A new map, directly below, is once again breathing life into the debate for a next-generation rail system in the United States. Published earlier this month by artist and high speed rail advocate Alfred Twu, the map is one of two competing concepts for a national high-speed rail system.
The other map, designed by the United States High Speed Rail Association (USHSR), is more complex, boasting 17,000 miles of new tracks. Under this plan as many as 80 percent of Americans would have access to high-speed trains by the year 2030. Both plans propose the use of new trains capable of traveling at speeds of up to 220 MPH.
Of course, neither of these proposals comes cheap. The USHSR plan (pictured below) is expected to cost $500 billion. Yet the prospect of a two-hour train trip between Washington, D.C. and New York City sure sounds pleasant. It might also be lucrative. The saving of two hours per rider, per direction, would create hundreds of millions of new workable labor-hours, resulting in potentially billions of dollars in new income.
In an article written for The Guardian on February 6, Alfred Twu went to bat for high-speed rail as a whole. In his estimation, a modern network would not only get us from place to place faster and more efficiently, but operate at a higher profit margin than conventional rail lines. This sentiment is echoed quite often by Vice President Joe Biden. If the U.S. is to bite the $500 billion bullet train (you're welcome), we will need to be sure of the system's benefits. Trains will need to be fast, reliable and safe. They will, in short, need to prove to us that rail is in fact a good alternative to airplanes.
Thankfully, all across the globe other nations have embraced high-speed rail. From Japan to Saudi Arabia and all across Europe, these already-implemented systems have the data we need. It is from their examples that we might glean how a rail system might eventually work within our borders. There is also the Amtrak Acela, the fastest express train currently running in the U.S. Take a look at the gallery below to see how the Acela and Mr. Twu's map stack up against the competition.