Interstate High Speed Rail System Needed
American companies built the world’s largest rail infrastructure for freight, intercity passengers and streetcars. Government added world-class seaport, roadway and airport infrastructure. That combined infrastructure helped propel America to become the world’s largest economy in the 20th century. Unfortunately, powerful opponents arose who limited conversion of streetcars to Rapid Transit and intercity passenger rail to High Speed Rail. By under-building that infrastructure essential to 21st century mobility, smog levels have persisted, greenhouse gases have increased, and every American pays a Traffic Congestion Tax. — Thomas Dorsey, Soul Of America
America once had over 40,000 miles of railway with intercity passenger trains running up to 112 mph. Our cities teemed with streetcars that enhanced local economic & social activity. Then from 1946 onwards, a powerful consortium of industries convinced Presidents, Congress, Governors and State Legislatures to invest $2 trillion of taxpayer funds in Highways and $700 billion in Aviation. That public investment increased economic activity, but spread most of it away from the Central Business Districts of older cities.
Industries benefiting from public funding of Highways and Aviation grew financially powerful and created a multitude of jobs nationwide. American Corporate Law requires that publicly-traded companies maximize shareholder profit by addressing consumer needs and beating market competition. To maximize profits, those industries curried political influence with campaign donations and built long-term advertising relationships with news media. In short, they formed an ecosystem whose mutual interest was to convince the public to invest in Highway and Aviation growth.
Fearing competition for public construction funds, the industrial consortium used public relations muscle and extensive lobbying to reframe public and government perspective of Intercity Passenger Trains and Streetcars as “obsolete technology.” They succeeded.
Industrial opponents convinced city governments to buy more buses and rip out streetcar tracks. Industrial opponents convinced Congress and President Truman to introduce 1952 regulation that slowed over 99% of trains to 79 mph top speed without making investments that could have sustained 112 mph. As better highways enabled higher car speeds, train speeds slowed and ridership dropped.
By orchestrating the demise of streetcars and passenger trains, the industrial consortium drove America’s transition from the “Transit-Passenger Train-Auto Culture” of old to the “Auto-Jet Culture” of today. With decades of persistence, industrial opponents have manipulated naive news media, citizens and politicians to believe opinions misrepresented as fact, half-truths and lies such as:
• We’ve invested a lot in Washington-NYC-Boston corridor, but it still not High Speed Rail
• We should not attempt High Speed Rail projects elsewhere, because they are too expensive
• We don’t need Interstate High Speed Rail because widening Interstate Highway solves congestion
• We don’t need Interstate High Speed Rail because Americans prefer regional flights
Though fewer industries oppose High Speed Rail today, remaining opponents want naive news media, citizens and politicians to continue believing a dozen more opinions misrepresented as fact, half-truths and lies.
Understand High Speed Rail Before Judging It
Taxpayers care about public funding of all Transportation infrastructure because construction costs are very high. Yet we cost-justify them because each day, tens of millions of people must transport from one place to another to power economic activity. A few recent cost examples for Interstate Highway, Rapid Transit, High Speed Rail and International Airports follow.
In Los Angeles County, its costing $1.9 billion to widen 7 miles of existing freeway by 4 lanes or $271 million/mile. Expanding Washington Metro Rail 11.5 miles in Northern Virginia is costing $6.8 billion or $591 million/mile. In the longest stretch of California High Speed Rail System, it will cost up to $23 billion to build 171 miles of 220 mph infrastructure or $135 million/mile. In Chicago, its costing $14.5 billion to modernize O’Hare Airport without adding another runway.
Understanding High Speed Rail (HSR) construction costs requires that one first knows its two speed definitions by the UIC, the international agency representing Intercity Passenger Rail systems. The UIC measures train speed by kilometers per hour (kph):
1. Legacy railway upgraded for passenger trains to reach at least 200 kph (124 mph)
2. Upgraded legacy & new railway for passenger trains to reach 250+ kph (155+ mph)
In 2021, 457-mile Washington-NYC-Boston HSR corridor fits the first HSR definition, with about 80 miles running 125-135 mph and 37 miles running 150 mph. California HSR is purpose-built for the second HSR definition. When complete, its 520-mile route will have a couple hundred miles running up to 220 mph. In their two cases, construction costs range from $80-135 million per mile.
Those big numbers should trigger the next two questions. What components form such high costs? Do HSR Benefits outweigh the Costs?
