The transport politic blog has run the numbers and made a proposal for a high-speed train network for the United States. I think they've done an incredible job, and so I want to mention them here. Their plan is based upon a few pillars:
- This network would be funded 50--90% by the Fed; compare to roads and highways that are funded 80--90% by the Fed.
- This funding would be part of the expected economic stimulus plans. In this respect, it sounds to me like a big WPA project instead of a bailout.
- A new national authority (which they call NatTrack) will be responsible for acquiring land, building and maintaining tracks, and renting those tracks to service providers such as Amtrak.
- They identify the ideal route as one that is (a) shorter than 500 miles, and (b) between two population centers of 100,000 or more. These numbers were chosen as they [a] typically beat an airplane in overall travel time, and [b] have enough potential customers to maintain the route.
- The main network features high-speed (150 mph) trains; this is supplemented by low-speed (70--120 mph).
- Their route choices were computed mathematically, under some well-defined assumptions. At the end of the article, they give numeric scores for each route to justify their choices.