America 2050 Update: February 4, 2010

In This Update:

  • America 2050 Presents: A Better Tomorrow
  • PBS Airs Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City, Feb 8 at 10:00 EST
  • High-Speed Rail Announcements Signal Dawn of New Era
America 2050 Presents: A Better Tomorrow With the reauthorization of the surface transportation bill seemingly stalled indefinitely in Congress, we've been thinking lately at America 2050 about what is needed to get Americans excited about transportation. Last week's announcement about high-speed rail was a start, but generally, the public dialogue about transportation tends to focus on the negative -- congestion, cost, and deterioration of our infrastructure. Given the tremendous need to invest in coming decades to accommodate America's projected population growth, wouldn't it be nice to focus on how a 21st century transportation system would benefit America?

To that end, America 2050 is pleased to present a new initiative called, A Better Tomorrow. A Better Tomorrow is a program to engage the public in creating a positive vision for the future of America built around investments in sustainable transportation and livable communities. America 2050 is creating and collecting visualizations of how communities, regions, and our transportation networks will be organized in the future and launching a competition in April 2010 to elicit your vision of how people will get around in 2050, and highlighting the most powerful videos visualizing these improvements.

To begin, we've produced our own visualization of a "day in the life" in the not too distant future in our video short, "Journey to Detroit." Produced in collaboration with PBS Blueprint America and WNET, this video can be viewed here on the America 2050 website and will be aired in excerpts on PBS this Monday as part of the documentary, Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City. (Read more about that below.) In the meantime, we hope you will share Journey to Detroit with your friends, colleagues and  social networks (our twitter feed is here for you to re-tweet), and participate in our Better Tomorrow Challenge, launching April 2010.

PBS Airs Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City, Feb 8 at 10:00 EST
America 2050 is pleased to have collaborated with PBS and WNET on their documentary film, Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City. The film examines how Detroit, a symbol of America's diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. The film debuts nationally on PBS on February 8 at 10 pm (check local listings).

The film highlights many of America 2050's core themes, starting with America's long tradition of national planning, from the Gallatin plan of canals and roadways to the Transcontinental Railroad to the Interstate Highway System. This history of national planning is ably recounted in the film by historian Robert Fishman of University of Michigan, who helped shape our thinking with his paper, 1808-1908-2008: National Planning for America.

The film goes on to describe Detroit as the crucible in which the nation's ability to move toward a modern 21st century transportation infrastructure is put to the test. It discusses the promise and challenges of making a national commitment to public transit and high-speed rail, including excerpts of our video short, Journey to Detroit. 

High-Speed Rail Announcement Signals Dawn of New Era 
America 2050 applauded last week's announcement of federal investment in high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects around the country. In our statement released January 27, we wrote, "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" and offered the following principles for moving forward, drawn from our report, Where High-Speed Rail Works Best, to invest in corridors 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.
The Administration's selected corridors emphasize a focus on project readiness, best illustrated in the selection of the Tampa-Orlando corridor, a project that offers relative low cost, feasibility, and ability to implement due to its flat topography and public right of way. We think the Administration is smart to focus on projects that can demonstrate early success, as well as build public support for a national program through incremental investments that will result in greater reliability, frequency, and competitive trip times, tapping into unmet demand for passenger rail services. For more on high-speed rail, see my commentary in the National Journal transportation blog, or my (raucous) debate with Stuart Varney on Fox Business News.