Why The US Has No High-Speed Rail

China has the fastest and largest
high-speed rail network in the world. The country has more than 19,000
miles of high-speed rail, the vast majority of which was built
in the last decade. Japan’s bullet trains can reach speeds
of almost 200 miles per hour. And date back to the 1960s. They’ve become a staple for domestic travel
and have moved more than 9 billion people without a
single passenger casualty. France began service of the high-speed TGV
train in 1981 and the rest of Europe quickly followed. And high-speed rail is quickly expanding all
over the world in places like India, Saudi Arabia, Russia
Iran and Morocco. And then there’s the U.S. The U.S. used to be one of the world’s global
leaders in rail but after World War II there was a massive shift. If you look at the United States prior
to 1945, we had a very extensive rail system everywhere. It all was working great except a number
of companies in the auto and oil industries decided that for them to
have a prosperous future they really needed to basically help phase out all the
rail and get us all into cars. The inflexible rails permanently embedded
in cobblestones were paved over to provide smooth, comfortable transportation
via diesel motor coach. General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil
and a few other companies that got together and they were able to
buy up all the nation’s streetcar systems and then quickly start
phasing out service and literally dismantling all the systems over
about a 10-year span. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower
signed a bill to create the National Interstate System. It allocated about $25 billion dollars
to build 41,000 miles of highways. The federal government paid for 90% of
that, the states covered the final 10 and rail fell by the wayside. Can’t you see that this highway means a
whole new way of life for the children? And a way of life that we have
a chance to help plan and, and to build. We dedicated a huge amount of
dollars to building automobile infrastructure in the middle of the 20th century and
we’re still kind of attached to that model of development. We went from a rail-served country to
a auto-dependent nation by the 1960s. We’ve become a car culture and it’s
hard to break out of that cycle. Not to mention the fact that in
our political system we have very powerful oil lobbies, car manufacturing lobbies,
aviation lobbies, all the entities that the high-speed rail would
have to compete with. This is the American dream
of freedom on wheels. We average some 850 cars per
thousand inhabitants in the U.S., in China it’s only 250. And we’ve never gone back. But according to some this
country’s transportation ecosystem is reaching a tipping point. When you look at what’s happening
with the corridor development, again states across the U.S. who are recognizing they are running out
of space to expand their highways or interstates. There are limits at airports, there
is aviation congestion, so what are the options? A better rail system is one
and could come with significant benefits. It’s largely an environmental good to
switch from air traffic and car traffic to electrified
high-speed rail. That’s a much lower
emission way of traveling. When the high-speed rail between Madrid
and Barcelona in Spain came into operation, I mean air travel just
plummeted between those cities and everyone switched over to high-speed
rail which was very convenient. People were happier. They weren’t forced to switch, they did
it because it was a nicer option to take high-speed rail. There’s a sort of a rule of thumb
for trips that are under three or four hours in trip length from city to city,
those usually end up with about 80 or 90 percent of the
travel market from aviation. Where rail exists and it’s convenient
and high-speed, it’s very popular. America I think is waking up to this
idea that rail is a good investment for transportation infrastructure. One survey showed 63% of Americans would
use high-speed rail if it was available to them. Younger people want it even more. Right now the main passenger
rail option in the U.S. is Amtrak. It’s operated as a for-profit company
but the federal government is its majority stakeholder. Train systems reaching top speeds of over
110 to 150 miles per hour are generally considered high-speed and only one
of Amtrak’s lines could be considered as such. That’s its Acela line in the
Northeast Corridor running between D.C., New York and Boston. One of the challenges we face is that
the Northeast Corridor has a lot of curvature, a lot of geometry. We really operate Acela Express on an
alignment that in some places was designed back in the nineteen hundreds and
so it really was never designed for high-speed rail. And while the Acela line can reach up
to 150 miles per hour, it only does so for 34 miles of its 457 mile span. Its average speed between New York and
Boston is about 65 miles per hour, which is in stark contrast to
China’s dedicated high-speed rail system which regularly travels at over
200 miles per hour. But some people are
trying to fix that. In 2008 California voted
yes on high-speed rail. Now, a decade later, construction is underway
in the Central Valley of the state. And right now it is the
only truly high-speed rail system under construction in the U.S. Ultimately high-speed rail is a 520
