Passenger demand exists for US high speed rail 05 Nov 2015

TunnelTalk reporting
With construction of the first package of the central section of California’s new 700km high speed rail (HSR) program between San Francisco and Los Angeles under way, procurement for the second and third packages (CP2 and CP3) completed, and five teams prequalified for construction of CP4, HSR is making a welcome appearance in the USA. As the multi-billion dollar California project develops incrementally between now and 2029, and with rail operator Amtrak keen to develop high speed rail in the busy northeastern corridor, a new survey reveals that Americans are finally ready to embrace HSR, just as the rest of the world already has.

High Speed Rail in the USA has its detractors, so it is encouraging that a survey released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicts that passenger demand for its use will come – if only it is built. “If you build high speed rail in America, the passengers will come,” says APTA.

High-Speed Rail Forum

Wednesday, 2 December 2015
From 8:30am to 2:30pm at the new APTA offices at
1300 I Street, NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, D.C.

Federal officials, congressional staff, members of APTA and other passenger rail stakeholders will discuss the possibilities for developing high-speed rail systems in the USA examining topics including planning and environmental clearance; funding and finance; leadership and governance. US Representative Earl Blumenauer will be the featured luncheon speaker. No cost to attend.

RSVP to Cynthia Owens at cowens@apta.com
APTA High-Speed Rail Forum Program.pdf

According to the survey findings, if HSR were available today, two-thirds (63%) of Americans say they would be likely to use it – and this jumps to 70% when respondents are informed of the costs and time saving benefits of a high speed rail service.

“People want high-speed rail in America and we are seeing support among various ages and in different regions of the country, regardless of political affiliation,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “In addition, the millennial generation and younger adults will lead the way with their preferences to have a multi-modal transportation system that supports their lifestyle. It is critical that we include implementation of high speed rail as we look to plan for the nation’s future transportation needs.”

In the “High-Speed Rail in America 2015” survey, conducted by TechnoMetrica on behalf of APTA, the likelihood of respondents using high speed rail for their work and leisure travel increases as they are progressively informed of its benefits. Constant reinforcement of this message, and other key benefits of HSR, will be important as the program in California is rolled out, and as a way of maintaining pressure on infrastructure planners and transportation funding groups to finally initiate a long-dreamed-of HSR program for the congested American northeast.

Construction packages 1-5 (Fresno-Bakersfield)' style=
Construction packages 1-5 (Fresno-Bakersfield)
Planned full alignment of California HSR' style=
Planned full alignment of California HSR

Respondents in the key 18–44 age group expressed a strong likelihood of using HSR (71%). When told that HSR would be less expensive than flying, and that it will take less time than driving, this figure jumped to 76%.

Interestingly, it is Democrats who are most attracted by the lower cost and the time saving benefits of HSR. Some 65% of Republicans said there was a strong likelihood they would use HSR, whereas 75% of Democrats said they would.

Got an opinion?

Get involved in the debate about HSR in the USA. Use the TunnelTalk Feedback button at the bottom of the article to share your thoughts and initiate the discussion about the costs and benefits of America’s fledgling HSR program.

“A high speed rail network will have a tremendous benefit to our entire transportation system,” said Melaniphy. “It will enable America’s air, rail, bus, ferry and highway systems to each function effectively and efficiently as we face a dramatic population growth that adds more travelers than our current capacity can accommodate.”

The survey also revealed that Americans overwhelmingly support efforts to streamline government regulations that will promote real-estate development near high speed rail. This development could include amenities such as popular retail shops, walkable neighborhoods, and restaurants. Overall, nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) support cutting red tape and relaxing planning regulations so that amenities can be built near high speed rail stations.

“High-speed rail not only provides a great transportation option, but the public’s interest in amenities near high-speed rail stations is another way to create economic growth and jobs in local communities across the country,” said Melaniphy. “If we have strong investment in high-speed rail it will be an opportunity to generate real-estate and land use income for the private sector, as well as local tax revenue for communities for decades to come.”

Global high speed rail networks, by country, planned by 2025
Global high speed rail networks, by country, planned by 2025

PTA is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. More than 90% of the people using public transportation in the US and Canada ride APTA member systems.


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