When high-speed trains meet low speed states

States can slow down high-speed trains if they don't pay to keep their rails in shape. What then?

ZUMA Press / Newscom / File
New Yorkers see the first high-speed Acela train from Washington to Boston in this file photo from Penn Station on Dec. 11, 2000. Amtrak hoped to compete with the airlines for passengers traveling the Northeast corridor, but slow tracks have prevented the trains from reaching competitive speeds for the length of its run.

High Speed rail is an interesting network problem. Any state along the route can make the entire network less attractive by not making the investments required to "keep the trains moving". Certain Republican governors are threatening not to invest in Fast Trains. Their ideology and commitment to smaller deficits means that their threats are credible. So what happens next? Will train boosters mail checks to these leaders to encourage them to avoid Amtrak speeds? Is bad behavior always rewarded in our political system? Now, this network isn't literally an O-ring. In that case, you are only as strong as your weakest link but in a high value of time economy --- how will trains compete if they go 200 MPG for part of the ride and 70 MPG for the other part? Average speed over the journey will determine the one way time and how the train will really compete with the incumbent planes.

Perhaps geographers can create a new "straight line" across country through only Blue States showing how the fast train will proceed. If only liberals want to ride the fast train, then this ideological placement of the train may be efficient?


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