When politicians consider which Transportation infrastructure projects to fund, they commission transportation planners and civil engineers to calculate what’s called a “Benefit/Cost Ratio.”
HSR Benefit/Cost Ratio is calculated by the costs to draft preliminary plans, gather geological & environmental data for potential route alignments, corridor traffic data and public input for environmental reviews to select alignments. The next steps are engineering design for tunnels & viaducts, property acquisition, earthmoving, construction, and testing trains before opening for commercial operation.
Property acquisition and earthmoving to make Interstate Highway straighter & flatter than a boulevard, are key reasons for its high construction cost. Since High Speed Rail enables even higher speeds, it requires more earthmoving, tunnels & viaducts to be straighter & flatter than Interstate Highway. From a cost perspective, we are fortunate that High Speed Rail requires 1/3rd the width of 6-lane Interstate Highway. Degree of track smoothness, train speeds, passenger capacities, train frequencies, high voltage power supply and safety features are engineering factors to calculate HSR Benefit/Cost Ratios.
No HSR or any other infrastructure project should be funded with a projected Benefit/Cost Ratio below 1.0. When Japan introduced smooth-riding 130 mph HSR at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, it proved that when a nation invests several billion dollars in modern infrastructure, High Speed Rail produces a Benefit/Cost Ratio above 1.0. That success convinced Japan to immediately work towards 137 mph HSR and line expansion that would come in the 1970s.
Coveting Japan’s passenger train success, several other countries launched Preliminary Plans for HSR projects. In 1965, President Johnson, with overwhelming Congressional support, announced that America would open the second HSR line in 226-mile Washington-NYC corridor. It would be a public-private venture planned for introduction at 110 mph. Passenger trains had already achieved 143 mph on test tracks, so federal plans for incremental upgrades to 150 mph was also feasible.
The corridor had many 55-95 year old tunnels & bridges that needed replacement or modernization. More track was needed so that High Speed Trains could run on dedicated track, while freight trains ran on parallel track. A number of railroad crossings needed over/underpasses. Track replacement and some curve-easing was needed for High Speed Trains to ride smoother and straighter. Fencing was needed to prevent people and animals from crossing tracks. In all, Washington-NYC Corridor needed about $4 billion federal and $1 billion state investment committed in 1965. Inflation-adjusted, that equates to $43 billion in 2021.
If Congress and President Johnson funded that scale of upgrade in America’s most important economic and government corridor, we could have enjoyed a high HSR Benefit/Cost Ratio like Japan and 150 mph over most of the route by 1980. Unfortunately, they only funded $90 million, just enough for a new high speed train and consulting fees. Nor did states commit much beyond a few more railroad overpasses.
In 1969, electric-powered Metroliner was introduced with 125 mph top speed and hourly service. Starting slower than Japan HSR was a small blow to America’s ego, but Metroliner did feature a non-stop Washington-NYC ride time in 2 hours 30 minutes. Politicians could at least brag that Metroliner was an hour faster than driving Interstate Highway.
Within 1 year however, safety and ride vibration issues led the Federal Railroad Administration to reduce Metroliner to 110 mph. A year later, top speed reduced to 100 mph, while the oldest infrastructure remained 30-60 mph. The sad tale of bold HSR announcements and under-funded infrastructure made Amtrak the convenient whipping boy when trains don’t run fast, smooth, frequent, reliably and safely.
For the backstory, spend 7 minutes reviewing American Passenger Rail History to understand how we built the greatest rail network and train stations, then let most of it atrophy. You can skip the backstory, but some context will be missed as this series leads to a sound list of conclusions.
Should Japan be Our Nation-Model for Interstate High Speed Rail?
By 1993, several Democratic nations were successfully building HSR infrastructure, while honoring private property law and environmental concerns. They merit closer examination because America finally committed to upgrade Northeast Corridor (Washington-NYC-Boston to HSR status. We needed to model our HSR upgrade like one of them.
Heavily bombed in World War II, a resurgent Japan had to quickly rebuild railway, rapid transit, highway and airport infrastructure to restore their economy. America forced Japan to become a Democratic nation. Under American-supervised occupation until 1952, post-war Japan entered a future with high gasoline prices and excessive dependence on imported oil. To reduce foreign oil dependence, Japan built nuclear power plants for electricity and started modernizing its electric grid.
Since mainland America was not bombed during World War II, it remained the only superpower capable of investment at home and abroad. America invested $2.2 billion ($22 billion in 2020 dollars) to help rebuild Japan’s infrastructure in part, to make it an export market for American goods.
