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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

America 2050 aims to clear up report 'misinterpretation' about Florida project ranking


Yesterday, America 2050 released a report that ranks proposed high-speed rail corridors that would have the greatest potential to attract ridership in the country’s “megaregions.” Florida’s Tampa-Orlando-Miami line ranked lower on the list than high-speed lines in the Northeast, Midwest and California, and that’s given Florida high-speed rail critics more fodder to make a case against building the line.

But those critics are “misinterpreting the point of our report, which identifies the most promising corridor in each region and points to ways to improve each project’s chances for success,” according to a statement America 2050 Director Petra Todorovich posted on the organization’s website today, titled “Why and How Florida’s High-Speed Rail Line Must be Built.”

The report, entitled “High Speed Rail in America,” evaluated potential high-speed rail corridor on their ability to attract riders based on quantifiable characteristics, such as concentration of jobs, population density and existing rail-transit networks.

“Our report drew attention to the fact that Florida’s population and jobs are more decentralized and auto-dependent compared to other regions around the country, potentially challenging the state’s ability to attract riders to a high-speed rail system,” Todorovich said.

However, the Tampa-Orlando-Miami corridor is ready to go and the state owns right of way for the initial segment — attributes that are difficult to quantify, but position the line as one of the country’s most feasible to build, according to America 2050.

In addition, nearly 50 million people flock to central Florida annually to visit destinations such as Disney World. If 5 percent of those visitors used the high-speed line to connect from the airport to Disney World, they would meet the Florida Department of Transportation annual ridership estimate for the Tampa-Orlando line of 2.4 million, America 2050 said.

And finally, even though Florida’s spread-out cities and its residents’ love of cars contributed to a lower ranking on America’s 2050 report, the Orlando region is estimated to grow 60 percent by 2040, giving the state an opportunity to focus future projects and development around high-speed rail stations, according to America 2050.