Why no bullet trains in the US?

Other answer:

Shaykh Jazz:
I do not see WHY America or Canada should not have High Speed Trains.
Japan have had the Bullet Train since the 1970s and the French have the TGV, UK developing the HS2 and China? has the Maglev Train (yes and and also Japan too)
*Japan has a population of 127 Million in case some people think it's a tiny place
Rona Lachat:
Not a dense enough population to justify the need.
The main issue is the train requires relatively straight tracks .
To build this type of train in the populated east coast areas between Boston and Washington would require the purchase and destruction of many houses and businesses in order to make a clear straighter path.

What happens when you neglect the rail network since World War Two.
They missed the opportunity to build many train lines that could be higher speed when the interstates were build through undeveloped areas.

North America doesn't have the population density to support it. Japan has a population density of 337 people per km2. Canada has a population destiny of 3 people per km2. The US has a density of 34 people per km2.

Really the only place in North America with high density and shorter distances is the North East US, where a form of high speed rail already exists (though it is child's play compared to European and Japanese systems).

High Speed Rail is really only useful over relatively short distances. Any trip greater than 500km, and it becomes faster to fly. Look at the distances between the major centres in the US … New York to Chicago is 1300km … even with a Japanese style high speed train going direct with no stops at maximum operating speed, the trip would still be 4 hours long … or you could take a 1 hour 50 minute flight ….

The real reason is that the Federal Government has chosen to build roads instead of railroads. First, in the 1930, FDR needed welfare programs for out of work people. One way he got them was with a national road building project. It was not needed for transportation but it did provide jobs for many people. The free roads were an enormous subsidy to trucking companies. And railroads not only had to compete with subsidized trucking companies; they had to pay taxes which were in part to build those roads.

Then in the 1950’s President Eisenhower launched the Interstate and Defense highway system. Again it was not needed for transportation; that is why its name includes Defense. But it isn’t needed for defense either; railroads are a far better way to ship war materials. That was proven in both World Wars. But again the trucking industry was subsidized by the interstate highway system and again railroads had to pay part of the taxes to build and maintain it. The result was exactly what you would expect. By the late 1960’s many of our railroads were on the verge of bankruptcy and the Penn Central, a merger of the two most successful railroads in the country, did go bankrupt.

Today we have the Acela which has the potential to be a genuinely high speed train. However, the catenary between New Haven and Boston was built about 1930 and is now obsolete; it will not support the high speeds Acela is capable of.

There are other corridors in need of high speed rail service on the west coast, around Chicago and even in Texas. But Congress would rather fund interstates highways that operate completely within one state and may not be needed at all. (Check out I-99 in Pennsylvania, a real boondoggle). For example, in my state, New Jersey, Congress had no problem building I-280 which is an east west highway completely in the state. But Congress will not fund the Pennsylvanian which connects New York and Pittsburg and operates in 3 states, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

J.J.'s Advice / Avis de J.J.:
In most of the country HSR would have little practical usage, since the population is so thinly dispersed. In the few places where it would be useful, i.e. southern California and the northeast, there are groups and individuals constantly lobbying in favour of building HSR, but the main obstacle is that there is simply no political will. Rail users are a minority even in densely populated areas, because the personal automobile has long been the preferred mode of transportation in America, and despite the revived interest in environmentally-friendly practises, rail still lags behind cars in popularity. Building HSR would be hugely expensive and would involve appropriating private property, and politicians would need to have the support of enough of a majority of their constituents to go ahead with it; unfortunately right now an HSR project would likely be criticized as a waste of money by the majority of voters, which would lead to any politicians who supported it losing their positions.
The United States does not have to rely heavily on Public transport as the population density is tiny compared to places such as Japan where Bullet Trains are used. This means it would be a waste of money investing in Bullet Trains as they wouldn't be used by the population as it is just as efficient to travel by car.
Samurai Hoghead:
Of course and as usual, Andy and Rona have hit the nail squarely on the head. Which is reeaaaaaly starting to piss me off….

Bullets are useless without a gun. Here, "gun" is a term used in place of $$$. In the case of California, some of the most expensive real estate on the planet will have to be seized via the right of "eminent domain" for expedited travel between LA and SF.This is its self an obsolete endeavor, given the amount of information in cyberspace today via video conference.

A pipe dream. We've missed the boat here…

But there is always a silver lining, when it can be found… I do not think it is found in considering the 7.+ earthquake heading that way, which will render all useless.

Raised there, very familiar with seismic events.

Doug Freyburger:
Cost per population density. It's not just a lack of will. It's a matter of dollars. With plenty of access to planes and buses and an excellent highway system, the incremental benefit to replace buses with trains is tiny. With current access to slower trains, the incremental benefit to faster trains is tiny.

Have to read about the "Loop" proposed between LA and SF? The reason it *might* compete with planes is it would go nearly as fast as planes.

In certain other countries they did not have an excellent highway system in place so there was benefit to faster trains. Also note that many of those countries were bombed to ruins in WWII so they had to build their entire infrastructure from scratch in an era just before really good buses and planes but with really good trains. They started own that road *and* they have much higher population density.

High-speed trains are just airliners without wings. Look up Amtrak's schedules for DC-NYC service to get some ideas about running times.
High-speed trains are just airliners without wings. Look up Amtrak's schedules for DC-NYC service to get some ideas about running times.

Leave a Reply