In the 1950s, Japan Railway Company started building over/underpasses at all railroad crossings between its largest metro areas — Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. Hitachi converted heavy diesel-powered passenger trains to lighter electric-powered trains that accelerate & brake faster. More lines of electric-powered Commuter Rail and Metro Heavy Rail expanded from Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka train stations to all points of their metro areas.
Since Japanese citizens and automakers also wanted personal mobility by car, they convinced Japanese government to start building a national tollway system in 1957. To prevent excessive dependence on foreign oil however, the tollway system was limited to 4-lanes between cities, 62 mph speed limit, high tolls and connected to narrow urban freeways.
When the Commercial Jet Age began in 1958, Japanese government funded airport modernization as well.
In 1958, Japan funded the equivalent of $3.6 billion dollars in dedicated electric railway for 320-mile Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka corridor. When the world’s first HSR line (“Shinkansen”) opened there during the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, top speed was 130 mph. Shinkansen train made several intermediate stops for 80 mph average speed. Shinkansen attracted so many riders that airlines immediately cut flights between Tokyo and Osaka. Since electric trains do not emit fumes, Shinkansen, Commuter Rail and Metro Heavy Rail invited more passengers to spend time in station cafes and retail stores.
By 1993, Shinkansen carried over 2 billion passengers and top speed reached 168 mph, like a passing train in the following video.
Japan has 2.5 times the population-density of the Northeast, America’s densest region, . The combination of hyper-dense population, high imported oil costs, full embrace of HSR and Rapid Transit, slow intercity tollways and lower percentage of car ownership were too dissimilar from America to make good assumptions about their application here. Though Japan proved that HSR technology operates successfully and enables train stations to become moneymakers, it would not to be a good HSR nation-model for America.
Which Country Should Be HSR Nation-Model for America?
Railways, roadways, airports and factories in Europe were also heavily bombed in World War II. In 1948, America invested $15 billion ($161 billion in 2020 dollars) to help rebuild European infrastructure and revive the continent as an export market for American goods.
In 1965-66, the railway agencies of Italy, West Germany, United Kingdom, France and Belgium were no longer satisfied with 99 mph diesel-powered passenger trains. They accelerated R&D for passenger trains to achieve higher speeds too.
Western European nations also wanted to compete for commercial airplane business, but did not have aerospace companies as powerful as Boeing. In 1970-71, a consortium of companies from France, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain and Netherlands formed Airbus to produce commercial airplanes competitive with Boeing. The Airbus consortium successfully lobbied for more public-funded airport expansion across Europe.
In the 1970s, Italy had modest population density on its large peninsular nation, half of America’s Median Household Income and half of America’s per capita car ownership. Italy imported most of its oil and its airports were not congested. Drivers often exceeded the 81 mph Autostrade Tollway speed limit. Italian sports cars were celebrated and exported worldwide. Italian trains were not.
Since Italy had fewer cars per person than America, Italians still rode intercity passenger trains. Rome also had small Metro Rail and Commuter Rail systems anchoring its train stations. Florence had a small Commuter Rail system that went to its main train station. Those conditions were sufficient for Italy to open Europe’s first HSR line between Rome and Florence in 1979.
Unfortunately, that first HSR line was plagued with poor management and poor infrastructure that crippled train speed, frequency and schedule reliability. Those conditions depressed ridership and slowed expansion plans for nearly a decade. Italy would not be a good HSR nation-model for America.
Fortunately, an Italian company introduced the Pendolino, whose tilt-train technology lets passenger trains go faster in curves. Today, an advanced version of Pendolino technology is embedded in many High Speed Trains (HST) operating worldwide.
By agreement after World War II, Russia controlled East Germany, excluding West Berlin. East Germany was forced to become a Communist nation, but received very little help from Russia rebuilding its infrastructure. The economy of East Germany languished for decades.
Also by agreement after World War II, America, United Kingdom and France controlled West Germany and forced it to become a Democratic nation. America invested in West Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Belgium to help rebuild their infrastructure. By 1966, West Germany’s economy was strong enough to start HSR R&D. Before it could start HSR construction in the mid-1970s however, West Germany had to overcome a decade of lawsuits related to HSR route alignments. That country also had the larger issue of reuniting West and East Germany in 1990. Given those strained conditions, Germany could not open its first HSR line until 1991.
By 1993, Germany was not a well proven HSR nation-model for America. Nor did United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland or Spain satisfy enough conditions to be a good HSR nation-model for the USA.
