Table 1: DOT (2009) strategizes implementing HSR in the 100-600 mile range in urban centers with moderate and high population densities
This table makes clear that the DOT is not completely abandoning the other two popular modes of transportation that Americans have grown accustomed; DOT is simply looking to implement HSR into higher populated areas to displace the Auto and Air sectors at the regional level. With the air and auto transportations sectors well developed in the United States, DOT holds the view that it would not be wise to abandon those successes for high-speed rail; however, DOT believes that intermediate travel can be much more energy and cost efficient with the implementation of HSR, working towards a total interconnected transportation system (DOT, 2009).
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the United States high-speed rail implementation strategy by comparing it to the implementation strategies of France, Japan, and Germany in a multiple case study. Each case will provide insight into the degree of success each country has achieved with HSR. The four main contributors to success include: economic profitability, reliability, safety, and ridership.
Transportation throughout the United States is a policy issue that will affect the overall social and economic well being of the nation. An issue of this magnitude needs to be addressed in the policy realm, taking into account many aspects that cannot be addressed in the private sector. First, DOT is required to spearhead the transportation issue because of the regional implementation. Differing from the more centralized European and East Asian countries, a U.S. HSR system would run through multiple communities and states, requiring the cooperation between multiple levels of government and private enterprises. Second, HSR is a costly expenditure that cannot be handled through only the private or public sectors. Rather, policy implementation is necessary, providing funding guidance between the different levels of government and the private sector.
History of High Speed Rail
High-speed trains are trains that travel at a much faster rate than the traditional rail services. The standards for HSR in the European Union constitute a train to be high-speed when it averages 125 mph or more; in contrast, the United States high-speed trains need to travel only 78 mph or more (Briney, 2009). The first true high-speed train began operation in 1964 in Japan and is known as the Shinkansen; the train averaged around 135 mph (Briney, 2009). Today, there are HSR systems through out the European Union and Eastern Asia; all averaging well over 100 mph. In contrast, the United States only has one current HSR system traveling from Boston to Washington D.C. through New York
City; however, this so called HSR averages well below 100 mph and is no where near as fast as HSR’s in competing countries.
Energy security can be defined as the ability to produce as much of its own energy as possible without relying on purchasing from foreign nations (USHSR, 2011). A possible incentive for high-speed investment is the need to break away from the dependence on foreign oil consumption that has current market dominance on the United States transportation sector. With high-speed rail being operated primarily on electricity throughout the rest of the world, there is merit for researching an investment. Having a large transportation portion being run on electricity could result in a much lower dependence on foreign oil purchasing and could in turn further increase our energy security at the national level. Also, with the burning of petroleum products being a large contributor to global climate change, electric run transportation could reduce the carbon footprint since high speed trains produce less GHG’s per person than cars and planes (Pollak, 2011). Table 2 supports the evidence that high speed trains are much more energy efficient than the other forms for transportation.