High-speed rail plans to connect Houston to major cities
We live in a huge state interwoven with concrete interstates and congested with big city traffic in some of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The stop-and-go motion of near-stagnant traffic is enough to make any ordinarily sane driver want to pull hair out.
There must be a better way to travel and avoid city traffic. Thankfully, in the next few years, travel may become less of a hassle with the introduction of the high-speed rail, a 220-mph train that aims to connect the U.S. by means of a series of rails.
According to the United States High-Speed Rail website, this rail is part of a large plan for the future of America.
“Our vision is for a 21st-century, 17,000-mile national high-speed rail system built in four phases for completion by 2030,” according to the website. “This new national system will revitalize our economy, reactivate our manufacturing sector, create millions of jobs, end our oil dependency, reduce congestion and cut our carbon footprint by epic proportions.”
A map featured on the U.S. High-Speed Rail website depicts the gradual changes that will turn the U.S. into an interconnected system of transportation.
The map projects that by 2015, the construction of a small series of high-speed rails should be taking form across the nation, some of which are in Texas — forming a path from Houston to Dallas/Fort Worth to Austin to San Antonio.
This extensive plan will require many years of construction and billions of dollars to make this dream of a unified nation a reality; however, once finished, travelers’ worries will basically be eliminated.
The high-speed rail would run in all weather conditions, resolve the congestion and the struggle of rush hour, reduce pollution emitted by vehicles and bypass the bother of airport customs.
California has already signed a bill to allow the high-speed rail to enter the state. Texas should be next.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Mayor Annise Parker, joined by Mayors Mike Rawlings of Dallas and Betsy Price of Fort Worth, are in support of the high-speed rail.
“We believe that high-speed rail connection is important to our metro areas,” Parker said during a news conference in Houston.
The U.S. is not the first place to use this system of transportation. The high-speed rail is currently used by more than 20 countries, with many more planning to adopt it.
The high-speed rail originated in Japan and quickly migrated to other places, including most of Europe, so the U.S. is significantly lagging behind on the use of this mode of transportation. However, as the old saying goes, “Better late than never.”
According to an article by cleantechnica.com, we can learn from the Japanese when it comes to adopting this mode of transportation. Japan has been using this network of “bullet” trains since 1964, and it is considered one of the oldest and safest high-speed rail lines in the world.
Japan’s high-speed rail is known as the Shinkansen, and its speed ranges between 149 and 200 mph. The Shinkansen is also said to be innovative and lush, featuring reed flooring and foot baths.
However, the building of such a bullet-train system in the U.S. would be much more complicated and take more time to complete due to the sheer size of our country.
According to ushsr.com, when the size of China and its high-speed rails are projected on a map of the U.S., it takes up only a portion of the Eastern U.S.
Houston is already familiar with the light rail that winds around much of our downtown, but having a high-speed rail would be rather different for our city.
Unlike the light rail in Houston, the Shinkansen high-speed rail has had zero fatalities. Light rails have been known to be the cause of quite a few injuries and deaths all over the nation, in Houston as well.
According to a 2004 report by statemaster.com, Texas was ranked the state with the second-highest light-rail accident fatality rate, falling behind California.
Since this report, Texas is continually trying to make traveling by trains safer.
In July 2013, CNN published an article called “Why high-speed rail is safe, smart” that reported increased safety of the U.S. rail system due to investments made by public and private entities.
Also, all intercity tracks are going to be “equipped with train control systems that would prevent crashes,” reported by CNN and mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration last year.
Driving from Houston to the panhandle of Texas can take up to nine hours, and a faster, traffic-free way of transport would be a breath of fresh air.
According to khou.com, traveling from Houston to the centers of Dallas and Fort Worth would only take 90 minutes by bullet train.
Having a bullet train connecting Houston to other major cities in Texas would be great, economically and practically. We would no longer have to pay an arm and a leg to afford gas. We would no longer have to struggle to stay lucid during extensive car rides. We would just have to buy a ticket to travel a long way in a short amount of time.
Houston — as well as Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio — offers the rest of the nation great access to medical centers, colleges, museums, theatres, oil and many other resources.
It’s a definite step in the right direction to make accessibility to these resources painless and quick.
Personally, I cannot wait for the day when travel is no longer a hassle.
Senior staff columnist Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]