This Is What America's High-Speed Rail System Should Look Like

Illustration for article titled This Is What America's High-Speed Rail System Should Look Like

America is a car country. We always have been, and we probably always will be. But as much as we all love driving, we have to recognize that there are some downsides to not having a first-rate rail system like Europe or Japan.

Let's face it — America's rail system is for shit. I can personally attest that Amtrak is decent if you're traveling up and down the East Coast, but it's hardly ideal for a cross-country trip. As Jalopnik writer emeritus Sam "Oversteer My Bagel" Smith once, wrote, we're one of the richest, most high-tech nations on Earth. So why can't we do a little better at implementing a fast, affordable rail system? More commuters and travelers taking the train means fewer cars on the road for us gearheads, so it's a win-win.


Let's say our country decided to really get serious about high-speed rail. Well, America's a big place — what should such a system look like?

Artist and graphic designer Alfred Twu offers a great starting point. He designed a map for a rail system that has been making its rounds on the Internet in recent days, and for good reason. He shows us what America's rail system ought to look like.

Here's the full-sized version:

Illustration for article titled This Is What America's High-Speed Rail System Should Look Like

As you can see, the various lines connect just about every major population center in the country. It's all remarkably convenient. Need to get from New York to Los Angeles? Traveling at 220 mph, it looks like you can do it in about 12 hours and change. Need to get from El Paso to D.C.? Take the yellow line east and get on the white line at Austin or Houston, then take it all the way to our nation's capital. Man, I wish this were real.

Should America's rail system look like this? And how would we pull it off?

Graphic credit Alfred Twu

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High speed rail is insanely expensive, because for it to run effectively and efficiently it requires dedicated track, power, rolling stock and signalling. While that's a pretty map, I imagine it bears little or no resemblance to the actual routes that would run, because nature has a funny way of putting geography in the way of direct point to point rail routes. (I'm not familiar with the mountainous regions of the US - perhaps someone who is can advise).

So to pull it off, you would need Congress to approve a metric fucktonne of money. I just read an article on Business Insider that quoted half a trillion.

Oh and then be prepared for all the bickering about where the lines go and where the train stops. And I'd argue the economic case is not really there, because vast as the US is most major metropolitan areas are well served with transport links already (road and air).