Statement on President Obama's High-Speed Rail Announcement

(New York, NY) President Obama's expected announcement in Tampa tomorrow of proposed high-speed rail investments is a critical step toward implementing the long-term infrastructure vision our nation needs to pull itself out of the Great Recession and position itself for long-term competitive growth. America has gone from zero to sixty on high-speed rail in less than a year, joining virtually every other industrialized nation in making high-speed rail the backbone of a national infrastructure system.  We applaud the Obama Administration's vision in supporting this energy efficient, modern form of transportation and look forward to learning which corridors will be selected.

No matter which corridors receive the preliminary federal grants tomorrow, we offer the following principles for consideration as the program moves forward and expands:

The Administration should demonstrate early success by focusing on corridors with strong ridership demand and the lowest barriers to implementation. Our research indicates that the corridors with the greatest prospects for ridership demand are those that: 
  1. Connect cities in large metropolitan regions and megaregions with high concentrations of population, employment and tourism, or fast-growing population centers with the same characteristics.
  2. Connect to transit and walkable downtowns. To successfully attract passengers away from other modes, such as driving and flying, high-speed rail must connect places that concentrate activities and are accessible by foot or public transit. Otherwise, passengers will regret leaving their car at home.
  3. Connect cities with demonstrated intercity passenger demand, indicated by auto congestion and point-to-point air travel.
  4. Are up to 600 miles in length - the distance at which high-speed rail is highly competitive with auto and air travel.

These principles are described in greater detail in our report Where High Speed Rail Works Best.

Next Steps
We recognize that tomorrow's funding announcement represents less than 5 percent of what will be needed to build a truly national HSR system. In 1956, President Eisenhower initiated the Interstate Highway System, which was built over several decades in partnership with the states through a sustained funding commitment and a dedicated revenue source by the federal government. To realize a national vision for high-speed rail, a similar funding commitment by the federal government will be required.