High-speed rail: too bad Texas didn't take the first leap
A Texas correspondent (Stuart J.) recently forwarded to me a piece about high-speed rail planning in Texas ("High speed rail: an idea with no funding," San Antonio Express-News), and it got me to thinking that Texas, maybe more than California, would have been a better place to try to pilot high-speed rail as a practical transportation service.
It's 225 miles from Houston to Dallas, 250 miles from Dallas to San Antonio, 180 miles from Dallas to Austin, the state capital, and 306 miles from San Antonio to Monterrey, Mexico, but the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles is longer, 380 miles--although HSR as currently proposed stops in Bakersfiled, 100 miles from LA. It's about 350 miles from Houston to New Orleans.
At those not so "Texas-sized distances," you can shift a lot of trips from the road or air to the rail, and a high-speed rail trip is faster than driving and faster than flying that distance, if you factor in the time getting to the airport, and waiting to board, and getting to your final destination.
-- Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study - Overview
-- "TxDOT Taking Steps to Further Explore High-Speed Rail," Texas Tribune
-- "Houston-to-Dallas high-speed rail could break ground in two years," Community Impact Newspaper, (story discusses the possibility of doing this privately)
High-speed rail planning. Where is the American Conservative Magazine's Center for Public Transportation when we need them?, to lay out the conservative case for high-speed rail in Texas. They have this piece: High Speed Rail: A Conservative Appraisal By Williams S. Lind and Glen D. Bottoms. They make the point that it's best to move towards higher speed rail incrementally, and use the Cascades, Hiawatha, and Downeaster Amtrak services provided with financial and planning assistance by the respective states as models.
Also see the past blog entry, "Second iteration, idealized national network for high speed rail passenger service."
California. There is an interesting piece in the San Francisco Business Times, "Southwest Airlines meets high-speed rail? Bay Area rail boss on $68 billion project," about the current status of their project, and how they could seek bids from airline companies to run the system.
That's an interesting idea, because it could better integrate airport and rail services and get airlines thinking more broadly about end-to-end customer service, which they don't do so much now ("Airlines likely to balk at LAX transit link," Daily Breeze).
In the UK, the Virgin family of companies has subsidiaries doing both railroad service and air travel. I don't know if they work to integrate promotion, marketing, and other elements of the service footprint.