mile project that links San Francisco to Los Angeles and
Anaheim, that’s phase one. And it’s a project that’s
being built in building blocks. So the one behind me is the
largest building block that we’re starting with, this 119 mile segment. This segment will run
from Bakersfield to Merced. Eventually the plan is to build a
line from San Francisco to Anaheim, just south of L.A. But as it stands the state is almost
$50 billion short of what it needs to actually do that. The current project as planned would
cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. There’s been too little oversight
and not enough transparency. We do have the capacity to complete
a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. After Gavin Newsom made that speech
President Trump threatened to pull federal funding for the project. We will continue to
seek other funding. We hope the federal government will
resume funding the, contributing new funds to the project. I think in the future, as
the federal government has funded major construction of infrastructure over time
they’ll again direct money to high-speed rail because in fact it’s
not just California but other states are also interested in
high-speed rail systems. To complete the entire line as planned,
the official estimate is now over $77 billion and it’s unclear where
the money will come from. So why is it so expensive? Part of the problem in California, the
big price tag is getting through the Tehachapi, very expensive tunneling, or over
the Pacheco Pass to get into San Jose from the Central Valley. You know, Eastern China, the flatlands
of Japan where they’ve built the Shinkansen, all of those are settings
where they have, didn’t incur the very high expense of boring and tunneling
that we face so the costs are different. And a lot of the money is
spent before construction can even begin. Just in this little segment here
alone we’re dealing with the private property owner, we’re dealing with a
rail company, we’re dealing with the state agency and so
just the whole coordination. Then we’re dealing with a utility
company, just in this very small section; we had to relocate two miles
of freeway and that was roughly $150 million per mile. So there’s a lot of moving pieces
to, you know, anywhere we start constructing. China is the place
that many folks compare. They have like 29,000 kilometers of high-speed
rail and 20 years ago they had none. So how have they been able
to do it so quickly? And part of it is that the state
owns the land, they don’t have private property rights like we
have in the U.S. You don’t have the regulations we have
in terms of labor laws and environmental regulations that
add to cost. It also delays the projects. For some reason and I’ve never really
quite seen an adequate explanation as to why costs to build transit or
many big infrastructure projects are just dramatically higher than in other parts
of the world, including in other advanced countries. But the bottom line is we’re really
bad at just building things cheaply and quickly in the U.S. in general. So it’s not just rail infrastructure
that is expensive, all transportation infrastructure is. Just the physical investment in the freeway usually
will be 5 to 8 to 10 million per mile but if you add
seismic issues and land acquisition and utilities and environmental mitigation and
remediation of soils and factors like that it can become as high
as 100 or 200 million a mile. The numbers for high-speed rail can vary
anywhere from 20 to 80 million per mile. The big reason why America is behind
on high-speed rail is primarily money. We don’t commit the dollars needed to
build these systems, it’s really as simple as that. And it’s largely a political issue. We don’t have political leaders who
really want to dedicate the dollars needed. There’s a lot of forces in America
that really don’t want to see rail become our major mode of transportation
especially because it will affect passenger numbers on airplanes, it’ll
affect the use of autos. So you have the politics, the
message shaping and then the straight advertising and all three of those
coordinate and work together to keep America kind of focused on cars
and not focused on rail. Some of the earliest support for
rail came from the Nixon administration. Some of the original capital subsidies
and operating subsidies for urban transit came from the Republican party, so
I think it’s only more recently that maybe this has shifted that more
liberal leaning folks who care about climate and a whole host of urban
issues have really argued for investing very heavily in rail. If you had Democratic leadership on the
Senate and a different president or potentially some leverage for a president to
sign a new budget bill with some dollars for high-speed rail,
that could override those objections from Republicans in Congress. But I think it’s mostly ideological. They’re big on highways. They’re big on things
like toll roads. They just, they don’t want the government
spending dollars on this kind of project and they see it as
something those socialist European countries do but not something that should be
done in, you know, car-loving America. In my judgment, it would take a
very strong federal commitment, almost sort of a post-Second World War interstate
highway kind of large scale national commitment. This is why some high-speed rail
