A recent survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association reveals that a majority of people surveyed would be willing to choose high-speed rail over air or car travel if it were available. These results come at a time when the opportunity to expand mobility in the nation through investing in high-speed rail systems has never been greater, and confirms that many Americans understand the potential benefits and convenience of fast intercity train travel.
The telephone survey of 1,007 randomly-selected home and cell phone numbers concludes that a 62% majority of respondents would be "likely" or "very likely" to ride high-speed trains, versus just 38% who were "not very likely" or "not at all likely" to use fast intercity rail. Likely riders were most prevalent in the West and, somewhat surprisingly, the South, and people aged 18-24 years were more likely than any other age group to expect they would use the systems. This is in keeping with the ongoing trends of decreasing automobile use and higher preferences for alternative modes of transportation and urban dwelling among that ascendant generation.
The survey also assessed the factors that would affect respondents' mobility choices were high-speed rail available in addition to flying and driving. Most (59%) said it was "very important" that the cost of riding high-speed rail be more affordable than flying, and 52% said the same for rail versus driving. Time savings offered by fast trains compared to air and car travel were also important factors to a majority of respondents. Finally, respondents also prioritized the reduced security hassles, greater environmental friendliness, and the opportunity to more easily visit other cities offered by high-speed rail travel as compared other modes of travel. Once at their destinations, 49% of respondents indicated that integration with local transportation options would be important in informing their choice to ride fast trains.
Interestingly, 39% also indicated that they were attracted to the novelty of a new travel experience, reflecting that the paucity of travel choices available to most Americans was not lost on survey respondents.
The results of the APTA survey reflect the growing momentum and reinforce the strong case for high-speed rail in the U.S. In addition to the economic, environmental, and social benefits that have already been enumerated again and again, the survey demonstrates that there is also a popular will to transition to new kinds of mobility more suited for the conditions of life in this new century. Americans realize that the future of the country is in its major cities, and it turns out they also realize that modern, fast intercity rail is the most promising option for the future of how we move between them.