While politicians, lobbyists and NIMBY-minded residents are still debating the merits and flaws of the approved high-speed rail system that will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles, HSR has been a standard mode of travel in Europe and Asia for decades. Almost half a century after Japan developed the first of its Shinkansen “bullet train” rail lines in 1964, the United States has been slower to adopt this form of transit.
Currently, Amtrak’s Acela Express line from Boston to Washington, D.C. is the only operational HSR line in the nation. With average train speeds less than 90 mph, the Amtrak line “does not even qualify as high-speed,” according to Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica.
Comparatively, Europe’s and Asia’s bullet trains rarely travel at average speeds less than 150 mph. The new west coast HSR train is supposed to reach speeds exceeding 200 mph through California’s Central Valley, but the United States still has a lot of catching up to do to reach the levels of investment, infrastructure and technological development, and geographical scope achieved by Europe and Asia.