projects are trying to avoid public funding altogether. One company, Texas Central, plans to build
a bullet train from Houston to Dallas without using a
dime of taxpayer money. We’re taking what is laborious, unreliable
four-hour drive if you’re lucky and turning that into a
reliable, safe 90 minutes. And when you look at that as a
business plan being driven by data, this is the right place to build the first
high-speed train in the United States. The Texas project is backed by investors
motivated to make a profit and will use proven
Japanese rail technology. Texas Central’s goal is to
complete the project by 2025. Another private company is even further
along with its rail system, in Florida. It’s expanding its higher-speed
train from Miami to Orlando. Orlando’s the most heavily visited
City the United States. Miami is the most heavily visit
international city in the United States. It’s too far to drive, it’s too short
to fly, we had the rail link and that was really the
genesis of the project. Wes Edens has invested heavily in Florida’s
rail project which used to be called Brightline. Brightline recently rebranded to Virgin
Trains as the company partnered with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. The team at Brightline, which is now
called Virgin Trains, has proven that it can work. The people actually want to get out of
their cars and they’d love to be on trains. In order to reach profitability, the
company sacrificed speed to save money. If you want to really go
high-speed you have to grade separate. So you basically have to build a bridge
for 250 miles that you then put a train on. That sounds hard, and it sounds expensive
and it’s both of those things. So a huge difference in cost, a huge
difference in time to build and not that much of a reduction in service. And now tech companies are
getting involved with infrastructure projects. In the Pacific Northwest a high-speed
rail plan is underway to connect Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Microsoft contributed $300,000 towards
research for the project. Our number one priority from Microsoft as
well it to really see and pursue this high-speed rail effort happen. If you look around the United States
and where all of the Fortune 500 companies are located they all are
in a similar situation to Microsoft. The housing is unaffordable,
traffic congestion is epic. It’s too hard to get
anywhere and to get employees. So high-speed rail can solve this
same exact problem in numerous regions around the United States. So is the private sector the answer
to bringing high-speed rail to the U.S.? If the private sector wants to invest
in transportation and as long as it’s not impinging on the public taxpayers I
don’t see a problem with private sector moving forward. And I think there is some truth that
the private sector is gonna have much more of an incentive to hurry up
on the construction and get things done more quickly, more cheaply. That said, the private sector still has
to operate with the oversight and regulatory responsibilities of
the public sector. So for example environmental review doesn’t
go away just because it’s a private sector project. Labor standards don’t go away. The difference is that they don’t have to
keep trying to sell a project to the public for a vote to
raise taxes or sell bonds. Some people remain optimistic
that the U.S. can catch up to the rest of the
world and have a robust, high-speed rail system. We’re building that right
now behind us. This 119 mile segment that we want
to expand with the money we already have to 170 miles, it’s going to serve
a population of 3 million people in the Central Valley. So it’s, not only do I
believe, but it’s under construction. A lot of activity is now taking
shape, state rail authorities have been shaped in four or five states, so
they’re actually taking these on now as a legitimate project
and moving forward. I think the future is very bright
for train travel in the United States. There’s broad consensus with our policy
leaders in industry that it’s time to move an infrastructure bill and
that will certainly help kickstart U.S. rail. Others are much less confident. I wish I were
a little more optimistic. It’s just very difficult to
make the economics work here. No one has embraced it as a
strong part of their political platform. There’s just too many other
tough pressing problems we’re facing. I don’t see us catching up
to where the world is. It would take such a massive infusion
of dollars for that to happen in California and probably waving a
number of environmental requirements and some other government regulations that
hinder the quick deployment of these projects in favor
of other values. My own instincts are that it’s going
to be decades and decades of decades before you’ll be able to go a
one-seat trip from San Diego to Sacramento or San Francisco. It’d be nice if there was just
one simple answer, it’s this litany of factors that collectively add up that make this
so hard to pull off in the United States.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. It is a matter of economics. The population density in the US is too low to make any railroad transportation business profitable. American investors are not stupid people and they know where to invest their hard earn money.

