In the most recent edition of the San Francisco Urban Planning and Research Association's publication, The Urbanist, two articles strengthen the already solid case for high-speed rail in California. The articles were written initially for an America 2050 research seminar sponsored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Regional Plan Association this spring. Not only can the state afford to fund the project, argues SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan in "Getting High-Speed Rail On Track," but two of the state's most influential industries - the Hollywood media and entertainment industry and Silicon Valley technology sector - would be knit more tightly than ever before by a high-speed rail system that would realize "the economic potential of enhanced access and exchange across the state," a benefit discussed detailed in Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf's "Hollywood Vs. Silicon Valley."
The megaregions of the United States are defined by layers of relationships that together define a common interest; this common interest, in turn, forms the basis for policy decisions. The five major categories of relationships that define megaregions are:
• Environmental systems and topography
• Infrastructure systems
• Economic linkages
• Settlement patterns and land use
• Shared culture and history
While every megaregion may not share every one of these characteristics, the possession of several indicates a stronger and more cohesive megaregion. For instance, the Northeast Megalopolis, identified as early as 1961 by geographer Jean Gottman, is defined by relationships in each of these categories and, accordingly, is one of the strongest and most easily recognizable megaregions.
Challenges Span Regional Boundaries
Across the nation, community leaders, businesses, and policymakers are confronted by challenges that affect their cities and neighborhoods but which cannot be solved by actions taken solely at the city or metropolitan scale. Protecting public watersheds that span multiple state and regional boundaries is one example of a challenge that requires coordination at the megaregional scale. Another is the challenge of moving goods efficiently from coastal ports through congested metropolitan areas to reach inland destinations; or providing new jobs in the face of major economic restructuring to a post-industrial economy.
The recognition of megaregions enables cooperation across jurisdictional borders to address specific challenges experienced at this scale. One way megaregions can prepare for future population pressures is by marshaling resources to make bold investments in high-speed rail and other mobility infrastructure. But there are others, just as crucial: protecting environmental resources, coordinating economic development strategies, and making land use decisions that comprehend all of these.
Global Integration Zones Are the New Competitive Unit
Our competitors in Asia and Europe are creating Global Integration Zones by linking specialized economic functions across vast geographic areas and national boundaries with high-speed rail and separated goods movement systems. The increased mobility of workers, business travelers, information, and goods between the networked cities of these megaregions enables greater collaboration, flexibility, and innovation. Efficient mobility is also a competitive advantage in the global playing field, where value is created by time savings.
In the United States, the coupling and chaining of industrial activity to take advantage of "just in time" production and delivery is increasingly critical to the success of our economy. The limited capacity to move goods quickly and "on demand" is a serious obstacle that firms face in congested regions. Efficiently providing these services in a constrained and congested transportation system is among the greatest challenges for businesses trying to compete in the global economy. This challenge can be met with coordinated new investments in infrastructure development at the megaregional scale.
A New Framework for Federal Investments and Policies
The recognition of the megaregion as an emerging geographical unit also presents an opportunity to reshape large federal systems of infrastructure and funding, such as future surface transportation bills, the reorganization of Amtrak, housing and urban development authorizations, and farm policy. Just as the Interstate Highway System enabled the growth of metropolitan regions during the second half of the 20th century, emerging megaregions will require new transportation modes that work for places 200-500 miles across. The key new links in this mobility system are likely to be High-Speed Rail (HSR) lines, which are uniquely suited to trips of this length.
To function effectively, HSR systems must be fully integrated with modernized commuter rail, highway systems, and airports, providing seamless connections between all these modes. The metropolitan legs of the Interstate Highway System will continue to play an important role but must be better managed through smart highway tolling and information systems designed to reduce congestion and increase reliability, speed, and capacity.
In addition, new freight systems will be needed to meet growing goods movement needs, including Truck-Only Toll (TOT) lanes on key interstate highway corridors, linked to improved rail freight systems and airports and seaports. These improvements will create new capacity, making the nation's goods movement system more efficient and reliable as it becomes increasingly integrated with global markets. This, in turn, will pave the way for a dramatic expansion of the nation's logistics sector, providing new jobs to make up for losses in the ailing U.S. manufacturing sector.
Conservation needs to be approached at the regional level in order to ensure that wildlife habitat, water supplies and working farms and forests throughout the U.S. Northeast are protected for future generations, a new report by Regional Plan Association and America 2050 concludes.
