Wednesday, March 20, 2013

U.S. introspection needed for future HSR

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Writing a White Paper for the University of Denver's Intermodal Transportation Institute about America's high speed passenger rail potential has reinforced my conviction: Closing the gap between where the U.S. has been, and where the rest of the world is going, with fast passenger trains will require drawing lessons about how, and why, past efforts to put passenger railroading into high gear on this continent fell short of the passenger rail revolution that has swept Asia and Europe.

acela-expressPart of the lesson will come from recognizing what went wrong with past high speed rail programs that gave America the TurboTrain and Metroliner in the early 1970s and the Acela Express (pictured at left) since 2000. None of these trains have lived up to their design potential, and the reasons have to be understood if we are going to do better in the future.

Another lesson that will need to be learned is how to synchronize America's wildly successful freight railroad redemption from the near-death experience of the 1970s with the path toward high speed passenger rail that has been laid out by government.

The business model of America's private railroads has moved farther away from both technical and organizational compatibility with high-speed passenger rail. The sooner that rail professionals begin engaging these challenges, the more likely it will be that American ingenuity yields solutions that will enable the U.S. to move forward.

The White Paper can be found in its entirety here.

Anthony Perl

Anthony Perl is Director of the Urban Studies Program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia; he has previously worked at the City University of New York, the University of Calgary, and Université Lumière in Lyon, France. He has authored or co-authored four books, most recently Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil (2010). Anthony's research crosses disciplinary and national boundaries to explore the policy decisions that affect transportation, cities and the environment. He has published in scholarly journals such as Energy Policy, Transportation Research, Transportation Quarterly, World Transport Policy and Practice, and Scientific American. Perl’s work been awarded prizes for outstanding papers presented at the World Conference on Transport Research and the Canadian Transportation Research Forum. He currently chairs the Rail Group of the U.S. Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council.