Why A Nationwide Bullet Train Network Is Needed
A nationwide network of bullet trains would be a very costly measure to build. Of course it would be built in phases, but still the total price tag for the entire built out would be anywhere from $2 to $5 trillion dollars. With a price tag, why pursue it? Wouldn’t it be a giant waste of money? Is there really a need for it?
Yes, there’s a massive need for a system like this one. America’s infrastructure is crumbling right in front of us. The interstate highway system can’t keep up with the growing demand. Airports are clogged and many of them are outdated. Most of the current infrastructure was built at least 50 years ago and has not kept up with America’s growth.
One of the biggest examples here in the United States was the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis in 2007. Several people were killed and a few hundred were injured. The bridge was in disrepair for several years and it was not replaced until, of course, after the bridge collapsed.
It’s been said that over 40% of our nation’s bridges are structurally deficient. As costs rise for construction it makes it more difficult to replace the bridges, making them more likely to collapse if nothing is done.
And it’s not just the deficiency problem, many of these roads are functionally obsolete. The roads were only built to handle a certain amount of cars, and the number of cars travelling on the road well exceeds the amount it was intended to handle.
One major example of this is the Brent Spence Bridge in Kentucky crossing the Ohio River into Cincinnati, Ohio. The bridge opened in 1963 and was intended to handle 80,000 cars per day. Today, the bridge handles 170,000 cars per day, more than double it was intended to handle. On top of that, it is the busiest freight trucking route in the country, carrying 3% of our nation’s economy daily. Combined with a terrible design of traffic flow on the bridge, it is one of the nation’s largest choke points for truck traffic.
Examples of these kinds of bridges exist all over the country. Traffic bottlenecks are everywhere. The amount of economic activity lost due to sitting in traffic mounts into several tens of billions of dollars nationwide. Could you imagine how many more jobs could be created just by solving this issue?
Something has to be done about it. And to an extent, it has, but not even close to what’s actually needed. I will say, for the most part, I am all for widening and building new roads. They are still needed and tax dollars should be spent on them. Airports need to be expanded too to handle passenger volume. Long lines going through TSA security need to be addressed.
So now let’s bring back the bullet train network. The purpose of it is to provide another separate transit system to connect cities in a very short period of time as possible. Combined with building a well connected subway through every major city will help reduce the number of cars on the road and passengers going through the airport. It will reduce the number of cars because the car dependency rate would go down. In order for that to work, the subway system needs to be fast and effective, and prove to citizens and tourists that the subway is the fastest way to get around town. Once that happens, car dependency will go down.
However, that may not be entirely true for all cities. Take Dallas and Houston for example. These are 2 rapidly growing metro areas and 2 of the biggest ones in the country (#4 and #5, respectively). Building a bullet train between the two cities and a subway system connected to them may not eliminate many cars. This is because the rapid growth adds cars to the roads especially in the suburbs. But what the subway network would do is add a new, effective network of tunnels carrying tens of thousands (ideally hundreds of thousands) of commuters to and from work.
It’s no secret millennials are ditching their cars. As more connected mass transit systems are built, we will see this trend gain more momentum. This is a trend that needs to continue. Our population is growing, and that means more people will have to buy a car to get around town. More people will use the subway.
The majority of Americans will not ditch their cars. They will still use them. There will still be traffic bottlenecks. The goal is to reduce as many of them as possible. Not only would it help commuters get to and from work, but would significantly help truck traffic get to their destination faster. And that’s an excellent thing for the economy. We need that to happen, many people’s jobs depend on goods getting delivered on time.