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Monday, December 9, 2019

Opinion

The case for a Texas high-speed railway


A high-speed rail system would be a game changer for the state of Texas. Not only would it move millions of people across the state, it would connect cities as a means of sharing talent, opportunities and innovation heading into the future.

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Last year, 3,642 people died on Texas roads. In Houston, 640 people die every year in traffic, which is the highest among the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Drug and alcohol-related crashes are the highest per capita of any city, and a study of traffic data from the Houston Chronicle showed the numbers are only getting worse.

It’s past time for the city to act, and the path to a solution starts with getting cars off the roads.

It’s no secret Houston needs more mass-transit options. Drivers spend nearly 75 hours stuck in traffic each year, wasting $1,400 in time and fuel, according to a report from Texas A&M University.

Car dominance is bad for the environment. Emissions from vehicles contribute to smog and soot that leads to poor health outcomes, and the CO2 from millions of cars’ exhausts on the road worsens the effects of climate change.

A high-speed rail system would be a game changer for Texas. Not only would it move millions of people across the state, it would connect cities as a means of sharing talent, opportunities and innovation heading into the future.

Texas Central has set out to create a high-speed rail line that will connect Houston to North Texas, a corridor with a distance of 240 miles. Inspired by the Shinkansen trains in Japan, the rail system would connect two of the fastest growing economies in the state and lower the drive time from Houston to Dallas to 90 minutes.

The success of Japan’s system offers an insight into what’s possible. In 1964, the Shinkansen Bullet Train was unveiled. The initial rail covered a distance of 320 miles, connecting Tokyo to Osaka. The trains could reach speeds close to 140 mph.

Today, the bullet train moves nearly half a million people per day through thousands of miles of track. With hundreds of trains that crisscross the country, Japanese cities have become a network of commerce and opportunity.

Any talk of large construction projects in the state is bound to be met with skepticism because of the competing interests of lawmakers, tax payers and land owners. The creators of the Shinkansen believed in the vision for the project, and today it’s seen as a shining example of what can be accomplished through dedication and persistence. Our leaders should feel empowered to show the same amount of commitment.

The numbers are clear: the Texas Bullet Train would take 14,630 vehicles off the road per day on Interstate 45, save 81.5 million gallons of gasoline and, being 100 percent electric, the environmental impact would be immeasurably low.

Over 10,000 jobs per year are expected to be created during the train’s construction in the next couple decades, with $36 billion of revenue going into the Texas economy. The populations of the areas along the projected route are expected to double by 2035, so the time is now for bold, forward-thinking solutions.

A functional high-speed rail system would make Houston stronger, safer and an environmental leader heading into the future. If the city is going to be successful in the 21st century, improving connectivity is a great way to start.

Houston has always been known as a boomtown, and with the glory days of the oil industry in the past, the new road to prosperity is going to be built using mass transportation.

Drew Jones is a print journalism senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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