  2. What a big lie was given to the Americans by the politics, car industries etc. in the l950s. Now everybody in USA suffers the traffic jams everyday and everywhere.

  3. Please don’t forget Trump has kidnapped a young lady from Huawei as a hostage in order to obtain money and 5G technology.

  4. In 2017, Briton was sued to stealing illegally the island of Diego Garcia and rented to the USA as military base. In 2019, the International Court verdicted Briton and USA illegally occupied Diego Garcia and should returned to its original owner. What happened??? USA and Briton ignored the International Court!!!!

  5. America is headed for 3rd world status. Can't stop fighting wars.

    While the military industrial complex wags the dog nothing is going to change.

    If ten million Americans marched on Congress with g-uns maybe they could do something.

  6. The reasons it is more expensive is because contractors I guess are greedy and charge 10x, or 20x, or 100x what the Chinese spend on rail.

    I'm betting that these contractors charge $100 for one bolt.

    When the U.S government looked into the cost of a bolt in a fighter jet it cost $600.

  7. A Super Power

    Amazingly incredible

    You have to see it to believe it

    Something's just defy logic science and commonsense

    Backwards than the rest of the world


    👍 👌


  8. America DOES have high-speed rail. It is mag-lev and it is underground connecting the hundreds of D.U.M.B.s (Deep Underground Military Bases). Watch Phil Schneider videos on youtube.

  9. Wake up to the future. It's called hyperloop, it goes up to 700 MPH and the technology is here today. Let's build it! California must first pass a law that says, fast, cheap rail/hyperloop (3000+ MPH) supersedes all hindering state laws.

  10. Amtrak and Via (Canada) are complete failures. Canada doesn't have the population density to support high speed trains other than the short Montreal-Windsor corridor. In the States, there are at least a half-dozen 1,000 mile + networks that could support affordable high speed trains and make a decentprofit. One obvious route is Seattle to Portland; to Sacramento; to San Francisco to Los Angeles. Therewould be a lot of resistance from the airline industry but why should people have no other option for speedy trips over 500 miles?

  11. Why should taxpayers fund welfare train rides for the well off upper class? That's Cali 100 billion for a train they have no money for yet dams roads and bankrupt wants fancy.

  12. Instead of building a wall with Mexico, it would have been better to invest in a national and nationalized train network

    Would have provided employment all around and thus increasing living standards but also providing stability to the American continent.

    Whilst actually reducing crimes and providing socio economic stability and gainful socio economic business and employment opportunities and leveraging the economic potential for the development of and to the American continent

    Thus a actually bringing america to the equitable status to the rest of the world.

  13. A national and nationalized US rail network would provide more employment and business potential than the entire employability potential of the entire population of the Entire American Continent

  14. America a very powerfool nation

    Amazingly incredible

    You have to see it to believw it.

    Backwards than the rest of the entire world


  15. As a life-long railfan and train lover of 20, I’m still standing behind these projects all the way, no matter what.

  16. Air plane Ticket from L.A to San diego 330$. if america have Hight speed train it will be nightmare to all airplane campagny , you know how mush gonna cost you the air plane ticket from L.A to San diego —->50$ 🙂

  17. The whole of the Western world doesn't have high speed rail,yet we are mean to have more wealth,how does that work?There should be no excuses,but there are,i know in the case of Amtrak in the states,they have to stop for every other train coming their way,because they don't own the tracks,200 years of rail,and still no clue.

  18. No high speed bec air travel is too cheap for the rich. The mass travel by car which is also dirt cheap in US, as compare to Hong Kong.

    Much prefer rail travel any time over driverless cars.