France, HSR Nation-Model for America
France had a population size similar to America’s Northeast Region. Unlike the rest of Europe, Paris train stations and most railway between Paris and Lyon, the two largest French cities, were spared from bombing.
After Japan launched Shinkansen, France began HSR R&D as well. By the early 1970s, the French economy was in decent shape and population density was increasing in Lille-Paris-Lyon-Valence-Avignon-Marseille-Cannes-Nice corridor. The corridor had about 70% of America’s Median Household Income. People were driving Autoroute Tollway System more.
As leading participants in the Airbus consortium, French aerospace and airline companies convinced their government to expand airports to support more air travel. Seeking to attract more travel from North America and Asai, the French Tourism Board concurred.
To remain competitive with tollway and air travel, the French train-maker, Alstom, accelerated R&D on a High Speed Train (HST) that utilized a jet-turbine engine whose fuel was based on oil. It surpassed 140 mph. Before Alstom could introduce its HST, events in October 1973 led French government to make a transformative Energy and Transportation policy shift. The 1973 OPEC oil embargo exposed that France’s economy was too dependent on foreign oil. When oil prices increased, people cut tollway driving and airlines jacked-up fares. It crippled their economy.
To reduce foreign oil dependence, the French government prioritized construction of nuclear & hydroelectric power plants. Though SNCF had a number of prior electric railway lines, it accelerated conversion of passenger railway from diesel-power to electric-power. Alstom had to quickly re-engineer the HST to electric-power as well.
Paris and Lyon were only 274 miles apart. Modest distance, large population size, and no mountain range between them made the city-pair ideal for an initial HSR line. Between them, SNCF introduced state-of-the-art HSR infrastructure called “Ligne a Grande Vitesse”, which translates to “High Speed Line.” The French call it by acronym, “LGV.”
LGV has under/overpasses at every railroad crossing, tunnels, viaducts and substantial earth moved for straighter routes. It has premium track bedding for flatter rides. It has high-speed switches and precisely shaved tracks for smooth rides. LGV’s electric power system has higher voltage to support higher train speeds. Every LGV has complete fencing and electronic track monitors for schedule reliability and safety.
SNCF spawned a new government agency to operate that Alstom-made HST branded as “Train a Grande Vitesse”, which means High Speed Train. The HST and its train operator became known by its TGV acronym.
In 1981, TGV launched on LGV between Paris and Lyon at 168 mph and captured accolades as the world’s fastest train. For an advanced European nation that never built a substantial automotive export market like Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and Sweden, the world’s fastest train evoked strong national pride in the French.
By 1988, SNCF and Alstom technical tweaks enabled TGV to reach 186 mph on LGV. Train frequency increased. Coach Fares lowered. More Paris and Lyon Commuter Rail, Metro Rail and Trams went to TGV train stations. Increased foot-traffic caused a retail boom in train stations and nearby tourism boomed.
TGV success and national pride inspired the French to vote for LGV expansion.
America’s Lackluster Initiation of High Speed Rail
In 1993, America’s northeastern Interstate Highways in NYC-Washington corridor permitted up to 75 mph, but traffic congestion and tollway stations limited drivers to about 63 mph average speed. That corridor was ready for a highway alternative and France was the best HSR nation-model for the corridor.
Though Amtrak Metroliner topped at 100 mph and only averaged 65 mph with 4 stops between NYC and Washington, it proved that Americans would still ride Intercity Passenger Rail, if train speeds were as fast than driving and fares were affordable. We should not be surprised. The Northeast Corridor had higher Median Household Income, more business travel and higher population density than the celebrated Belgium-France HSR corridor:
457 Miles: Boston (5M) – New Haven (500K) – NYC (17M) – Philly (6M) – Baltimore (2M) – DC (4M) = 34 Million Pop.
523 Miles: Brussels (1M) – Lille (1M) – Paris (9M) – Lyon (2M) – Valence (1M) – Marseille (2M) = 15 Million Pop.
With those core demographics, President Clinton’s U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) reasoned that Northeast Corridor could produce a TGV-like ridership success. In 1993, America needed to rebound from an economic recession. So Congress approved economic stimulus funds for Clinton to quickly deploy. His USDOT targeted a portion of stimulus funds to upgrade Northeast Corridor for 165 mph HSR service.
