High-speed rail? Maybe not so fast.

high-speed train corridors

A system map from the future?

The federal stimulus bill has a lot of people talking about high-speed rail again because it includes $8 billion for such projects. The Secretary of Transportation says high-speed rail could be a "transformational issue" for the Obama Administration.

And one of the regions that supposedly will benefit is Upstate New York.

Great. We'd love to be able to hop a train in Rensselaer and be in NYC in less than two hours. But we're not ready to get our hopes us just yet.

You could see how people might be optimistic, though. A bunch of state and federal elected officials are pushing to make it happen here. And Kirsten Gillibrand seems to mention it all the time.

But as the Syracuse Post-Standard points out, people have been pushing for upstate high-speed rail since the 1990s. And unlike California, it's not like New York has a plan ready to go. In fact, a state task force focused on high-speed rail just closed up.

And even if everyone was all like, "Yeah, let's do it!" -- there's the reality of actually, you know, building the thing. A feasibility study from the 1990s projected that building a high-speed rail system in New York would cost about $12 billion in today's dollars, not counting the cost of new stations -- that's a lot of money to come up with as the state stares at a grim budget situation. And even if we somehow came up with the money, that now-closed state task force concluded such a system couldn't be in place until 2025.

Don't get us wrong -- we'd love to see this happen. High-speed rail seems like a great idea. And apparently it works really well in France and Japan. We're just not ready to buy our tickets. Yet.

map: US DOT / found by NPR

The Bottom Line

High-speed rail sounds like a great idea. But it's going to be expensive and take a long time to build.


Cars are unsafe, dirty, slow, and tedious. Trains won't be here until 2025+ and can't get me to the grocery store and back. My suburb doesn't have sidewalks or bike lanes.

Would someone just build a teleportation device already?

In China there is a mag lev train that goes something like 500 kilometers an hour, (whatever this is in mph, it is really fast). It takes 8 minutes to go 30 km... Sad to say but the old US of A, just isnt the top dog anymore. It would be neat to go to NYC in an hour to catch Cats or Lion King.. but Im not sure I want to spend the extra money to do that at high speed, and going west, well why would I want to go to Buffalo fast or slow.. ?

Oh, yes one additional point: it makes complete sense that Senator Corning is in favor of High speed rail along the water level route, her great great grandfather Erastus Corning the first, founded the Utica & Schenectady Railroad, which later became the New York Central Railroad.

Can you imagine increase in price of real estate in Albany if you could easily commute to NYC each day?

I'm pleased and excited that rail travel is being taken seriously again. But high-speed rail is only half the equation; even more critical to jump-starting the economy is the other half, light rail and other urban and suburban mass transit.

Abby, I was thinking the same thing, rensselaer and albany especially would see huge increases in property value.

I would also imagine the Albany New York Corridor would be far faster to build than the buffalo route, since its shorter and I believe in better condition(I don't know this for a fact_.

I've been calling for this for years but here is my take on it.

It will be wonderful to take the train to NYC in less than an hour, and then get on the 2nd Ave subway to the station on 7th street. Then I will stop in Tompkins Square park and pick gumdrops off the gumdrop trees, and visit the Peppermint queen, as we will all be living in CandyLand.

I love the idea of high speed rail -- getting down to NYC to see the family in high speed time would be so fabulous. Of course, there's the whole affordability factor.

Right now I'm saving up just to check out that ride on the Megabus -- oh and hording my pennies for CDTA's drastic fare increase... just around the corner on April 1. In fact, Swipers purchased this month for March mark the end of CDTA's monthly passes at the current rates.

Sadly, my cape has been stolen and I cannot charge up my superpowers to hold fares steady. argh.

Who needs high speed rail when the flying car is being tested in Plattsburgh?


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