The Path Forward

How will the U.S. build high-speed rail?
We need a system that will serve many people, taking many kinds of trips, to many different places.

The same way we’ve built every transformative project.

With the imagination for a big, bold vision—and the patience for step-by-step progress. With a broad base of supporters who pull together and create political will. With collaborations between private interests and every layer of government. With incentives that keep the business community invested in it. With citizens who give their time, energy, and money to make it happen.

That’s how we’ll build a high-speed rail network.

We've Done This Before

We’ll build it the way we built the national highway system. Better yet, the way we built the network of national parks.

It started with a few keystone parks, like Yosemite and Yellowstone. It keeps growing because each new park adds value at lots of levels. Value for sightseers, nature enthusiasts, and families. Value for small businesses that thrive because of tourism. Value for local and state economies that benefit from more tax revenues and stronger economies.

The value added by each park builds support for the system as a whole. The system becomes more integrated into life of multiple communities. That means it’s vital to economies well beyond the parks themselves. Multiple governing agencies and business sectors are invested in its success. Which means there’s more political muscle behind it. Which translates into energy and funding to sustain and expand the system.

Whether it’s building a park system or a high-speed rail network, the basic truth is the same. When there’s a big-picture vision and program, the base of support is stronger, more durable, and more diverse than the support for any individual project could be on its own.

Phased Network Approach: Serving More People With Each Investment

HSRA believes in a “Phased Network Approach” to high-speed rail.  It gradually adds new high-speed segments to the existing network, and it capitalizes on conventional infrastructure with “unified service”—that is, when high-speed trains operate on both high-speed and shared-use tracks.

The Phased Network Approach departs radically from current thinking.

While most planners focus on small segments and market slices—but never quite build a case for the investment—we focus on how a network of transportation services can serve many people, traveling for many reasons, throughout the day.

With this approach, each new high-speed line contributes to a network that steadily evolves and grows, creates new connections, and adds value—healthier economies, better quality of life—to communities of all kinds.

California is Leading the Way
A new bridge will carry 220-mph trains over the San Joaquin River in California's Central Valley.

California offers a path to success. They are pioneering the Phased Network Approach in North America and creating the nation’s first truly integrated rail network,

“Integrated” is the key. That’s because high-speed rail is much more than just fast trains using dedicated tracks. It’s different kinds of tracks and different kinds of trains—all connected, coordinated, and working in sync.

In 1990, a group of concerned citizens worked with the California legislature to create – and fund – a statewide railroad program. Now, after steady investments in better tracks, new trains and rehabbed stations, trains are an attractive choice for daily commutes, business trips and family visits.

Those improvements set the stage for the continent’s first 220-mph high-speed line – which will slash travel times throughout the state.

When you plan high-speed rail that way—in terms of an interconnected system whose impact goes way beyond any specific line—you multiply the power of the network. The components work in sync. Each makes the other better. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And when that happens, a system becomes truly transformative.

Worldwide Examples Show Need for National Framework
The Phased Network Approach allows French high-speed trains to serve stations far beyond the high-speed line, like the 1922-built station at La Rochelle.

Most countries use this phased network approach—gradually adding new segments of high-speed line to their existing network while coordinating with, and upgrading, local transit systems.

Each country takes a slightly different approach to serve local needs. But their networks share three key elements: A long-range plan, the right kind of tracks, and the right kind of trains.

States and regions can draw upon these examples to create systems suited for their communities.

But, just as the Interstate Highway System was organized by the federal government and implemented by the states, it will require a national framework coordinated with state-level initiatives.

Please join with us in asking Congress to create a national policy for high-speed rail.