  19. the United States has the fastest magnetic Rail train in the world, you just can't see it, it's Underground, it's so fast it could break the sound barrier

  20. Japan is building a new bullet train 600+km/h. It will make a profit and be used by all who travel long distances in that country. Their 1964 Shinkansen line is awesome. Who needs air transport at these speeds?


  22. Short answer is, The US economy is run on jam packed innerstates and Highways. Keep using the oil and the economy keeps on ticking.

  23. This is a propaganda hit piece. The rail system in California is a boondoggle and an attempt by Feinstein to feed billions of federal dollars to her husbands organization for an ill conceived and completely undoable rail system. It is outright theft of federal tax dollars. We need high speed rail but not this way. The cost of this system will cause a mass exodus from California. This video is well made but i is chock of of outright lies.

  24. Could also be because fuel is so cheap in the States in comparison to the EU. And environmental issues are more important to Europeans.

  25. The trucking industry would die overnight if we went high-speed rail. You can not stop progress you have to evolve with it.

  26. US will eventually fall behind other countries in economy.

    In the society where the capitalism rules, there's no one to plans the future.

  27. Simple hire undocumented immigrants at one third of the price give them citizenship keep them supervised by Americans that don't want to do the hard labor have rich people donate money that they can claim in their taxes everyone will put money back into the wconomy

  28. American politicians will gladly fund wars and cut taxes for the rich. Real projects apparently are hard to fund, there's never money…

  29. Side note Warren Buffett bought railway interest a while back, he'll make money off this when he dead and his great grand kids will live off their great grandfather's vision…

  30. Under Trump administration, our economy is doing well with a creation of almost 6 million jobs, which greatly helped the unemployment rate fall to 3.6% – the lowest in 50 years. Our stock market is doing great with Down Jones Index reaching over 27,000 points-the first time ever in American history! Our country GPD growth rate has topped 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019, which is the first time in 15 years! Truly deeply care for America and Americans, Trump has set aside his good life of a billionaire to be unfairly and viciously criticized, mocked and attacked in order to bring pride back to America and energy back to the American people. The world is envying us for what we Americans have. However, what have Democrats done to help our country and people since they were elected? Nothing, but stopping our country from moving forward. #TRUMP2020   #KeepAmericaGreat

  31. A trip from New York to Los Angeles takes about 5 hours by airplane, but it would take at least 12 hours by the most modern bullet train transportation with a top speed of 300 mph. How about traveling from one continent to another? High speeds are unable to do what an airplane does. As a result, airplanes are still superior to the most modern bullet train in the world. This explained why the US still has no high-speed rail. Americans won’t spend billions of dollars on inferior technology like high speed trains. However, American are focusing on developing hyperloop technology, which is much better than high speed trains.

  32. Airports are everywhere in the US. You can hop a plane to New York from San Francisco or from coast to coast for just 5 hours, but it would take about 15 hours for a high speed train to travel the same distance! Airplanes are absolutely superior to all the bullet trains. We're wondering how a high speed train can travel across the oceans from Beijing or Paris to New York! It's impossible for any high speed trains to do what an airplane does. This explained why the US still has no high-speed rail because traveling by airplane is absolutely superior to the most modern high speed train; travelling by airplane in America is a lot faster, more convenient and affordable.

  33. India still don't have any high speed railway.but how come USA need 77billon $ for 191 mile where as India is trying to built it only for 16billon $ such a gap

  34. "not a single casualty" Funny according to the very last video I watched a Chinese high speed train derailed and killed tons of people that were buried in the train where it crashed, good reporting "fake news" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wenzhou_train_collision

  35. There are many super-fast railway systems connecting the underground cities that created by the cabal – by the way, paid with American's tax money!!! Do your research and you will find that I am speaking the truth

  36. The imminent domain can be sad unless a windfall…raised and buried or places where no service might be good. What about personal electric planes and a better Concorde? What about truly slow bike trails along all railroads now? A mixed bag…how about cars that couple and discouple off hov and exits? What about trains that carry personal cars…or professional drivers and chauffeur of you own car? What about big riggs that carry five cars? All is possible..weight the benefits? We like our cars…the usa made from chinese parts vw "bug" 5,000 car?

