We’ve talked here before in stories on high speed rail how the United States is far, far behind others part of the world like China and Europe when it comes to deployment. Around this time two years ago, in fact, we were crowing about how President Obama hoped to pump $53 billion over the next six years on a national high speed rail network. Today it is still sort of a blip on the radar. What would such a network look like though if fully played out? That is what one California designer aimed to find out.
Alfred Twu has created an extremely fascinating U.S. high speed rail map which lays out what the ultimate national network would look like. It isn’t all just in his head though, as he has pieced together into this fascinating idea the vision and thought process from diverse entities such as Amtrak, Florida High Speed Rail, Southern High Speed Rail, Southeast High Speed Rail, Ohio Department of Transportation, California High Speed Rail Authority, Midwest High Speed Rail Association, US DOT Federal Railroad Administration and Texas High Speed Rail.
Though the plans from these groups are in various states of development or disarray, when put all together as you see below it turns the mind to consider the possibilities.
Imagine, for example, wanting to spend a long weekend with your parents in Chicago when you are living in Los Angeles. Instead of flying 30,000 feet above the ground though and seeing a cross section of America as just so many puzzle pieces, you board a 5am train traveling 220 MPH, kick back with your book and digital music player and watch the countryside go whizzing by. You arrive in Chicago some 13 to 15 hours later, relaxed and still entranced by all you’ve seen that wouldn’t otherwise be visible from a tin box with wings serving peanuts and water.
Now, to be realistic, the costs would still have to be relatively comparable to flying to make it economic for most. You’d also have to build and electrify a dedicated high speed rail set of tracks and keep slow moving freight trains off of them. The closest thing we have at the moment is Amtrak’s Acela Express, which runs daily up and down the Northeast corridor. That though wouldn’t hold a candle to what Twu has dreamed up here.
As for his motivations creating this vision, Twu told the Guardian:
More than mere steel wheels on tracks, high speed rail shrinks space and brings farflung families back together. It keeps couples in touch when distant career or educational opportunities beckon. It calls to adventure and travel. It is duct tape and string to reconnect politically divided regions. Its colorful threads weave new American Dreams.
His is a bold idea indeed, and unfortunately it is something we won’t likely see except for in fractured portions for decades to come.