Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I didn't have time to watch it last night, so I asked my students this morning to identify the land use issues in the President's speech. They mentioned two things: high-speed rail, and clean energy. From the Associated Press report, here's the key quote on HSR:
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying - without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already under way.
Potentially faster than flying, and they won't touch your junk! And here are two early responses. First, from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's Fastlane blog, America has a Future to Win; DOT stands ready to help:
As the President said last night, American businesses and workers are now competing in a global economy. If we are to thrive in competitive markets, we must be able to move goods and people faster and more reliably than ever.
At DOT we have been working hard to help do just that. And the projects we are supporting to rebuild America's transportation infrastructure are creating good jobs for American workers.
But the Reason Foundation's Samuel Staley is not so sanguine. Noting that the President cited China's massive investments in HSR, Staley argues that historical, economic, and geographic factors will render a similar HSR program impractical in the U.S. From President Obama, China, High-Speed Rail and the Sputnik Moment:
A key factor in ensuring high-speed rail's success is the closeness of employment and population centers. The largest Chinese cities aren't nearly as spread out as U.S. cities in terms of distance and the high speed rail lines are connecting larger urban cities.
China has 120 cities with populations of one million or more, and its cities are expected to add the equivalent of another United States - 300 million people - by 2025. The high-speed rail line will connect to most cities with populations greater than 500,000. Given existing levels of very low mobility and income, rail would be a natural beneficiary of rising travel demand as the travel market matures.
It will be interesting to see where the debate over HSR goes from here, particularly in light of the new fiscal and political constraints. I'm also curious about how many people out there may not have thought very much about the HSR issue before the President gave it a mention in the State of the Union.
UPDATE: I was planning on posting this anyway, but then as I was preparing for my afternoon Property I class, I realized it's a great tie-in to the famous INS v. Associated Press case that was assigned for today: If INS can't report the news it learns from AP's public bulletin, how come it's OK for me to blog about information I got from the AP's website? Discuss! Fun stuff.