Amtrak’s Vision For America’s High-Speed Trains

The quest to get Americans on trains that are remotely as fast as those in the rest of the world continues slowly. California legislators did just recently approve a plan to continue funding the high speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But despite the fact that the business case for high-speed rail makes it a no-brainer, progress is still incredibly slow. Amtrak recently admitted as much with a lengthy report detailing its current vision for implementing high-speed rail along the Northeast corridor.

But there is a bright side, which is that report (PDF) contained a number of fun, futuristic renderings of what the train-minded people at Amtrak anticipate a high-speed rail future to look like. And it looks like the Acela, only skinnier and faster. And these fast Acelas will whip between Boston and New York in 94 minutes (it currently takes about 165 minutes), and will put you in Philadelphia about 30 minutes after you leave New York.

But don’t get too excited: It’s going to take a while, it’s going to cost a lot of money. According to Amtrak, we should be riding these trains by 2020, and it’s going to cost $151 billion dollars. And much of the plan is at the whim of state politicians who can stymie Amtrak at a moment’s notice (a large reason Amtrak is releasing a new vision is because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie kiboshed a planned tunnel that would have allowed faster transit between New York and New Jersey).

Still having a vision is better than no vision at all. And now that we can see what our high-speed trains might look like, perhaps we will become more excited to help make that vision a reality.