I love mass transit, from its efficiencies to its environmental merits to it being an alternative to gridlock traffic on I-495. So I’m a huge fan of any fantasy map envisioning a burgeoning transit system, and all the possibilities for car-free travel. So Alfred Twu’s map of a idealistic, nation-crossing high-speed rail system, which has received a ton of internet buzz since its creation last month, naturally makes my mouth water.
Source: Alfred Twu
While the realization of the plan like this is highly doubtful, at least in the foreseeable future, Slate’s Jeremy Stahl offers an interesting assessment of the map’s effect on the political dialogue over actual plans for high-speed rail corridors. Stahl comes to a logical conclusion: build where there’s already a demand. The first priority location for a high-speed rail line should undoubtedly be the Washington to Boston corridor, where rail travel in the dense mega-region has long been a mainstay. In California, plans are actually underway for a line spanning the state’s major cities from San Diego to San Francisco and Sacramento. I myself would love to see high-speed rail connecting Chicago to the east coast. But for all of these routes that seem to be no-brainers, there are others that one can see struggling for ridership. A high-speed train travel from Chicago to LA may have a ton of novelty value, but at that point, isn’t flying by far the most pleasant and sensible option for such a long trip?
There are a ton of real-world issues to realizing Twu’s plan, and I’m sure even he understands that. Besides the economic stresses of building the system and the low-demand on remote segments of the network, the daunting challenges of running track across vast deserts and rugged mountains would surely complicate matters. But for all of the map’s quirks, it’s fun to dream. Even if I’m pretty sure high-speed rail will never reach Cheyenne.