Amtrak’s first High Speed Train (HST) was designed to run slower than 186 mph because, unlike TGV running on straighter railway in France, it would need to tilt often on curvy Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut railway. At the time, tilt-train technology was only certified for commercial operation up to 165 mph. That speed would still be reason for marketing hoopla in America.
Amtrak HST was branded “Acela”, a portmanteau representing “Acceleration” and “Excellence.”
Biased Think Tanks Attack Acela High Speed Rail
America’s Highway Lobby feared that successful Acela service would spark nationwide demand for HSR. Should a comprehensive Interstate HSR System be built, they feared it would reduce oil consumption from intercity car drives, intercity bus rides, tire purchases, car rentals, concrete & asphalt sales for highways.
The Aviation Lobby led by airplane-makers and airlines feared lower jet sales, less regional flights and less airport expansion.
That threat motivated Highway and Aviation lobbies to fund think tanks (Reason, Cato, Heritage Foundation) whose editorial stance misleads naive news media to believe HSR falsehoods. Naive news media in turn, influenced the Auto-Jet Culture of citizens and naive politicians to believe many HSR falsehoods.
With a majority of Congress believing those falsehoods, they only permitted President Clinton to invest $4.3 billion/8 years in Federal Railway funds, which attracted about $1.5 billion from state, local & private sources. Given 28 years of inflation since 1965, total funding was 1/4th that needed for the Northeast Corridor HSR project. And by 1993, the project expanded to become Washington-NYC-Boston corridor.
Since Clinton could not marshal enough funding for 457-mile Washington-NYC-Boston corridor, all of it should have been invested the 226-mile Washington-NYC corridor segment to produce better Phase 1 demonstration results. NYC-Boston corridor segment should have been Phase 2.
When Amtrak Acela launched in 2000, it began as 457-mile route of woeful infrastructure for a very good 165 mph train. In its fastest segment, 17 miles between Boston and Providence, parallel tracks remained too close for passing freight trains. For safety, the Federal Railroad Administration limits top speed to 150 mph in that segment. About 60 miles of New Jersey and Maryland infrastructure was upgraded to 125-135 mph. The remaining 365 miles of Northeast Corridor remained so slow its embarrassing.
“A metaphor for American HSR is “The Old Man & The Sea” fishing tale. He starts out with a giant catch. By the time he reaches shore, sharks devoured it to the size of a small fish.”
Acela’s over-promise and under-delivery was fuel for Cato, Reason and Heritage Foundation think tanks to issue more articles and reports to naive news media, citizens and politicians that no further Amtrak infrastructure should be public-funded. The result was predictable. Naive news media unjustly criticized Amtrak, instead of Congress and President Clinton for underfunding HSR infrastructure. Most of the public bought it.
Next Opportunity For Interstate High Speed Rail in America
Not long after the second President Bush arrived, he pounced on Amtrak’s slow speeds, infrequent trains and undependable schedules to nearly kill all federal funding of Amtrak.
Then a global event caused travelers to overlook Northeast Corridor HSR shortcomings. After 9-11-2001, security-check hassle for air travel became overbearing. There were longer queues in every aspect of air travel. Airline legroom between Coach Class seats shortened. There was no WiFi on airplanes.
In contrast, travelers appreciated Acela’s fast boarding & unboarding, higher schedule reliability, ample legroom, wide seats, WiFi, electric outlets, cafe cabin and any-time restroom access. They also liked shorter NYC-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington travel time between Central Business Districts.
Travelers also benefitted from Amtrak Acela’s sibling service called “Amtrak Northeast Regional.” It featured more stops, but fares cost less than half as much. That made Northeast Regional perfect for the heavy concentration of college students in its corridor and others on a tight budget.
To the chagrin of critics and surprise of naive news media, Amtrak Acela and Northeast Regional services entered operating profit in 2006.
Obama Kickstarts High Speed Rail Beyond Northeast Corridor
Sensing opportunity for similar success with a new President and Congress in 2009, 37 governors adopted Amtrak upgrade or new HSR plans. In his first months of office, President Obama received 259 state applications requesting $57 billion of USDOT funds for Amtrak-HSR projects. California committed over $11 billion towards its California HSR and Amtrak California projects. Several other states committed over $3 billion towards Amtrak-HSR projects.
