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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

America 2050 ranks HSR corridors based on ridership potential


Today, America 2050 released a study that identifies the proposed U.S. high-speed rail corridors that would have the greatest potential to attract ridership in “megaregions,” or networks of metropolitan areas that collectively include more than 70 percent of U.S. population and jobs.

According to “High Speed Rail in America,” the top-ranked corridors in each region are: New York-Washington, D.C.; Chicago-Milwaukee; Los Angeles-San Diego; Tampa (via Orlando) to Miami; Dallas-Houston; Atlanta-Birmingham; Portland-Seattle and Denver-Pueblo.

Scoring was based on regional and city population size and density, employment concentrations, rail transit accessibility, air travel markets and the composition of job markets by sector. Although ridership is the most important factor to determine if a corridor is suitable for high-speed rail investment, the federal government also should consider project readiness, ability to acquire rights of way and local political support when determining where to invest federal high-speed rail funds, the report states.

The report only examined corridors up to 600 miles long — the range at which high-speed rail can effectively compete with automobile and airplane travel — and collected data for every metropolitan region along each corridor, America 2050 said.

The report is a follow-up to the organization’s 2009 report, “Where High Speed Rail Works Best,” which analyzed 27,000 potential corridors or “city pairs” and ranked them according to a weighted average of six survey criteria. However, the rankings did not consider the alignment of the corridors or the cities in between each pairing. The current study refines the analysis by accounting for the network benefits of having multiple stations along a corridor, according to America 2050. The report also builds on the previous one by providing a more fine-tuned analysis of population size and the number of jobs in proximity to potential high-speed rail stations.

“Now that the initial rush of high-speed rail stimulus grants have been awarded to regions such as California, Florida and the Midwest, it’s time to build the foundation for a program that will have long-term sustainability and gain public support,” said America 2050 Director Petra Todorovich in a prepared statement.

America 2050 is a national urban planning initiative aimed at developing a U.S. infrastructure plan and growth strategy.