High Speed Rail & Evacuation Plans for Houston
In a New York Times op-ed piece on September 28, 2005, Otis
White, a public policy consultant and columnist for Governing
cites the evacuation trials of New Orleans and Houston to renew the case
for high-speed passenger rail. He dismisses as myth the two arguments that
have blocked the development of high-speed rail outside the Northeast:
- Rail can’t compete with cars and airplanes
- The Northeast has unique characteristics that make inter-city rail
He suggests that for trips of 100 – 500 miles—too short for
effective air travel (one spends more time getting to and from the airport
and going through security than in the air) and too long for comfortable
driving—high-speed rail is very effective. He points out the number
of cities outside the Northeast that fit that bill: Houston-Dallas; Chicago-Detroit;
Miami-Orlando. And one might add Houston-Austin and Houston-San Antonio.
He also offers a solution to the barriers of up-front cost that is too much
for private investors and management limitations of government. A public-private
partnership in which the government fronts the financing and private industry
leases perhaps, manages, and maintains the system could capitalize on the
strengths of both.
“If the federal government needed another reason to support the development
of modern, high-speed passenger rail, then here it is. Not only can it reduce
congestion, save energy and strengthen regional economies, in time of emergency
it could be a critical third way out.”
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