Monday, November 15, 2010

High-Speed Rail Can Boost Economy, Reduce Traffic

New WashPIRG Study: High-Speed Rail Can Boost Economy, Reduce Traffic

SEATTLE --- A new study from the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG) draws lessons from other countries to show that high-speed rail can provide a popular alternative to congested roads and airports while at the same time boosting economic growth, saving energy and curbing pollution.

The report, A Track Record of Success: High-Speed Rail Around the World and Its Promise for America, details a number of examples from around the world that make a variety of cases for high-speed rail.

Some of the benefits include:

·        Jobs: about 8,000 people were involved in the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between England and France, allowing direct high-speed rail travel from London to Paris.
·        Reduced road congestion: high-speed rail service between Madrid and Seville reduced the share of car travel between the two cities from 60% to 34%.
·        Reduced air travel: even in the relatively slow rail service in the U.S. Northeastern Corridor, the rail corridor accounts for 65% of the air-rail market between NY and Washington, DC.
·        Economic development opportunities near stations: The amount of office space in the area around the rail station in city of Lyon, France has increased by 43% since the opening of their high-speed rail station; rent for office space near high-speed rail stations in France and throughout northern Europe is consistently higher than comparable office space further from stations.
·        Economic growth: in Germany, several counties experienced an increase in their gross domestic product as a result of the increased access to markets provided by the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed rail line.
·        Reduced oil dependence: a typical Monday morning business trip between London and Paris via high-speed rail uses approximately a third less energy as a car or plane trip.
“This report shows why other countries are investing in high-speed rail. It’s a smart investment that will bring new jobs and economic development while connecting major travel hubs,” said Steve Breaux, a Public Interest Advocate with WashPIRG. “All around the world, high-speed rail is producing results – here in the Pacific Northwest, faster trains will provide better transportation options and thousands of new jobs.”
According to the report, high-speed rail provides strong economic, environmental, and quality-of-life benefits by connecting major population centers. Areas around stations are found to experience higher levels of economic growth. Bullet trains in other countries have largely replaced less efficient and inconvenient air travel while using up to two-thirds less energy than flying or driving.

In Washington, high-speed rail is on track to see improvements thanks to major grants from the federal government totaling nearly $640 million. Last month, Washington was awarded an additional $38.7 million for FY 2009 and 2010 to continue laying the groundwork for the long-term vision of the 467-mile Eugene – Portland – Seattle – Vancouver corridor. Amtrak currently operates 5 round-trip trains per day between Seattle and Portland on tracks shared with freight trains, limiting passenger trains to a top speed of 79 miles per hour; eventual improvements will include a dedicated high-speed track where trains will operate at up to 150 miles per hour on 13 daily round trips.
Over the last two years the federal government has distributed $10.4 billion nationwide in grants to construct or plan high-speed rail, including incremental measures that increase the speed and reliability of existing passenger rail. In these two rounds, 37 states and the District of Columbia have applied to the Federal Railroad Administration to support 341 project applications. Those requests totaled over $65 billion – about six times the amount made available by Congress.
As partisan political rancor from recent elections gives way to public policy decision-making, Breaux notes that new high-speed rail development has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. In 2000, the Republican Party Platform called for “the development of a national high-speed passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development and enhanced mobility.” In a statement about WashPIRG’s report, Glen Bottoms of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation agrees: “This report reinforces our view that building a high-speed rail network is a prudent and cost effective use of America’s resources over the long-term.”
“Now that the election is behind us, it’s time to get serious about high-speed rail. There is no such thing as a Republican or a Democratic rail track,” said Lindsey Jacobson, a Program Associate with WashPIRG. “Our leaders from both parties should support long-term investment in high-speed rail for the benefits it will bring to the Puget Sound region.”

Click here to read the report.

No comments:

Post a Comment