Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Infrastructure for Employment: National Rail System

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with Joel Kotkin. However, in his most recent LA Times op-ed piece, he advocates for a new national infrastructure project, as a way to create jobs and rebuild the economy -- ala the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s Depression, or the Eisenhower's freeway initiative of the 1950s.

I couldn't agree more.

Except that I think that the specific infrastructure program that is needed is this:

* Build a national high speed rail system (200+mph) to connect the major cities with one another along the logical national corridors (West Coast, Vancouver B.C. to Tijuana; East Coast, Maine to Florida; Texas to Chicago via Kansas City; etc.).
* Make each station both a major transfer point to local transit, and a major focus for transit-oriented development
* Build out local baby-bullet services (120mph or so) to connect up the national high-speed rail backbone service with other nearby cities. For instance, in the Portland region, the High Speed Rail stop would be downtown. Salem and Eugene would probably also receive stops (and maybe Oregon City, if they committed to enough TOD to turn themselves into a place worth stopping at). However, baby-bullet services would allow passengers to transfer once and get to... Hood River, the Dalles, Pendleton, St. Helens, McMinnville, etc.
* Expand supporting transit services to complement both the baby-bullet and the high speed rail services
* Make all the trainsets in America, preferably at multiple locations so that many regions get these jobs
* Hire American firms to do the work
* Use start-up incubators in many of the TOD locations to really give a shot in the arm to these station areas.

I'm not sure that this represents a winning political platform for any politicians seeking election... but if any sitting politician really wants to leave a legacy (ala Eisenhower or Roosevelt), they should seriously give this vision some thought.

Otherwise, it's going to probably be a long time before I'm electable to an office that would allow me to implement this as my own vision!! I'd like to be able to actually ride this system a long time before that!

1 comment:

Garlynn Woodsong said...


Asia is jumping on the bandwagon of places around the world that are better at providing rail service to their citizens than the USA:


With regards to the fuel issue: What if all new electrified rail R-O-W were covered by a big shed, spanning the tracks, roofed with solar panels? Sure, night-time trains would need to run off the grid, but during the day, that'd probably do the trick, and might even generate some electricity to give back to the grid!!