of course, who will that be? The true working class!!!

  • Smilin’ Jack

    Where was this survey taken? On the east coast & west coast? It sounds as if this survey is typical of many–they don’t include the Plains States, the Rocky Mountain States, or the Southwestern States.

    As one person commented, the only way a good mass transit system will pay for itself and work the way it is suppose to, is when the automobile becomes much more expensive to travel by than mass transit.

    It won’t happen soon, simply because too many Americans can’t visualize themselves not driving! It comes back to the statement: “It may be okay for somebody else, but not for me”.

    More than 40 years ago I had the opportunity to be in Tokyo. Their system was outstanding and easy and cheap. WHY? Because it was mandatory!!! Personal vehicles were not allowed to travel into the main business areas of Tokyo. The situation has to be such as to give most people no choice. Of course, who will that be? The true working class!!!

  • Tom

    We have Amtrak already and it is broke! What you don’t understand it will take a major change in the United States for it to not be another system that the government has to bail out!

  • Tom

    We have Amtrak already and it is broke! What you don’t understand it will take a major change in the United States for it to not be another system that the government has to bail out!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1220422500 George Flores

    While it may seem like we are going backwards in time by using a Rail system.. In fact we are NOT.

    Look at the train technology used in the states today. It is very out dated in terms of efficiency.

    The U.S. for the first time is having to play catch up with the rest of the world.

    Right now.. we could also really use the thousands of jobs this would create. ;)

    TIME TO WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!

    Much Respect,

    George Flores

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1220422500 George Flores

    While it may seem like we are going backwards in time by using a Rail system.. In fact we are NOT.

    Look at the train technology used in the states today. It is very out dated in terms of efficiency.

    The U.S. for the first time is having to play catch up with the rest of the world.

    Right now.. we could also really use the thousands of jobs this would create. ;)

    TIME TO WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!

    Much Respect,

    George Flores

  • LJ

    Let’s see now, a poll conducted by an infrastructure design consortium comes up with results that favor the building of NEW infrastructure. They probably passed the poll around the office and called it good enough to use in order to drum up more taxpayer business.

    The reality out there probably is that 90% of the population doesn’t want this boondoggle.

    Just more lies in order to advance an agenda.

  • LJ

    Let’s see now, a poll conducted by an infrastructure design consortium comes up with results that favor the building of NEW infrastructure. They probably passed the poll around the office and called it good enough to use in order to drum up more taxpayer business.

    The reality out there probably is that 90% of the population doesn’t want this boondoggle.

    Just more lies in order to advance an agenda.

  • Frank DeFreytas

    hello,

    From Minneapolis to NYC. From Portland Me to DC

    From Vancouver, BC to San Diego

    This is a great start for very high speed RR on their own tracks – like those in Germany, France, Japan etc. NO RR CROSSINGS. The tracks are totally isolated from other traffic, deer and the like.

    Imagine traveling from Boston TO NYC @ 400 K or 250 mph. It would take an hour. Flying from down town to down town on the best days takes a minimum of 3 hours. About the same from NYC to DC. Plus all the airport personal screening and luggage – notwithstanding shoes, belts, coins, 3 ounces of ANYTHING liquid.

    Food for thought.

  • Frank DeFreytas

    hello,

    From Minneapolis to NYC. From Portland Me to DC

    From Vancouver, BC to San Diego

    This is a great start for very high speed RR on their own tracks – like those in Germany, France, Japan etc. NO RR CROSSINGS. The tracks are totally isolated from other traffic, deer and the like.

    Imagine traveling from Boston TO NYC @ 400 K or 250 mph. It would take an hour. Flying from down town to down town on the best days takes a minimum of 3 hours. About the same from NYC to DC. Plus all the airport personal screening and luggage – notwithstanding shoes, belts, coins, 3 ounces of ANYTHING liquid.

    Food for thought.

  • Jared

    Great article! I take the train twice each month from DC to NYC. Being able to read or work while in transit makes the trip so much nicer than driving.

    What is shocking is the price of the High Speed (Acela) train. Hop over to the Amtrak website and look at the price of a ticket next Friday. The NE Corridor ticket is currently $74 on the low end, while Acela is $133 on the low end. That’s an 80% premium to shave 40 minutes off your trip.

    Maybe they should focus less on creating the fastest trains in the world, and more on getting mass transit to a price-point that makes driving seem expensive. Americans always think with their wallet first.

  • Jared

    Great article! I take the train twice each month from DC to NYC. Being able to read or work while in transit makes the trip so much nicer than driving.

    What is shocking is the price of the High Speed (Acela) train. Hop over to the Amtrak website and look at the price of a ticket next Friday. The NE Corridor ticket is currently $74 on the low end, while Acela is $133 on the low end. That’s an 80% premium to shave 40 minutes off your trip.

    Maybe they should focus less on creating the fastest trains in the world, and more on getting mass transit to a price-point that makes driving seem expensive. Americans always think with their wallet first.

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