  37. We won’t be able to compete with other countries like China if we don’t use trains, and we have to stop having people work in areas that are further than 30 miles away from were they live

  38. Why bother building one? It just going to terrible anyways like Amtrak. I’d rather fly and drive then use a terrible high speed railway. One thing you foreigners show know, we Americans are stubborn to change and live by the motto if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Also they probably couldn’t finish that Cali line because they are spending all their money on illegals instead of US citizens.

  39. Meanwhile in Africa… they have a 320 km/h TGV ready for 350 km/h. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RocsZbPne8E

  40. Not a lot of people here use train to travel outside of the city. Lol most folks have cars. No need for rails.

  41. The rest of the world is not the USA. We're still the envy of the world why? WE ARE FREER THAN Socialist EU or Communist China, where you just are a number. Here you can fly or take your car or rental car, privacy, leisure. American style, love it or move already!

  42. and yet…we are trying to build a "wall"…a useless wall, while our roads and bridges are literally on their last legs, well over 50 years old when they where supposed to be re-built to last after the war.
    America needs to wake up we are going to be a third world country if we keep up this irrational process.

  43. Look at the mega-buck fiasco California is dealing with. Billions being spent on a train what will go from nowhere to no place. Ridership will be nonexistent and it will be subsidized forever as long as the Government is involved. In Florida they tried to sell a "plan" that would be a "joint Fed/State project." Governor Rick Scott said NO. Now, it's being built privately ( 11:50 ) and saved the taxpayers billions. Bravo Rick Scott!!

  44. Why does the United States prefer to spend trillions of dollars to fight in the Middle East, directly and indirectly causing the deaths of millions of civilians in the Middle East, and not using the money for the American people?

  45. I like that the turnip claims California owes the government millions of dollars – what about the money he owes for his election alleys?


  47. & to add why we build cheap crap when they do spend $50 to a $100 hahaha!!! We could have massive highways, high speed rail, great bridges JOBS FOR EVERYONE REALLY GOOD PAYING Jobs if we stop them from making excuses while they are all thieves. Thats the truth & nothing but the truth.

  48. Citizens of the United States are the Cattle and Financers to State & Fed coffers; by way of Law Enforcement over 'Illegal' Activity & Infractions… the more laws a state can create assures that the mass majority of U.S. citizens will break laws and assure a steady source of income into the State's coffer. Yes, by destroying public transportation, it too ensured big manufacturers massive profit gains, but it also put citizens into a new position of guaranteed law-breaking infractions – a huge with for both States and auto manufacturers. One may say that this is just the result of careless drivers and coincidental, but there is evidence to show that this is true for 'law-breaking' schemes. A State relies party on taxes and Fed funding, but it also relies on misdemeanor and heavy fines to further fill its coffers. States also include private prisons for profit to offset all the minor illegal activity that states impose to assure there is a steady stream of income from 'law-breaking.'

  49. they say the labor standard but what they really mean is the guys should still get to stand around and talk for 6 hours per shift and only work for 2 hours all the while getting paid as if they worked a hard 8…

  50. Its the cost here. Costs so much more due to unions. It must be privatized for us to do the same. it also takes forever to get the ok because of environmentalists

  51. Try bringing home 8 bags of groceries on a light rail system, let me know how that works for you.
    While I would love to see our rail system become more advanced, it simply doesn't serve as many people as having your own vehicle and cargo hauler.
    I love to eBike commute 20 total miles daily whenever weather permits, leaving my truck in the driveway as much as possible. But I can't convincingly get a pizza home on the thing.

  52. America 8s overegulated and has too many voices and forces at work. Nothing gets done in such an environment.

  53. California high speed rail is a joke. Bakersfield to Merced is on completely flat land and it’s way over budget. We won’t even touch the cost of going through the mountains for 20 years and what will costs look like then? Better to spend less then a tenth of the cost, add lanes to I-5, keep the trucks out and raise the speed limit to 100 mph.

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