Can High Speed Rail Help Make A More Effective Transportation System?

When listening to transportation planners talk, there are often many common themes. Two very common themes are Effective transportation systems and economic development surrounding these systems.

“we will not be successful if we don’t have the end user in mind.” METRO CEO Steve Banta during a Tempe Streetcar discussion.

The following news release came out today concerning another study from PIRG. Feel free to give them your opinion of the study!

High-Speed Rail Can Boost Economy, Bring Jobs to Arizona

Drawing lessons from other countries, a new study from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund shows that high-speed rail can boost our economy, bring jobs to our state, save energy, curb pollution and provide a popular alternative to Arizona’s congested roads.

The report, A Track Record of Success: High-Speed Rail Around the World and Its Promise for America, details a number of examples from around the world that make a variety of cases for high-speed rail. Some of the benefits include:

  • Jobs: about 8,000 people were involved in the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between the tunnel and London.
  • Development opportunities near stations: The amount of office space in the area around the rail station in city of Lyon, France has increased by 43%.
  • Economic growth: in Germany, the counties surrounding the towns of Limburg and Montabauer experienced a 2.7% increase in their gross domestic product as a result of the increased access to markets provided by the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed rail line.
  • Reduced road congestion: high-speed rail service between Madrid and Seville reduced the share of car travel between the two cities from 60% to 34%.
  • Reduced air travel: even in the relatively slow rail service in the U.S. Northeastern Corridor, the rail corridor accounts for 65% of the air-rail market between New York City and Washington, D.C.
  • Reduced oil dependence: a typical Monday morning business trip between London and Paris via high-speed rail uses approximately a third less energy as a car or plane trip.

“High-speed rail is a smart investment that will bring new jobs and economic development while connecting major travel hubs,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. 

In Arizona, passenger rail has been picking up steam; the Phoenix-Tucson corridor is discussed a promising way to connect the state’s major metropolitan areas. The Arizona Department of Transportation recently drafted a State Rail Plan, which is the first-ever statewide vision for rail in Arizona.  “The State Rail Plan is a serious step forward in bringing passenger rail to Arizona,” said State Representative Steve Farley.

Additionally, last month the federal government announced a $500,000 grant to study linking Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas through high-speed rail.  “Between the State Rail Plan and the grant from the federal government to study high-speed rail linking Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, bringing passenger rail to Arizona is picking up steam,” said Jay Smyth of the Southwest Rail Corridor Coalition.

“Arizona’s newly elected leaders should support long-term investment in passenger rail for the economic and public health benefits it will bring to Arizona,” said Unrein.  “High-speed rail can provide the economic development and job opportunities that Arizona desperately needs right now.”


  1. says

    I think that Tucson/Phoenix rail needs to happen. It’s been mired in bullshit studies and stubborn railway politics for far too long. It is necessary to spur growth for the sun corridor region to really take foothold.

    Regionally LA to PHX to Vegas needs to happen. It is silly that it has not already. It is the only way to start to connect the southwest in meaningful ways. It will spurn economic development and connect people.

  2. Serena Unrein says

    Thanks for posting info about the Arizona PIRG Education Fund high-speed rail report – I appreciate it!

    I agree with Derek…Phoenix-Tucson passenger rail has been talked about for a long-time and it’s time to move from talking about it to actually building it!

    One thing I also thought was interesting is that one of the key lessons from the report is that the benefits of high-speed rail are even greater when paired with well-functioning bus, light rail, commuter rail, and other public transit systems to feed into high-speed rail networks. So, for high-speed rail to be as successful as possible, we’ll need good public transportation systems in Phoenix and Tucson.

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