Many more parts of the world are beginning to experience increased geographical connectedness through high-speed rail (HSR) systems.
High-speed passenger transportation services have become extremely popular in countries like Japan where the idea originated, though robust networks have been integrated across East Asia and Europe to critical acclaim.
And with work having officially begun on the California High Speed Rail system that is to link San Francisco and Los Angeles, the benefits of HSR are finally hitting the west coast after years of near- negligible levels of government support.
However, it's not just the west coast that is experiencing the benefits of HSR. States all across the country, from Houston to Miami, are getting on board (pun not intended) with HSR. Here are a few reasons why:
They Go Farther on Less Fuel
Rail stations, unlike airports, are factored into the infrastructure of city centers and this makes them preferable -- even in cases where distances of several hundreds of miles or more need to be covered. In addition, high-speed trains are designed to run along the most efficient routes and bypass the problems associated with traffic congestion.
According to recent statistics from AASHTO, high-speed passenger rail is 17 percent more fuel efficient per mile than airlines and 21 percent more fuel efficient than vehicles on a per passenger basis.
Railways allow new commercial districts to open up along the line, bringing business to regional areas and improving people's access to a broad range of economic benefits. A well-implemented HSR system would increase property values and population sizes, laying the groundwork for new communities to crop up all across the landscape.
The Safety Standards Are Stellar
Proponents of HSR cite its ability to compete with and ease the pressures on more established intercity transportation alternatives, not to mention it has an impressive track record when it comes to safety.
This is not to say that there haven't been accidents in recent years -- there have been. In 1998, a train derailed and killed 101 people in what is now known as the Eschede Train Disaster. In 2011, two of China's newly developed bullet trains crashed into each other, killing 40.
Events like these are fortunately few and far between and remain statistical outliers, usually attributed to improper monitoring and maintenance procedures.
The Association of American Railroads, which is mandated by the Railway Safety Improvement Act of 2008, has initiated Positive Train Control (PTC) procedures in order to prevent such accidents from occurring in the first place.
Because of this, HSR is beginning to attract investor attention from both public and private entities with a vested interest in improving the nation's already stellar rail safety record.
They're Building a Brighter Future
Private investors are seeing the inherent and potential benefits of high-speed transportation networks, and have already pumped $75 million into a line that would link Dallas to Houston as early as 2021. With the target met for first round of funding the project is finally able to move on from feasibility studies and into development planning.