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Let’s be honest: rail travel in the US is in a pitiful state.
To be fair, there are actually rail connections between many American cities, and there are a number of epic and beautiful rail journeys to be made across great swathes of the country. The problem is the trains are slow and suffer from under-investment.
These are more novelty trips than actual efficient transportation. And while a long, slow train ride across the country can be a great thing, the US needs real high-speed rail too. That’s especially true between big cities that are close to each other but currently require hours of driving or the hassle of a flight to move between.
There are so many city pairs that would benefit from this. Chicago-Detroit. Dallas-Houston. Portland-Seattle. The list goes on. And we can’t forget about Boston-New York-Washington DC. That route currently sees some of the best rail service available in the US in the form of Amtrak’s Acela, but it’s just not good enough. These cities form one of the great economic and political corridors of the entire world.
They should have a reliable and super-fast bullet train zipping between them, but years of anti-rail policies in the US mean they don’t.
But all hope is not lost. It seems that now, finally, there are people in the US really demanding good, fast rail service, and there are several exciting projects taking shape.
Brightline a.k.a. Virgin Trains in Florida
A Brightline train looking bright and sunny in Florida.
BRIGHTLINEBrightline very recently came almost out of nowhere and started running a very high-quality, reasonably fast rail service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Now they’re building the track to connect those cities with Orlando as well, with eventual plans to go as far as Tampa Bay. What a great thing for car-centric south Florida: a train that’s actually nice to ride on, and that’s faster than driving in most cases, especially if you factor in traffic. Miami to West Palm Beach takes just an hour, and that’s operating now. Miami all the way to Orlando is due to take about three hours when it becomes operational, hopefully in 2022.
XpressWest from Las Vegas to Southern California
A rendering of an XpressWest train due to cruise through the desert between Victorville and Las ... [+]
XPRESSWESTThis project has taken shape in fits and starts, like many ambitious rail ventures in the US. And it’s not without its flaws. Virgin Trains has acquired the project and seems serious about beginning construction on the line later this year. The line will end up in Victorville, a ways beyond the Los Angeles metro area, so how many people it will be useful to is unclear. Presumably it would eventually be linked up with rail lines heading into downtown LA, though nobody knows when that would happen. If anything, it’s an interesting one to watch as it develops because it’s one of very few rail projects with a firm start date for construction, and some money committed. Here’s hoping it gets built and people actually ride it.
Cascadia High-Speed Rail: Portland to Vancouver (and beyond)Today In: Lifestyle
An attractive proposed route map for an eventual high-speed rail network in the Pacific Northwest
CASCADIA RAILCurrent trains on this corridor in the booming Pacific Northwest never go faster than 79 miles per hour, and are often much slower. The result is hours crawling along the tracks. Fine if you’re there to gaze out the window at the beautiful land around you, but not so fine if you have business to do – and many in the region do. With true high-speed rail it should take an hour to get from Portland to Seattle and a further hour (or less) to Vancouver. Imagine the convenience. Unfortunately this remains hypothetical. Fortunately though, there are a lot of people seriously talking about it. We can only hope this becomes a reality soon.
This article first appeared on www.forbes.com
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