Since the 2009-10 Congress shared most of his agenda and “Amtrak Joe” was his Vice President, most HSR advocates hoped that President Obama would designate $50 billion towards HSR from economic stimulus funds. His USDOT could then invest $10 billion to address Amtrak’s maintenance backlog and $40 billion to three HSR projects that could demonstrate large benefits in 5-12 years:
165 mph Northeast Corridor HSR (upgrade)
220 mph California HSR (new)
185 mph Florida HSR (new)
Unfortunately, President Obama allocated only $8.5 billion of economic stimulus grants and standard USDOT funding to 160+ mph HSR and 90-110 mph Emerging HSR projects, plus $5 billion to Amtrak maintenance backlog. Though Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio governors rejected $3 billion in HSR and Emerging HSR grants, those meager funds were redirected to California HSR and two Amtrak Chicago-Midwest Emerging HSR projects. HSR advocates still knew that $8.5 billion was too small to succeed.
Nevertheless, something surprising happened in 2010. Labor unions, Chambers of Commerce and transportation infrastructure builders warmed to the opportunity for HSR like other advanced nations. President Obama’s economic stimulus saved the U.S. automotive industry. And since Obama promised that his upcoming U.S. Surface Transportation Proposal to Congress would also repair more highways, automotive industry stopped their public opposition to HSR.
As promised, Obama requested $53 billion/6 years for Amtrak-HSR projects in his late 2010 U.S. Surface Transportation Proposal to Congress. Based on financial breakeven by Amtrak Northeast Corridor HSR services, $13.5 billion of total federal railway funding and $11 billion matching commitment by California, Obama’s USDOT likely believed his new proposal would attract $8-10 billion/6 years more funding from other states.
If he succeeded, a combined $85-88 billion/8 year investment during his administration would have upgraded Northeast Corridor HSR, upgraded both Chicago-Midwest Emerging HSR projects to HSR status and opened enough California HSR segments by 2024 to amplify public demand. Unfortunately, Obama underestimated the influence of industrial opponents, combined with a dramatically changed U.S. House of Representatives after the November 2010 election.
In 2011, they kneecapped Amtrak-HSR and Rapid Transit funding in his proposal. In each subsequent year of the Obama Administration, the House of Representatives only sent “status quo” proposals for Highway and Aviation funding to the Senate for approval and President Obama for signature, while underfunding HSR and Rapid Transit projects. If President Obama did not sign their status quo infrastructure proposals, economic recovery would have stalled on his watch. Without a better alternative, he signed.
Before leaving office however, Obama did arrange a federal loan for Amtrak to purchase Nextgen Acela High Speed Trains that enter service in 2022. Post-Obama Administration, HSR projects remained devoid of direct federal funding. The results are, America’s lost a decade of HSR progress will be paid with higher inflation on this decade’s HSR projects.
America Trails With Only Auto-Jet Culture
In contrast to America, our Global Economic Competitors contended with less powerful industrial opponents. As a result, their political leaders built great Highways and Aviation infrastructure, while preserving Intercity Passenger Rail and Streetcar infrastructure. Experiencing less industrial resistance after the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo, they upgraded Intercity Passenger Rail to High Speed Rail and expanded Rapid Transit systems. Today, they benefit from having “Auto-Rapid Transit-High Speed Train-Jet Culture.” Excluding Northeast Corridor, America has only “Auto-Jet Culture.”
Here’s another takeaway. Shortly before Shinkansen opened, naive news media complained that construction costs were well over budget. Feeling public pressure, several Japan Railway Company executives tended resignations. Nevertheless, Japanese government completely funded the HSR project to complete on time and avoid inflation later. Today, Japan has the most cost-effective intercity passenger rail system in the world. Those pioneering Japan Railway Company executives have hero status. Similar media pressures and outcomes occurred in other HSR nations.
America has analogous experience to Japan HSR’s challenge and success. In 1945, Bugsy Siegel wanted to upgrade the Flamingo on strip just outside Las Vegas, to be the greatest casino resort in America. He wanted it so fabulous that it would attract tens of thousands of affluent Californians and Arizonans each year. After a several million dollar cost overrun, Bugsy was killed by his gangster backers in June 1947. A few years later, many of those gangsters made so much money at the Flamingo and follow-up resorts on the Las Vegas Strip that they became law-abiding taxpayers. The Flamingo sparked Las Vegas Strip mega-resort construction that generates billions in revenue per year.
This 7-part series focuses on why America needs an electric high-speed, high-capacity, high-frequency rail network by 2045. Before linking to Part 2 however, I recommend a 5-minute review of Interstate High Speed Rail Taxonomy page. It explains passenger rail categories and trains to help you understand the HSR Benefits over Costs that our Global Economic Competitors enjoy.