In our biggest cities — also the source of the greatest portion of our wealth creation — the highways and transportation systems are becoming more jammed by the day. It should be obvious that more transportation infrastructure options are needed in America’s densely packed regions.It is true that vehicle ownership has increased by a greater proportion than has new road mileage. All the same, the Law of Peak Hour Expressway Congestion will continue to bite, as road commuters will take the benefits of new roads in the form of sleeping in a few more minutes.
The Interstate Highway System has been successful in linking the country together, but I’m afraid that it promotes sprawling, auto dependent development — which essentially outsources a major cost (fuel) to consumers. More highways, even if they could be built to meet capacity, are not the answer for dense regions because they have proved to only encourage more oil-dependent sprawl.
I believe that High Speed Rail (HSR) is the way to build dense, interlinked cities and regions.
That noted, High Speed Rail is likely to be the long term solution. In the immediate run, faster running times for commuter and regional intercity trains, better connectivity among trains, and strategic placement of third tracks and interlockings to keep local trains out of the way of limited and express trains will entice riders out of their cars. As that ridership grows, political sentiment may follow. The answer to "Why can't we have faster trains in Indiana the way they have in Michigan?" is going to be very different than "Why can't we have passenger trains here the way they have in Europe (or China or Japan)?" Regular readers know that the answer to the latter question is "Neither the Europeans nor the Chinese have stack trains or 125 car coal and grain trains."