Why the US Will Never Have High-Speed Rail


Megan McArdle:

Of course, the United States does have a few clusters that look ripe for rail, notably Texas, and the Eastern Seaboard. And instead of high-speed rail between these cities, we have the Acela, which takes eight hours to travel from Washington to Boston and shakes like a maraca player with a meth habit. Why haven’t we built something better? Because truly high-speed rail needs to travel in a fairly straight line; you don’t want to be taking a sharp curve at 300 miles per hour. Our current rail infrastructure isn’t that straight where it needs to be. Building newer, better, straighter rail lines would require the government to buy all the land between Point A and Point B and tear down anything that happened to be in the way. Because we’re already really, really rich, what’s between Point A and Point B is no longer farmland; instead we have a great deal of highly valuable real estate that will be very expensive to purchase — which we’d have to, because unlike China, our constitution gives the government limited ability to displace inconveniently located people.

Would seem to sum it up pretty well, sadly.


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