Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ripe for High Speed Rail? Charts from Tim De Chant Showing Population Density

If you open the chart in this article, you can enlarge each individual map.

Ripe for High Speed Rail?

18 Jun 2011 08:36 AM

Tim De Chant analyzes the above chart (click within the URL to enlarge) on population density to understand how high-speed rail might work in the US.

The basic message here is that the only portion of the US appropriate for High-Speed Rail, based on population density, is the Northeast Corridor.  Europe's population, even when equivalent to some of our states, consumes a much smaller gross area within which rail connections are far more justified than in the US. 

It should be pointed out that even within the Northeast Corridor, although those involved contiguous states are highlighted, it is only along the population dense coastal region that HSR is appropriate.

We have stressed many times that the denied justification for high-speed rail in the US is political and promotional, used for prestige and a way to redistribute earmarked political pork.  All other claims made by the HSR promoters, including transit related reasons, are specious.


John David Galt said...

Several observations beg to be made.

It looks to me that, if anything, those maps exaggerate population density by lumping together entire states (and European countries) hundreds of miles across. A large state's population is not dispersed over the whole state; a similar map of California by counties, for instance, would show a few very dense counties (greater LA, San Diego, and the Bay Area) and a much larger area as empty as Kansas -- including where CHSRA plans to start building.

The maps showing rail coverage are similarly distorted. The Northeast Corridor serves a narrow band approximately along I-95, not people in western New York and Pennsylvania 200+ miles from the nearest station.

The other thing I feel begs mention is that the main difference between our population distribution and Europe's is the fact that they've lived under heavy-handed building restrictions (effectively the same as "smart growth") for most of the 20th Century. Thus you seem to be saying that if the SG proponents get their way for the next 50 or 100 years, then HSR would become worthwhile/acceptable in most of the US. It appalls me that our side would be willing to (sound as though we) endorse this happening.

Martin Engel said...

John, I agree with you on both issues. I believe I did point out that although the contiguous northeast states are identified with one color, the Northeast corridor is only marginally dense enough for HSR, more or less, along the coast, not inland. Not, for example, in upstate New York, where Republican Congressmen have been resisting the HSR funding sought by Albany as completely unecessary.

And, I certainly oppose the "smart growth" urbanization and city densification that is the grist for the developers to build higher, smaller and highly profitable housing units, ostensibly near public transit facilities, all for the so-called common good. I oppose "social engineering."

European life is far more urbanized in a smaller universe. They have been served by public mass rail transit for nearly two centuries and are accustomed to being taxed to support it. Cars remain prohibitively expensive to own and operate except for the wealthy classes, who, by the way, are the customers for HSR.

One of my central issues incorporates the vast cultural differences between the United States, Europe and Industrial Asian countries. With HSR, one size does not fit all.

I should also say that I appreciate your thoughtful comments.