… if I spent more time with Brian Taylor and Alan Altshuler:
1. Only about 20% of the people who take inter-city trains are going from one city center to another, so the vaunted advantage of rail over air of not having to get to and from the airport is somewhat blunted.
2. Once an area is highly urbanized, track assembly for truly high-speed rail is roughly impossible under current American political conditions. So in the real world we might have faster trains, but not fast trains by French or Japanese standards.
3. Europe uses rail for passengers, but mostly trucks for freight. It’s not clear that freight and passengers can really use the same tracks, and multi-tracking runs into #2. So the fact that we use rail for inter-city freight may mean that we can’t move passengers quickly enough.
4. Passenger rail works best in areas with a series of dense centers arrayed in a line: Boston-Washington or San Diego-Santa Barbara. And most of the action is going to be in shorter rather than longer trips. The Los Angeles-San Francisco run, for example, is not really an attractive target.
5. There’s a case for going seriously into high-speed rail, but the capital costs would be in the trillions, and it’s hard to see who’s going to vote for that much money.