The research examines how landscape conservation initiatives are working across the Northeast to protect vital natural and cultural resources. The report, "Landscapes: Improving Conservation Practice in the Northeast Megaregion," makes recommendations for improving conservation efforts that stretch across city and state boundaries, from addressing governance questions and ensuring adequate financial resources to creating tools for measuring the impact of these regional efforts.
The Hartford Club
46 Prospect Street,
Friday, June 3, 2011
8:00 - 10:00 a.m.
The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail project will connect Hartford and Springfield to new business, educational, and cultural opportunities along the Knowledge Corridor, and in Southwestern Connecticut and New York City. What are these opportunities, and what should we do to maximize them? We'll hear from local business leaders as well as representatives from other successful rail corridors on how we can best leverage state and federal rail investments for economic growth.
- Bob Yaro, President, Regional Plan Association
- Patricia Quinn, Northern New England Rail Authority (Downeaster Service, Portland, ME/Boston, MA)
- Gene Skoropowski, HNTB (Capitol Corridor Service, Sacramento/San Jose, CA)
- Matthew Nemerson, Connecticut Technology Council
- Rob Little, Chief Investment Officer, Finance, Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers
There is no charge for attendance but registration is required at: http://bit.ly/knowledgecorridor.
America 2050 and Regional Plan Association, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and Surdna Foundation.
Capitol Region Council of Governments and ULI Boston.
Even in the damp northeastern United States, water is a precious resource. Whether it's to protect human health, sustain wildlife populations, or to support recreational opportunities, more than two thirds of the initiatives in an inventory of landscape conservation initiatives have protecting water resources as a priority.
To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing water issues in the 13 state Northeast Megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have compiled federal, state, and private information about water quality for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas.
Nature does not respect political boundaries, which is why landscape initiatives working across jurisdictions have been successful at conserving critical habitat. Landscape conservation initiatives protect the health of ecosystems by ensuring that core habitat needs are met, by providing corridors for movement and migration, and by helping to coordinate management. State wildlife action plans and other federal and state policies have stressed the need for landscape-scale planning to implement their recommendations. Pennsylvania's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy underscores the importance of forest landscapes for critical habitats:
Where large areas of contiguous, high-quality forest habitat remain, forest-dependent species may reproduce at high rates, creating a large population surplus on a yearly basis. On the other hand, forest species occupying highly fragmented forests, especially those in an agricultural or developed landscape, may have lower reproductive rates as a result of the effects of predators and nest parasites. Area-sensitive species may not occupy these patches at all (12-25).
To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing habitat priorities in the 13 state Northeast megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have compiled federal, state, and private information about habitat priorities for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas
Access to outdoor recreation has never been more difficult - or more needed. According the recent America's Great Outdoors (AGO) report, one out of three acres of urban land in the United States was developed between 1982 and 2007. It's no wonder that the AGO report finds that today's youth spend half as much time as their parents did outdoors. For the residents and visitors to the densely populated northeastern United States, landscape conservation can help secure meaningful outdoor experiences by offering close to home recreation and by protecting distinct landscapes that reflect the nation's natural and cultural heritage.
To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing open space and recreation issues in the 13 state Northeast Megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have gathered information about available open space in the Northeast for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas. This information is being used to understand how landscape conservation initiatives can keep land open for recreation. We have identified over 165 landscape conservation initiatives. More than 110 of these initiatives have identified recreation and tourism as a priority.
In the fifth volume of reports on the Cascadia Megaregion, students at the University of Washington and Portland State University have released Ecolopolis 5.0: High Speed Rail in Cascadia.
Continuing in the tradition of previous documents, the report is the product of term-long projects conducted by graduate students from the two universities, and taught by Professor Daniel Carlson and Professor Ethan Seltzer.The courses engaged the questions of identifying the impacts, maximizing the benefits, and exploring implementation options for high speed rail development in the Cascadia corridor. Though passenger rail has long been a shared interest in the corridor, the recent U.S. initiative proposed by the Obama administration have accelerated high speed rail activity and discussions in Cascadia.
A new study, "The Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail: Transforming the Midwest," sponsored by the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association and Siemens, that was released today outlines the potential benefits of a high-speed rail system in the Midwest Megaregion with it's $2.6 trillion economy, the fifth largest in the world, behind only the U.S., China, Japan, and Germany. Prepared by AECOM and the Economic Development Research Group (EDRG), the study found that a network of bullet trains reaching speeds of 220 mph extending out from Chicago along four main corridors to the Twin Cities, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, would generate tremendous economic benefits for the megaregion.
Visit the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association's website to learn more.
Download the Executive Summary (PDF 9MB).