FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

With high speed rail a top priority on Obama’s agenda and the $8 billion in stimulus funds awarded to more than a dozen of projects, many questions are being raised by organizations and individuals around the country expressing interest as well as concern about such a large investment.

Below you will find frequently asked questions as well as anticipated questions that relate to the different high speed rail initiatives in the United States. The questions marked with an asterisk (*) come from an interview with Eric C. Peterson that was televised on Fox Business News, while the rest was compiled through extensive research. Some of the questions were also generated via email as well as through discussion on our American High Speed Rail Alliance Fanpage on Facebook and our AHSRA LinkedIn account.


Q*: Why is high speed rail needed in the US? How will it help our economy?
Q*: Who would travel on this – would it work for commuters?
Q*: How much will it cost passengers? Will this be an inexpensive way to travel?
Q*: The companies being commissioned for this are not US rail companies – what US companies will benefit from high speed rail? How?



Q*: Why is high speed rail needed in the US? How will it help our economy?

A: The capacity of America’s intercity transportation system is almost maxed out. Additionally, concern over foreign oil dependence, and the impact of the current transportation system on the environment dictate that new measures must be taken. Looking around the world, the most obvious and successful measure is high speed rail, a transportation mode that complements and easily connects with other transportation modes, is environmentally friendly, uses renewable energy, can reduce travel times and relieve congestion, promotes and supports economic redevelopment, and potentially could create hundreds of thousands of jobs at all levels of skill and responsibility for decades to come.

High speed rail has the potential to benefit America’s economy and society in positive ways not experienced since the construction of the U.S. Interstate highway system.

The Federal government estimates that for every $1 billion in project spending 20,000 jobs are created or retained. Plus, every dollar spent has a multiplier effect of three to one. Following those standards, even the $8 billion announced on January 28, 2010 will support 160,000 jobs and stimulate at least $24 billion in new economic activity.

Q*: Who would travel on this – would it work for commuters?

A: Based on the experience of other nations, it appears that individuals traveling 100 miles to 600 miles are served best by high speed rail. In most cases, trips that took from door to door three or more hours (principally regional air travel) or moved at speeds less than 100 miles an hour (auto travel) benefit most from high speed rail. Additionally, by helping to relieve the demand on those traditional modes of travel, travel times and conditions are vastly improved for travelers who opt to stay on the plane or road.

A successful high speed rail system must be connected with all other forms of transportation in order to provide maximum benefit. Airports, city center transit facilities, commuter rail lines, highway systems, even some levels of freight transportation benefit from the availability of high speed rail (like highly perishable agricultural goods, medical supplies, and overnight parcel delivery).

Q*: How much will it cost passengers? Will this be an inexpensive way to travel?

A: Relying on the experience of travelers in other nations with high speed rail service, the cost for passengers on high speed rail is extremely competitive, and in many cases far less expensive than other passenger transportation modes. As gasoline becomes more expensive and the societal impact (i.e. cost) of non-renewable energy consumption increases, high speed rail will become even more attractive as a travel cost container.

Q*: The companies being commissioned for this are not US rail companies – what US companies will benefit from high speed rail? How?

A: High speed rail is not a technology presently existent in the United States. America will need to learn the technology and American workers will need to be trained.

Recently, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood convened a summit with roughly 30 representatives of American and international companies that hope to sell their products and services to support America’s high speed rail initiative. The message he carried to these representatives was that America’s high speed rail system will employee American workers. If you are a foreign company wanting to do high speed rail business in the United States you will be expected to build your capacity in the United States and train and retain American workers to build, operate and maintain America’s high speed rail system.