“We’re coming to America, today!” Well, not anymore. Based on Amtrak’s record passenger haul last year, one would think our elected officials would be running to expand high-speed rail. But in fact, the excitement for building fast tracks has diminished, mostly thanks to cost. Weren’t we supposed to be investing in infrastructure?
We’re dedicating this issue of our high-speed rail news series to high-speed train projects in the U.S., or at least what’s left of them. Maybe it’s time to start occupying your local bus stop.
- Amtrak Breaks Ridership Records: Four decades after the railroad was created, Amtrak has broken the record for passengers in one year. More than 30 million got on board, a 5% increase over the previous year. Ticket revenue was up by more than 8 percent despite significant weather-related disruptions in much of the country. According to Amtrak’s president and CEO Joseph Boardman, “Amtrak is fulfilling its national mission and is part of the solution to meet America’s growing transportation and energy needs.” Read more about why rail is rallying in the U.S.
- End of the Line: With so many Americans riding the rails, it’s only natural that Congress is trying to take away its most valuable routes, namely in the Northeast Corridor. With its vote on September 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee ended rail boosters’ hopes of getting a meaningful appropriation for high-speed rail in the upcoming fiscal year. It probably also dealt a decisive death blow to President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. How come Congress has gotten off the train?
- Acela – At Least There’s the Acela: The Acela carries travelers through the Northeast Corridor at the closest thing we have to European high speed rail. This is the fastest train in America, and those who use it regularly for travel to-and-from New York, Philadelphia and Boston are thrilled to have the option. One person on our staff who travels frequently to Beantown from New York says, “it beats driving or a taking a bus anyday.” How can we build on this momentum?
- California Dreamin’: Fights over planned routes. Disputes over costs. Deciding who is even fit to run the entire operation. Such is life over at the California High Speed Rail Authority, which is now heeding calls to go back to the drawing board after 15 years and millions spent since the state passed a law creating a high-speed rail program. The battle has only just begun…